Cherries are sweet and delicious, but did you know they’re full of nutrients and great for your health? Here’re just a few of the reasons why cherries are oh-so-good for you.
1. Cherries contain vitamins and other nutrients that can help to prevent cancer.
Fiber, Vitamin C, carotenoids and anthocyanins in combination have been referred to as an “anti-cancer team,” with the potential for huge benefits. You’ll find all of these in cherries.
2. Cherries provide a burst of health-boosting antioxidants.
Vitamin C, carotenoids and anthocyanins are all antioxidants. A major role that they play in the body is preventing cellular damage, which can sometimes lead to cancer.
Anthocyanins are what’re referred to as a type of flavonoid, and they’re what give cherries their deep red color. You’ll also find cyanidins and quercetin, antioxidants that help to reduce the cellular damage caused by free radicals in the body.
Cyanidins are a particular type of anthocyanin. Quercetin is another plant flavonoid that contributes to the deep pigment that cherries are known for. It’s packed with strong antioxidants.
Let’s go back to that pigment thing again for just a second. Since many of these compounds contribute to that dark reddish/purplish color of your classic cherry (like a Bing cherry, tart cherry or Dark Hudson cherry), this means (you guessed it!) you won’t find some of these potential health benefits and chemical properties in yellow cherries like Rainiers. Don’t worry too much, though. They’re full of antioxidants and vitamins, too.
3. Cherries reduce inflammation and can help to reduce arthritis pain.
When it’s about to rain and I can feel it in my knees, or when it’s that time of the month and I’m going along fine and then BOOM!, it’s suddenly cramp city up in here, I head down to the store for a big bottle of 100% tart cherry juice (or better yet – I call for delivery!). Not only does it make a great mixer, it’s full of anti-inflammatory compounds that have been shown to reduce pain. Not just in lab rats – in actual humans!
A study led by Kerry Kuehl, M.D., Dr.PH., M.S. at Oregon Health & Science University studied 20 women between the ages of 40 and 70 with inflammatory osteoarthritis. Researchers found that “drinking tart cherry juice two times per day for three weeks resulted in considerable reductions in vital inflammation markers, especially for participants who had the highest inflammation levels at the start of the study.”
Another study, conducted at Baylor Research Institute, found that “a daily dose of… cherry extract… reduced osteoarthritis pain by over 20% in most people.” Beats taking an Advil and sleeping it off, right?
Cherries can help to soothe sore muscles as well. A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition in 2010 reported on runners who drank 24 ounces of tart cherry juice every day for a week before completing a long-distance race.
Afterwards, the study showed that they complained of fewer aches and pains after the race than runners who were given a placebo.
4. Cherries can support your sleep cycle.
Cherries contain natural melatonin, a compound that many of us probably take in supplement form to get better rest.
It’s produced naturally in the body by the pineal gland, but the extra boost that you’ll get from drinking tart cherry juice can help you to sleep longer and better. Beat insomnia the natural way. Good quality sleep is a must for good health!
5. Cherries can help to balance your BPL.
No, I’m not talking about the British Premier League for all you soccer geeks out there, and I’m definitely not talking about “Broadband over Power Line,” whatever that is (apparently some kind of tech that permits data to travel over power lines…? Does anybody actually call that BPL?). No, I’m referring to your blood pressure level.
Though some of the recommendations above refer specifically to tart cherries or tart cherry juice, this one is all about the sweet cherries. The good news is that they’re packed with potassium. This mineral helps to keep fluid balance in check in the body, which is a must especially if you’ve overdone it on the salty snacks.
A review of cherries and health printed in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition in 2010 reported that people who eat items containing significant amounts of potassium (like sweet cherries) are less likely to have hypertension. Sure, bananas contain potassium too, but you’d rather have an excuse to eat a fistful of ripe in-season cherries, right?
Though it might not be time to switch to an all-cherry diet just yet (that review of cherries and health ended with a disclaimer saying, “Well-designed cherry feeding studies are needed to further substantiate any health benefits in humans,” and besides, a varied diet is definitely the way to go for good health!), the potential health benefits are clear—cherries are delicious, nutritious and the best time to get them is right now!
Ditch the “cherry” flavored popsicles and other artificially flavored sweets and go for the real thing. Fresh cherries are best if nutrients are what you’re after, but juice is a close second and nothing’s better than tart cherries in a home-baked pie. I’m all about that lattice top…
Forget the processed stuff and indulge in real, whole foods like cherries. This is one guilty pleasure that even your doctor will be happy to indulge in. On that note, always remember to consult with your doctor before starting any new diet plans or giving any alternative therapies a whirl.
When summer’s over, stick to the cherry Chapstick and find other healthy foods to enjoy. Cherries are best when they’re in season, and that artificial stuff tastes like cough medicine anyway.
Cover photo: alpha.wallhaven.cc