Last updated: December 24. 2013 11:37AM - 284 Views

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I have been seeing more and more “healthy” recipes that call for cranberries or dried cranberries. Is this just a new fad, or are cranberries really good for you?

It used to be that cranberries showed up at the dinner table once a year, on Thanksgiving. But over the last few years they have been getting more attention.

Cranberries can be a fine addition to a healthy diet, but plain, fresh cranberries are extremely tart, so they’re often sweetened with quite a bit of sugar. Without any additions, though, a cup of whole fresh cranberries contains only 46 calories, offers 5 grams of fiber and 22 percent of the daily value for vitamin C.

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), they’re also a prime source of antioxidants, mostly in the form of phytochemicals such as anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, flavonols, ursolic acid, benzoic acid and hydroxycinnamic acid. These substances help protect DNA from damage that can lead to cancer. In addition, research suggests that the proanthocyanidins and ursolic acid in cranberries also seem to work together and provide more protection against cancer than either do individually.

Dried cranberries are also a potent source of antioxidants, but they are almost always sweetened and offer very little vitamin C. Like all dried fruit, they are concentrated in calories: one-third cup of dried, sweetened cranberries has 123 calories, just 2 grams of fiber, and a sobering amount of sugar — 26 grams.

Still, including cranberries in your regular mix of fruits and vegetables could be a healthy addition to your diet. The AICR offers background information, tips and recipes using cranberries on its website at http://www.aicr.org/foods-that-fight-cancer/cranberries.html. Some of those ideas and others from around the web include:

Add chopped fresh cranberries or dried cranberries when making sweets such as banana bread, apple muffins or oatmeal cookies, as well as to salad, stuffing, rice pilaf or (with sliced almonds) to whole green beans.

With fresh or frozen cranberries, make a cranberry chutney sweetened in part with other fruit, such as apples, oranges, or even grape juice, and flavored with herbs and spices. Serve with poultry or pork.

Add dried cranberries to trail mix.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

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