What ingredient on your holiday menu grows in sandy bogs and marshes, was once used as a medicine to draw the poison out of arrow wounds and helped sailors prevent scurvy on long sea voyages? If you’re serving cranberry sauce with your Thanksgiving turkey look no further for the answer. Whether you prefer jellied or whole berry sauce, there is little doubt some version of this bright red fruit was part of the very first Thanksgiving meal, and the tradition has continued ever since.
Native Americans had many uses for cranberries when the Pilgrims arrived (besides the poultice that removed arrow poison). They made dyes for their rugs and blankets from them and a type of “jerky” using mashed cranberries that preserved deer meat. In return, the Pilgrims were the first to sweeten the tart berries to make pies, puddings and the ever popular cranberry sauce!
If you’ve ever popped a fresh cranberry into your mouth without knowing its tart little secret, you’ll never forget it — cranberries make you pucker! That’s why they’re always combined with other fruits, juices and sweeteners in recipes to make them more palatable. The only problem is it takes a lot of sugar to reduce their pucker power, and that adds calories. Using a combination of fruit and a low calorie sweetener with cranberries provides a calorie-smart solution.
Since I don’t happen to like sweet condiments on my savory food, I never have cranberry sauce with my turkey or catsup on my burgers, but I love the Cranberry-Orange Relish we always serve at Thanksgiving. So I started using this low calorie cranberry relish recipe and eat it all year long on toasted baguettes smeared with soft goat cheese, mixed into my fat-free Greek yogurt, or stuffed into a baked apple.
I hope you’ll try it and discover ways you, too, can enjoy cranberries on many more occasions than the annual harvest meal!
Registered dietitian and nutrition expert Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN has more than 30 years of experience counseling patients and teaching at the university level. She is also the author of two books on nutrition. Follow her on Twitter @EverydayRD and check out her other posts here.