Anti-Aging Cranberries for Your Holiday Table


Quick, name your favorite Thanksgiving side dish.

Mine has always been cranberry sauce— it’s sweet, vibrant, pairs well with everything on your plate, and is incredibly healthy…or so I assumed for many years. Turns out that cranberry sauce pairs well with everything except glowing skin and a slim waistline!

The truth: that innocent-looking cranberry sauce is one of the biggest sugar bombs in your Thanksgiving celebration.

Exactly how did cranberries go from antioxidant powerhouses, full of collagen-building vitamin C and skin-strengthening anthocyanin pigments, to vehicles for inflammatory, wrinkle-causing sugar overload?

Frankly, I’m still not sure, since there’s no reason to load up these power berries with refined sugar.  But here are the real numbers: one cup of raw cranberries has 4 grams of natural sugar, and about 50 calories, while a cup of whole berry cranberry sauce has a whopping 88 grams of sugar (think of that as almost a full half cup of sugar) and 440 calories. Not exactly a welcome addition to your holiday plate.

Sometimes splurging is welcome during the holidays (I mean, yes, you do want plenty of organic butter in your mashed sweet potatoes!), but in other places, many traditional holiday recipes could withstand a major beauty makeover without changing their pleasure quotient. When otherwise healthy, beautifying food takes a sketchy turn in your holiday dishes, you really don’t have to stand back and watch.

Here’s a recipe that lets you skip the added sugar in your cranberries and sweeten them with natural sugar from apples and oranges. You’ll find that it doesn't take much to create your own sauce (it may be the simplest dish on your table), and that you can save the sugar for dessert— where it belongs.

Antioxidant Cranberry Apple Sauce

Serves 6-8


  • 2 medium apples (try Macintosh, Honeycrisp or Gala)

  • 3 cups organic raw cranberries (about one 12oz bag)

  • 1/2 cup filtered water or fresh squeezed orange juice

  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger


Core apples, cut into slices and then chop further into bite-sized chunks. In a medium saucepan, combine apples, cranberries and water or juice and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook, about 15 minutes, until cranberries pop and apples soften. Remove from heat and stir in spices. Cool and serve.

Cranberries image ©Pen Waggener