Cranberry sauce just conjures up memories and thoughts of the holidays, doesn’t it? One thing that also comes with the holidays, for better or worse, is plenty of food. Usually, too much food. The best thing to do is to take matters into your own hands when it comes to holiday cooking; making a holiday staple into a healthy version of itself. Healthy cranberry sauce is a great example.
Many people opt for the canned cranberry sauce out of tradition. Simply plop can-shaped gelatinous blob on to a plate and serve in slices. But the high sugar content in canned cranberry sauce makes this a very unhealthy option. However, your own homemade, healthy cranberry sauce can be just as tasty.
In addition, going this route with your own recipe makes it much easier to take maximize the benefits of this superfood fruit.
What Can Cranberries Do For Me?
Berries are some of the healthiest fruits around. This is mainly due to their high antioxidant content. These antioxidants mainly come from the different pigments in the berries themselves. Their ability to fight free radical molecules is associated with many health benefits, including immune support.1 While blueberries and blackberries get most of the attention in terms of health, cranberries are just as useful for our bodies.
Here are some of the common vitamins and minerals found in cranberries:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K1
The most common health benefit that gets associated with cranberries is preventing urinary tract infections. These are very common, especially in women. Studies have shown consistently throughout the years that cranberries have unique phytonutrients that fight these infections. Cranberry juice and supplements have reduced risk of infection in clinical trials.3
Other trials show interesting applications for cranberries, particularly in heart support. Of particular note, cranberries have been show to lower levels of bad cholesterol and decreasing stiffness in arteries.4,5 More study in this area is needed, though.
Dr. Amy Lee’s Cranberry Sauce Recipe
When putting together a cranberry sauce recipe, there’s going to be a lot of overlap with other recipes. For example, many conventional recipes call for orange juice or something similar. On paper, this sounds nice. Oranges have plenty of great vitamin and mineral content. This includes vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. However, concentrated or frozen orange juices tend to not only get rid of these nutrients, but come with added sugar.6 Whenever possible, try eating whole fruit rather than drinking orange juice or similar juices.
Another major difference with homemade, healthy cranberry sauce is no refined sugars. That’s right, this recipe uses natural sweeteners like dates and raisins. While cranberries are a healthy ingredient, most cranberry sauce recipes negate this by piling on a bunch of sugar.
Healthy Cranberry Sauce Recipe
- 3 cups fresh cranberries (1 12-oz bag)
- 2 apples, skin on, grated (I like gala or fuji)
- 10 pitted dried dates — finely diced
- 2 oranges, peeled
- ½ cup raisins (preferably golden)
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
- 1-2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Add cranberries, apples, dried fruit and 1 cup of water to a large saucepan.
2. Heat over low heat and cook slowly while stirring occasionally. You should start hearing the cranberries “pop.”
3. Puree the oranges in a blender then add to your mixture. Using whole fruit instead of fruit juice means you get the most nutrients and fewest added sugar
4. Continue to cook on low for 10 minutes. If your mixture gets too thick, add more water. Make sure to do this a little bit at a time.
5. Taste for sweetness — if it’s not sweet enough for you, add a little more dried fruit to the mix. Let the fruit cook until softened.
6. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.
7. Let cool and enjoy.
Note: This recipe uses dates, raisins, and cranberries, however, there are plenty of options to get your sweetness from. Raisins, cranberries, dates, cherries, and figs all work in this recipe. Consider mixing and matching portions until you find that perfect level of sweetness.
What Happens Next?
Of course, after the dust settles and your holiday celebrations are over, you’re likely going to have a lot of leftovers.
The good news is that leftover cranberry sauce is a versatile food item that you can use for a variety of dishes.
Sometimes, they can be a healthy way to add sweetness to a different recipe. Other times, you can simply add it as is to another food for a flavorful addition.
Here are ideas for your leftover cranberry sauce:
- Stir it into your breakfast oats
- Use it to top pancakes or waffles
- Use it as a warm sauce for sweets and desserts
- Use it as a glaze for grilled meats
- Stir it into plain yogurt7,8
Part of eating healthy is being creative. Making healthy cranberry sauce for the holidays allows you to put a healthy twist on a classic. However, by reusing it afterwards, you manage to add the healthful properties of cranberries to many other issues. Who knows, you may start making it any time of year!
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