In the haze of pumpkin-flavored products this fall, dare to be different and opt for something tart and red instead.

Cranberries, also a fall harvest staple, are tiny but pack many benefits, according to Melissa Keeney, RDN, a registered dietitian-nutritionist with Hartford HealthCare. While products like store-bought cranberry sauce and juice can be high in sugar, she said turning whole fruit into sauces, toppings or other delicious dishes on your own can help you yield some of the benefits.

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Snack on these health benefits

  • Cranberries are high in antioxidants. This substance inhibits oxidation and can lower inflammation in the body. Eating foods that are high in antioxidants, Keeney noted, can reduce the risk of heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and type 2 diabetes.
  • Cranberries provide fiber. This fiber can keep blood sugars more stable, decrease constipation and help you feel full faster.
  • Cranberries are high in vitamin C. One cup of raw berries brings about 25% of your daily requirement of vitamin C, which we need to help in the growth, development and repair of body tissue.
  • Cranberries help gut health. These are one of the only fruits containing A-type proanthocyanidins, which gives the berries their red hue and may keep the flora in your gut healthy. They may also decrease risk of infections that cause gastric ulcers.
  • Cranberries are good for your heart. Research shows that eating more foods that are low in cholesterol, fat and sodium – like cranberries – can help lower the body’s “bad” cholesterol and raise the “good” cholesterol. This promotes better blood pressure and heart function.

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“Raw cranberries are the best for you because they have more vitamin C,” said Keeney. She suggested throwing some in salads, oatmeal, fruit salsas and relishes.