As a long-standing accompaniment to holiday dinners, cranberries rarely take center stage despite being an irreplaceable part of the festivities. But cranberries are brimming with healthful benefits and we think they deserve a bigger role in your diet this year.
Keep reading to learn about cranberry benefits—whether you eat them raw, drink cranberry juice, or support your health with cranberry supplements, teas & extracts. We also have some cranberry recipes to share, including a healthier cranberry sauce for your holiday table.
Nutrient-rich cranberries are most often touted for supporting urinary tract health, but they help your body in other ways. Here’s how cranberries help:
- Urinary tract & bladder support: Cranberries are high in antioxidant proanthocyanidins and have been linked to better urinary health, but experts say cranberry capsules may be better than juices for urinary health1,2
- Oral health: Those same proanthocyanidins that benefit urinary tract health may also promote healthy teeth and gums1
- Immune health: Cranberries are high in vitamin C and other antioxidants that support immune health, which is important year-round and especially during winter months1
- Antioxidant benefits: The antioxidant benefits of cranberries extend beyond urinary and immune health to combat free radicals for a wide range of body-loving benefits1
- Cardiovascular support: Antioxidant polyphenols in cranberries help support a healthy heart1
- Water balance: Cranberries may have a diuretic effect, supporting water balance in the body2
- Nutritional support: Cranberries are rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, and they contain other nutrients too like calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron2
Now that you know the benefits of cranberries let’s talk about the best ways to get them!
Can you eat raw cranberries? Absolutely. But if you've tasted a raw cranberry, you know why most people don't. Raw cranberries are extremely tart. If you like tart fruit you’re in for a healthier treat since cranberries may be more nutritious when eaten raw than when prepared in a more traditional way, which usually involves cooking them down or juicing to remove fiber and adding plenty of refined sugar.
If snacking on a bowl of raw cranberries isn’t in your future, try chopping or slicing cranberries thinly and tossing into a salad. The flavor of cranberry pairs well in a salad with spinach, walnuts, gorgonzola and other fruits like sliced pears.
Still too tart for your taste buds? There are plenty of other ways to get cranberry benefits—including healthier juice options, tea and potent cranberry capsules.
Cranberry Juice Benefits
Cranberry juice can provide many of the benefits and nutrients that raw cranberries offer but finding a healthier cranberry juice can be tricky. Many juices labeled as cranberry actually contain more juice from other fruits than from cranberry, along with added sweeteners or refined sugar.
Read cranberry juice labels carefully to find a healthier option. Check the ingredients list and choose a juice with cranberries listed as the first ingredient. Also, pay attention to the amount of sugar added, and look for cranberry juice with less sugar or that is unsweetened and add your own liquid stevia to sweeten as needed.
Lakewood Organic Cranberry Concentrate is an excellent alternative to store-bought juice. The only ingredient is cranberries, so you can rest assured you’re only getting what you want with no hidden ingredients. Mix it with water for juice anytime or add it to your favorite fruit smoothie.
Cranberry tea may not be as rich in nutrients as fresh cranberries, juice or capsules, but it’s still a popular way to enjoy some cranberry benefits, especially during winter, and it makes for a delicious, warm treat. Cranberry teas are usually made with dried cranberry fruit or dry cranberry concentrate, imparting a rich, zesty cranberry flavor.
Cranberry tea offers detox benefits too and helps maintain a healthy fluid balance, which makes it popular among dieters looking for a way to avoid holding on to extra water. Some cranberry teas are specially formulated for weight support, like Traditional Medicines Organic Weightless Cranberry Tea, which contains other supportive botanicals like red clover flour, fennel fruit, hibiscus flower and chicory root.
Cranberry Extracts & Cranberry Concentrate Supplements
If you want to get your cranberry benefits in the most convenient and condensed way possible, or if you simply don’t like the flavor of eating or drinking cranberries, cranberry supplements made with extracts or concentrates are a great option. These super-concentrated forms of cranberry give you many important benefits of cranberry in maximum-strength capsules.
If you’re consuming cranberry to help support urinary tract health, researchers say capsules may be more effective than drinking cranberry juice because they typically have a higher concentration of antioxidant proanthocyanidins.2
Try it yourself in Swanson Premium Cranberry, featuring a 20:1 concentrate of cranberry—the equivalent of 800 mg in only 40 mg of cranberry juice concentrate, along with vitamin C and vitamin E.
Cranberry Recipes to Try
What else can you do with cranberries? From a cranberry-flavored fruit dip to a fun way to liven up quinoa, here are a few of our favorite ways to enjoy cranberries.
Sparkling Cranberry-Citrus Mocktail
Serve up this crowd-pleasing cranberry mocktail at your next holiday gathering!
Time: 5 minutes
Serving size: 4.5 ounces
- 16 ounces of cranberry juice or the equivalent of prepared cranberry juice concentrate
- 1 ounce of organic lime juice concentrate
- 2 1/2 cups of your favorite lemon-lime soda, or use sparkling water and sweeten to taste with liquid stevia
- Mix cranberry juice and organic lime juice concentrate together in a pitcher
- Add the lemon-lime soda or sparkling water and stevia to taste
- Serve over ice and garnish with slices of lemon or lime and fresh cranberries
Note: It’s best to wait until 10-15 minutes before guests arrive to add the sparkling water or soda so it doesn’t go flat.
Healthier Cranberry Sauce3
A good holiday meal isn’t complete without cranberry sauce, but canned cranberry sauce is typically full of refined sugar. Here’s a healthier recipe to try.
Time: 30 minutes
Serving size: ¼ cup
- 12 ounces of fresh cranberries
- ¼ cup of pineapple juice
- ¼ cup of unsweetened, organic applesauce
- ¼ cup of water
- zest & juice of half an orange
- 1-2 tablespoons of honey or your favorite nature-sourced sweetener
- Add cranberries, pineapple juice, applesauce and water to a saucepan, bring to a boil
- Simmer for about 12 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly until the cranberries pop open
- Reduce heat to low and add the orange zest and orange juice, stir well and simmer for an additional 12 minutes
- Cool to room temperature then refrigerate for a few hours or overnight before serving
Cranberry Fruit Dip
This tart cranberry fruit dip makes the perfect addition to holiday fruit trays.
Time: 15 minutes
Serving size: 0.25 cup
- 1 cup vanilla nonfat yogurt
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1 tablespoon fresh orange zest
- 1/4 teaspoon 100% certified organic ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon 100% certified organic ground ginger
- 1/4 cup pomegranate juice or equivalent of prepared pomegranate concentrate
- Heat pomegranate juice, dried cranberries and orange zest in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until cranberries are soft
- Remove from heat and place mixture in a food processor until cranberry mixture is finely chopped and let cool
- In a small bowl, combine yogurt, cranberry sauce and spices, then cover and chill
- Serve with assorted fruits for dipping
Cranberry Quinoa Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette
Time: 20 minutes
Serving size: 1 cup
- 1 pound of brussels sprouts, rinsed & cut
- 2 cups organic quinoa, cooked (1/2 cup dry)
- 3/4 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup organic pecans, toasted
- 1 avocado, chopped
- 1 granny smith apple, chopped
Citrus Vinaigrette Ingredients
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 2 tablespoons organic extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons organic apple cider vinegar with mother
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- To prepare the brussels sprouts, trim the ends, halve lengthwise and thinly slice crosswise
- Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl
- In a small bowl, whisk all vinaigrette ingredients until well combined
- Pour vinaigrette over salad and mix well
How Do You Enjoy Cranberries and Cranberry Benefits?
Nutritious cranberries deserve to be much more than a garnish. Make them a bigger part of your holiday health routine this year by using fresh cranberries in festive recipes, and try cranberry tea, juice, or cranberry supplements for a convenient way to get the benefits of cranberry anytime.
Tell us in the comments below how you plan to use cranberry this holiday season. And if you love the benefits of cranberry, you’ll love elderberry and tart cherry too. Read all about them in Benefits of Elderberry and Benefits of Tart Cherry.
1 Everything you need to know about cranberries. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/269142.php (Accessed 11/26/2018)
2 Cranberry. Drugs.com. https://www.drugs.com/mtm/cranberry.html (Accessed 11/26/2018)
3 Cranberry Sauce Recipe. Adapted from Wellness Mama. https://wellnessmama.com/3392/cranberry-sauce-recipe/ (Accessed 11/26/2018)
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.