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Our Thanksgiving Table: Cranberry Sauce

Here’s a traditional Thanksgiving favorite that many people get excited about because they’ve heard so many good things about the main attraction in the dish: Cranberry Sauce.

Cranberries pack big health benefits into a small, tart package. They are high in vitamin C, have antioxidant effects and antibacterial properties. Cranberries contain cancer-fighting flavanoids, they can decrease dental plaque and promote eye health, among many other advantages.  So of course, most folks are cranberry fans — especially at Thanksgiving, when we all know that most of our favorite side dishes aren’t exactly nutritionally valuable.

We’ve got some bad news folks. All the sugar you’re adding to your home made cranberry sauce (or what the manufacturer has added to the brand you’re buying) is pretty much neutralizing the health benefits of the cranberry itself.

So let’s gather round the FoodFacts.com Thanksgiving table again and take a look at traditional cranberry sauce versus a fruity, low sugar recipe that you can REALLY feel good about.

Cranberries are common to North America and the first English settlers to the new world called them “craneberries,” due their flowers that resemble the head of a crane. Native Americans already knew about the berry’s health-promoting properties and often mixed it with pemmican, a dried meat mix, to preserve it for eating during the long New England winters. Cranberry sauce gained in popularity after General Ulysses S. Grant ordered it served to his troops during the siege of Petersburg, Virginia during the Civil War, and in 1912 it became available commercially under the name “Ocean Spray.”

So let’s use Ocean Spray Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce as our comparison product (since the product shares part of the history of the dish). The serving size for the product is ¼ cup. It contains cranberries, high fructose corn syrup and water. Each of those ¼ cup servings contains 22 grams of sugar (or 5.5 teaspoons), as well as 110 calories.

We really prefer to prepare our own cranberry sauce here at FoodFacts.com. We’re all in agreement that it tastes so much better home made. And we also know that the nutrient-packed cranberry adds more to our health when we cook it up in our own kitchens than when we pick it up off the grocery shelf. Here’s a tasty cranberry sauce recipe that almost halves the sugar per serving:

3 cups fresh cranberries
¾ cup pineapple juice
½ cup good quality organic unsweetened applesauce
½ cup water
Zest of one orange
3 tablespoons honey

1. In a saucepan on your stove top, combine the first 4 ingredients and bring to a boil
2. Stir continually over medium heat until the cranberries begin to pop
3. Reduce heat to medium low
4. Add zest and honey
5. Cook another 15 minutes until the mixture begins to thicken
6. Chill at least 4 hours or overnight before serving

It’s such a simple recipe. Kids really love helping with this one because the cranberries pop in front of their eyes! This cranberry sauce cuts down on the sugar and is much more flavorful than canned varieties.

Join us at our Thanksgiving table next week when we’ll look at a few more traditional dishes and how we can make them fit more comfortably into a healthy holiday!

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