The Tart and Tasty Cranberry

Cranberries are much more than just a traditional Thanksgiving side dish. These tart vitamin C–rich berries are among the top sources of this antioxidant. And research has also found that the flavonoids in cranberries (particularly quercetin) may play a role in preventing coronary artery disease thanks to their anti-inflammatory properties. Starting on Phase 2 of the South Beach Diet, you can enjoy cooked cranberries as a sauce, as part of a fruit compote or crisp, or in other recipes. Unsweetened dried cranberries are also available, but should be enjoyed in moderation.

Buying Cranberries

While frozen cranberries are available year-round, now is the perfect time to enjoy your cranberries fresh. If you're purchasing fresh cranberries, make sure they’re firm and bright red, with no signs of discoloration. Fresh cranberries are usually packaged in 12-ounce plastic bags. If you're buying them frozen, make sure they don’t contain added sugars. You can find both at your local supermarket. Look for dried cranberries where other dried fruits are sold and look for an expiration date on the package.

Storing Cranberries

Keep fresh cranberries in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped, for up to two months, or freeze them in an airtight bag or container for up to a year. (Freezing is an especially convenient storage method for cranberries because they don't need to be thawed before cooking.) Dried cranberries will keep for up to 3 months in an airtight container.

Preparing Cranberries

Fresh uncooked cranberries are very tart and cannot be eaten whole. Chopped, however, the raw cranberries do make a tasty addition to home-baked, whole-grain breads and other healthy baked goods. You can cook whole fresh cranberries with a little agave nectar or other natural no-calorie sweetener to make a traditional cranberry sauce or combine them with other fall fruits, like apples and pears, to create delicious, fruity crisps. Toss dried cranberries into wild rice or other whole-grain side dishes or salads.

Here are more delicious and nutritious ways to enjoy cranberries beginning on Phase 2:

  • Enjoy your quick-cooking breakfast oatmeal with dried cranberries. Or toss some fresh whole cranberries into oatmeal prepared in a slow cooker overnight.
  • Top a mesclun salad with a sprinkling of dried cranberries, some reduced-fat crumbled feta cheese, and chopped walnuts. Sprinkle with a little balsamic vinaigrette.
  • For a delicious salsa, combine fresh uncooked cranberries, cilantro leaves, scallions, jalapeño, and lime juice in a food processor and chop coarsely. Season with salt to taste.
  • Add dried cranberries to a healthy stuffing made with wild rice, chopped walnuts, sage, and other seasonings of your choice.

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