Cranberries Nutritional Profile
Energy value (calories per serving): Low
Saturated fat: Low
Major vitamin contribution: Vitamin C
Major mineral contribution: Iron, potassium
About the Nutrients in Cranberries
Cranberries are nearly 90 percent water. The rest is sugars and dietary
fiber, including insoluble cellulose in the skin and soluble gums and
pectins in the flesh. Pectin dissolves as the fruit ripens; the older and
riper the cranberries, the less pectin they contain.
Cranberries also have a bit of protein and a trace of fat, plus moderate
amounts of vitamin C. One-half cup cranberries has 1.6 g dietary fiber and
6.5 mg vitamin C (11 percent of the RDA). One-half cup cranberry sauce has
1.5 g dietary fiber and 3 mg vitamin C.
The Most Nutritious Way to Serve
Relish made of fresh, uncooked berries (to preserve the vitamin C, which
is destroyed by heat) plus oranges.
Diets That May Restrict or Exclude
Look for: Firm, round, plump, bright red berries that feel cool and dry to
Avoid: Shriveled, damp, or moldy
cranberries. Moldy cranberries may be contaminated with fusarium molds,
which produce toxins that can irritate skin and damage tissues by
inhibiting the synthesis of DNA and protein.
Store packaged cranberries, unwashed, in the refrigerator, or freeze
unwashed berries in sealed plastic bags for up to one year.
Wash the berries under running water, drain them, and pick them over
carefully to remove shriveled, damaged, or moldy berries. Rinse frozen
berries. It is not necessary to thaw before cooking.
What Happens When You Cook Cranberries
First, the heat will make the water inside the cranberry swell, so that if
you cook it long enough the berry will burst. Next, the anthocyanin
pigments that make cranberries red will dissolve and make the cooking
water red. Anthocyanins stay bright red in acid solutions and turn bluish
if the liquid is basic (alkaline). Cooking cranberries in lemon juice and
sugar preserves the color as well as brightens the taste. Finally, the
heat of cooking will destroy some of the vitamin C in cranberries.
Cranberry sauce has about one-third the vitamin C of an equal amount of
Medical Uses and/or Benefits of Cranberries
Urinary antiseptic. Cranberry juice is a long-honored folk remedy for
urinary infections. In 1985, researchers at Youngstown (Ohio) State
University found a "special factor" in cranberries that appeared to keep
disease-causing bacteria from adhering to the surface of cells in the
bladder and urinary tract. In 1999, scientists at study at Rutgers
University (in New Jersey) identified specific tannins in cranberries as
the effective agents.
Food/Drug Interactions in Cranberries
Methenamine. Foods than acidify urine appear to make this urinary
antiseptic more effective. Cranberry juice, which produces hippuric acid,
does make urine more acid, but the Youngstown research (see Medical uses
and/or benefits, above) raises questions about exactly why cranberries
and/or cranberry juice are useful for patients with a urinary infection.