Carb Counts and Health Benefits of Cranberries

Fresh cranberries are low in carbohydrates, but prepared products aren't

Fresh Cranberries in Pail
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Cranberries are very low in sugar while being high in fiber and nutrients. You can buy extra bags of fresh cranberries in autumn to freeze and use all year long. One problem with cranberries is that on their own they are very tart, so a lot of sugar is usually added to foods using cranberries. Make sure to read the labels for any cranberry sauce, cranberry juice, and other cranberry products if you are limiting carbohydrates.

Carbohydrate and Fiber Counts 

  • 1 ounce of fresh cranberries: 2 grams of effective (net) carbohydrate plus 1 gram of fiber and 13 calories.
  • 1/2 cup of chopped fresh cranberries: 4 grams of effective (net) carbohydrate plus 2.5 grams of fiber and 25 calories.
  • 1/2 cup of whole fresh cranberries: 4 grams of effective (net) carbohydrate plus 2 grams of fiber and 23 calories.

Glycemic Index 

As is true for fruit naturally low in carbohydrate, there is no scientific study of the glycemic index of cranberries. Some sources have extrapolated from other similar foods that it would be in the low to moderate range. Keep in mind that this is for unsweetened cranberries only.

Glycemic Load 

Glycemic load takes into account the amount of food eaten as well as its glycemic index. A value of less than 10 is considered to be low and should have little effect on blood sugar or insulin. Here is the estimated glycemic load for cranberries:

  • 1 ounce of fresh cranberries: 0
  • 1/2 cup of fresh chopped cranberries: 1
  • 1/2 cup of whole fresh cranberries: 1

Health Benefits and Risks 

Cranberries are a very good source of vitamin C and manganese. They are rich in phytonutrients, especially antioxidants. Cranberries may also have a small antibacterial effect in the mouth, gastrointestinal tract, and urinary tract due to the special structure of the phytochemicals in them.

Research into this area is preliminary, with mixed results for preventing urinary tract infections. Health authorities say that cranberry juice, cranberry supplements, and other cranberry products should not be substituted for antibiotic treatment if you have urinary tract infection.

Drinking large amounts of cranberry juice can upset your stomach and may increase your risk of kidney stones if you do it over a long period of time. If you are taking Coumadin (warfarin) as a blood thinner, large amounts of cranberry juice can alter the levels, so discuss this with your doctor.

Low-Carb Recipes 

If you are limiting carbohydrates, you might look for sugar-free cranberry sauce to enjoy with meats, yogurt, or cottage cheese. You can also make cranberry sauce at home and use non-sugar sweetener to taste. Enjoy gluten-free flax seed cranberry muffins for breakfast. For lunch, have a salad with sugar-free cranberry vinaigrette salad dressing. Then put your talents to work making an elegant and delicious chicken with cranberries and red wine sauce for dinner. For a sweet treat, bake a batch of cranberry walnut cookies.

Sources:

Atkinson FS, Foster-Powell K, Brand-Miller JC. International Tables of Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load Values: 2008. Diabetes Care. 2008;31(12):2281-2283. doi:10.2337/dc08-1239.

Cranberry. National Institutes of Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/cranberry.

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, United States Department of Agriculture. https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/.

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