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story.lead_photo.caption Dr. Dianna Richardson of the Health, Wellness & Nutrition Center in Jefferson City has served communities as a wellness practitioner for more than 20 years. Core to her practice has been the use of nutrition to enhance health and improve vitality.

Food as medicine continues to be the current trend. As such, cranberries are a good source of various vitamins and antioxidants. The vitamin C content of cranberries block damage caused by free radicals, improves iron absorption, boosts immunity and aids in wound healing. Cranberries are also a good source of B vitamins. They include thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin B6.

Historically, they have been used to treat bladder and kidney disease. Other historical uses include treating poor appetite, stomach complaints, and scurvy.

The cranberry is best known for its role in preventing urinary tract infections (UTIs). It is particularly beneficial for people with recurrent infections. High levels of antioxidant proanthocyanidins help stop certain bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract walls.

These same proanthocyanidins may also be beneficial for dental health. According to researchers at University of Rochester Medical Center, cranberries may keep bacteria from binding to teeth. This is helpful in reducing gum disease.

Also, some studies suggest the polyphenols in cranberries may lower risk of cardiovascular disease. This is due to the ability to prevent platelet build-up and by reducing inflammation. Additionally, the high fiber content may be linked to lowering blood pressure, improving insulin sensitivity, reducing cholesterol and even helping certain gastrointestinal diseases.

In the area of cancer, cranberries are packed with nutrients that help slow tumor growth. They have a positive effect on prostate, liver, breast, ovarian and colon cancers.

Fresh cranberries are currently in season. They can be kept in the refrigerator for up to two months or frozen up to one year. When purchasing dried or canned, make sure the product contains only cranberries. Cranberry juice is commonly mixed with other juices. When purchasing, look for juice with cranberries as the first ingredient.

Cranberries are a great addition to homemade trail mix when added to nuts and seeds. Try throwing a handful in your next smoothie. Another idea is to add dried cranberries to oatmeal or your favorite cereal. They also make a great addition to favorite muffin or cookie recipes. You can add a burst of flavor to pies and cobblers by adding fresh cranberries when baking.

Dr. Dianna Richardson has been serving Jefferson City and the surrounding communities for more than 22 years. Richardson holds a doctorate in naturopathy, along with degrees in nutrition and a master's degree in public health education. She may be found at the Health, Wellness & Nutrition Center, LLC on Dix Road in Jefferson City.

CRANBERRY APPLE CRISP

Makes: 9 servings

5 cups pared sliced apples (about 6 medium)

1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries.

1/4 cup sugar

TOPPING

1/3 cup all-purpose flour plus cup old-fashioned oats

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon Ceylon cinnamon

1/4 cup chilled butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9-inch square baking pan or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, mix the apples and cranberries with the sugar until coated. Transfer to baking pan.

Mix flour, brown sugar and cinnamon for topping. Work in margarine until light and crumbly. (See Note 3)

Sprinkle topping evenly over apples and cranberries.

Bake 45 minutes or until apples are tender. Cool on a wire rack about 15 minutes before serving.

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