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The Next Superfood You Should Try: Cherries
by Danielle Omar, MS, RD
Image by Danielle Omar, RDCherries are at the top on my list of favorite fruits. I always have frozen cherries on hand for smoothies, I use dried cherries in //foodconfidence.com/2015/08/04/formula-meals-no-bake-energy-balls/" target="_blank">my no-bake energy bites and muffins, and I love eating fresh cherries straight out of the bag! Cherries are considered stone fruits and are closely related to my other summer favorites, the plum and the peach. They’re found in two general varieties: sweet and tart. Sweet cherries, including Bing and Rainier, are mostly available in the US from May to August. Tart cherries have a much shorter season, and are typically only found for a week or two in June or early July. Sweet cherries are typically larger than tart cherries and are known for their distinct heart shape. They range in color from golden with hints of red (like the Rainer) to dark, deep red (like the Sweetheart). Fresh cherries are not only a delicious summertime treat, they’re also nutrition super fruits! Tart cherries are chock full of vitamins A and C, as well as fiber, manganese, and copper. Sweet cherries also contain vitamin C, along with an array of health-supporting anthocyanins antioxidants, like melatonin.
Cherries & Their Health BenefitsA growing body of research links tart cherries to the following important health benefits:
Better SleepCherries contain natural //www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/tc/melatonin-overview" target="_blank">melatonin. Melatonin is an antioxidant essential for healthy cognitive function and regulating your body’s sleep-wake cycle. According to the Cherry Marketing Institute, //www.choosecherries.com/health-and-nutrition/sleep/" target="_blank">consuming tart cherries before bed can improve the quality and duration of sleep, reduce the severity of insomnia and increase overall sleep efficiency.
Exercise RecoveryTart cherry juice is well known for its //www.choosecherries.com/health-and-nutrition/recovery/" target="_blank">exercise recovery benefits. A significant amount of research demonstrates that cherry juice, taken before and after exercise, can reduce exercise-related muscle damage, inflammation, and oxidative stress. It helps delay the onset of muscle soreness seen after exercise, as well as reduce muscle soreness seen in other conditions, like arthritis, fibromyalgia, and osteoarthritis.
Arthritis and GoutThe powerful anti-inflammatory properties of cherries have been shown to reduce the inflammation seen in gout by reducing uric acid levels in the blood. Because of their high anthocyanins content, they’re also able to prevent the painful inflammation seen in osteoarthritis, even as much as some pain medications. Heart Health The anthocyanins in cherries have been shown to regulate genes involved with fat and glucose metabolism, helping to reduce the risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes that can lead to stroke and heart disease. Cherries are also high in potassium, which helps regulate heart rate and lower blood pressure.
Add Cherries to Your DietWith all the amazing health benefits listed above, cherries are a true superfood for health! Look for ways to add cherries to your day! If you cannot find fresh cherries in the store, reach for frozen cherries or tart cherry juice. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Add frozen cherries or tart cherry juice in your smoothie
- Add dried tart cherries to //foodconfidence.com/2016/02/22/oatmeal-dried-figs-cherries/" target="_blank">oatmeal or //foodconfidence.com/2012/07/26/snack-recipe-homemade-chocolate-cookie-dough-larabar/" target="_blank">homemade energy bars
- Bake them into //foodconfidence.com/2015/03/02/chocolate-cherry-breakfast-muffins/" target="_blank">muffins, cookies or breads.
- Add them to grain salads, //foodconfidence.com/2014/06/25/recipe-lemony-zucchini-noodles-spinach-cherries-pine-nuts/" target="_blank">cold vegetable salads or //foodconfidence.com/2014/10/05/lemon-kale-pasta-eggs-dried-cherries/" target="_blank">pasta dishes
- Make a cherry juice glaze for chicken or fish
- Sprinkle onto fresh fruit salads
- Add dried cherries (or cherry juice) to //foodconfidence.com/2014/08/07/chia-and-oatmeal-breakfast-bowl-cherries/" target="_blank">chia seed pudding or stir into muesli
- Add to //foodconfidence.com/2012/02/21/recipe-redux-dark-chocolate-pretzel-cherry-clusters/" target="_blank">chocolate desserts
- Add dried cherries to homemade granola