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Is That Right? Cranberry Raisinets rich with antioxidants?

Those new Cranberry Raisinets sure sound as though they'd be good for you. Nestle's press release announcing the new product's launch this summer called the chocolate-covered cranberries a "better-for-you indulgence rich with natural fruit antioxidants."

"Cranberries," the press release continues, are "the most popular of the superfruits" and "combine exceptional nutrient richness with the power of antioxidants. These antioxidants are flavanoids [sic] and Vitamin C, which have been shown to help the body fight free radicals."

Cranberries are known for their high antioxidant value, and they can indeed be a pretty good source of perhaps the most familiar one, Vitamin C. The Nutrition Facts panel on the bag of whole, fresh cranberries in my fridge says a half-cup, 30-calorie serving provides 20 percent of the Daily Value for that key antioxidant.

But something mysterious occurs when Nestle turns cranberries into Cranberry Raisinets. A glance at the Nutrition Facts panel on a bag of the new candy reveals that per quarter-cup serving, these Raisinets contain 200 calories (70 of them from fat) -- and 0 percent of the DV for Vitamin C. Same thing for the antioxidant Vitamin A. In fact, there's not an antioxidant value in sight on the panel.

It's really not much of a mystery, after all. While drying fruits and berries concentrates some of the nutrients therein, it is known to destroy others -- including Vitamin A and Vitamin C. Of course, those aren't the only antioxidants fresh cranberries contain; others, including the less-familiar flavonoids, may well survive the drying process. But there's no way to tell by reading the label.

Though scientists are pretty convinced that antioxidants play a big role in maintaining a healthy body, nobody's quite sure how they work or just how big any single antioxidant's role really is. So buying products for their purported antioxidant value alone doesn't really make sense to me. It makes even less sense if there's no evidence of antioxidant content on the Nutrition Facts panel.

If you enjoy the taste of Cranberry Raisinets, go ahead and enjoy them -- in moderation, though, because the chocolate coating adds lots of fat and calories. But if it's Vitamin C you're after, here's a list of better choices.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  November 6, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Is That Right? , Nutrition and Fitness  
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I am shocked--shocked!!-- that a company would mislead consumers. One more reason why we need less government interference in business, right?

Posted by: Sutter | November 6, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

There's a sure-fire way of telling whether the health claims on a food's packaging are honest and relevant: they never are.

The healthiest foods don't come in printed boxes. You'll have to bag them yourselves, in the produce section.

It it's in a box, it's a processed food with too much sugar, too much salt, too much fat, and not enough fiber or micronutrients.

Follow this rule, and you'll be right 99% of the time. Which gives you better odds than trying to outguess and outsmart the well-paid marketeers who write the copy on processed food boxes.

Posted by: DupontJay | November 6, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

How about just enjoying Cranberry Raisinets because...because...because they taste good and you like them. Not everything has to be healthful or have a purpose. Heck; do you think people read Micky Spillane novels because they insightful or had educational value? They read them because they were a couple hours of entertainment. Do you think people watch NASCAR because they'll learn how to fix their car in case it breaks down? They watch the races because they're excited by the speed and the action (and..., yes, the possibility of a crash).

Cranberry Raisinets. Eat them because you want to eat them, because they taste good. You can, you know, splurge once in a while.

Posted by: Dungarees | November 6, 2009 5:07 PM | Report abuse

When you're checking out the junk food in the candy section, Cranberry Raisinets maybe your best choice. Virtually all fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices contain flavonoids - and cranberries are near the top of the list.

It is the darker flavonoids in red wine that make it a healthier choice than white wine. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables like the Mediterranean diet is very rich in flavonoids and other antioxidants - and has been proven to help reduce heart disease, cancer and even dementia.

The best way to get your vitamins and flavonids is to make smoothies in your blender with fresh fruit and yogurt and if you're going to eat chips watching the game on TV - stock up on guacamole - since avocados are the healthiest fruit.

Posted by: alance | November 7, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Anyone who assumes processed packaged food is going to be "good" for you is a fool.

For years they sold "healthy" foods with corn syrup (and still do for the most part) ... Newman's brand bowed to pressure and removed it from their products (thank you).

Posted by: kkrimmer | November 7, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

On the other hand, according to nutrition labels I've seen, potato chips do contain Vitamin C, though (for obvious reasons) I've never heard them touted as a health food.

Posted by: mke1 | November 7, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

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