Cherries are a small dark red fruit, beloved for their flavor and versatility. They can be deliciously sweet (great to eat raw) or tart (great for cooking). The cherry is a drupe, which is the proper name for fruits containing a stone, and there are many varieties, all produced by trees from trees of the Prunus type. There are so many fantastic health benefits of cherries that adding these humble little fruits to your everyday diet could have a big impact on how you feel and how you function!
Health Benefits of Cherries
Let’s look at some of the most significant health benefits of cherries, the results might surprise you:
- Stock up on Fiber – Cherries might be small, but they are a good fiber source. A cup of cherries contains 2.5g of fiber. Many of us don’t eat enough fiber, and this can lead to problems with digestion, feeling sluggish, bloated, and even gaining weight. When we get enough fiber, we feel fuller for longer, and this feeling of satiety can help us resist the lure of snacks and unhealthy food choices. Fiber is also good for the gut, improving digestion, nutrient absorption, and boosting healthy gut flora, so you have more of the friendly bacteria that you need and fewer of the bad gut bacteria.
- Cut the Calories – The health benefits of cherries include potential weight-loss benefits. A cup of cherries contains less than 100 calories, making them a great healthy snack. A full cup of sweet cherries is filling and delicious, without any of the guilt that comes with unhealthy mid-afternoon snacking! Foods that have a lower calorie density are an excellent choice if you are trying to lose weight without feeling hungry. Essentially, having a whole cup of cherries only delivers the caloric load of a much smaller quantity of a foodstuff rich in fats or carbohydrates such as a cracker, for example. Another reason why cherries could be your secret to weight loss is that they are low GI foods. This means that they do not cause sharp rises and drops in blood sugar. Experts believe a diet consisting of foods that are low on the Glycemic Index (low GI foods) can help with weight management and lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Boost your Metabolism – Believe it or not, research shows that cherries actually help us metabolize fat. Various research into this phenomenon has focused on tart cherries (rather than the sweet kind). It appears that eating cherries can have a fat-busting effect, reducing the amount of fat stored around the abdomen. One particular study states:
“at-risk obese rats fed a high-fat diet, physiologically relevant tart cherry consumption reduced several phenotypes of metabolic syndrome and reduced both systemic and local inflammation. Tart cherries may reduce the degree or trajectory of metabolic syndrome, thereby reducing risk for the development of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.”
- Reduce Inflammation – One of the most exciting discoveries about cherries is that they effectively reduce inflammation in the body. This is possibly the most appealing reasons to choose cherries, particularly for those who suffer from inflammatory conditions such as osteoarthritis. A study showed that in women who suffered from osteoarthritis – a painful inflammatory condition – drinking cherry juice made a big difference to the levels of inflammation in the body. Research indicates that tart cherries (whether you consume the fruit, the juice, or a dried form) can significantly reduce inflammatory markers. This could mean less pain from chronic conditions like arthritis and reduce discomfort after exercise etc.
- Harness the Anti-Ageing, Immunity Boosting Effect – Cherries are incredibly rich in powerful antioxidants. They contain a high level of polyphenols; chemicals found in various plant sources that are capable of reducing the damage caused to the cells by free radicals. As we age, free radicals cause damage to our cells and to our DNA itself. Reducing this effect can reduce the impact of aging on the body. One of the most significant health benefits of cherries also contain flavonoids, which contribute to this effect by boosting the immune system.
- Supercharge your Nutrition – We all know fruits are good for us, and cherries are particularly rich in vitamins and minerals that we all need to stay healthy. Cherries are no exception, and the health benefits of cherries are largely down to their vitamin and mineral content. Cherries are especially high in vitamin C, which is essential for immune function, cell repair, tissue growth, and iron absorption. Cherries are also abundant in potassium (necessary for healthy muscle and nerve function), vitamin K (healthy blood and bones), B vitamins (essential for blood and nerve cells and thousands of functions within the human body), as well as containing essential minerals manganese, magnesium, and copper.
- Reclaim your Sleep – Who would have guessed that adding cherries to your diet could impact your sleep? Yet this most surprising of all of the health benefits of cherries is exactly what researchers have found! Cherries, and in particular a variety of cherries known as Montmorency, are notable for their melatonin content. Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the pineal gland. It plays a huge role in our circadian rhythms, guiding us to be awake when it is light and to go to sleep when it is dark. Sufficient levels of melatonin are essential for healthy sleep patterns. Research has shown that increasing melatonin levels may help with insomnia. It is also sometimes used for short-term sleep disturbance, such as what we experience with jetlag.
Cherries are certainly not a difficult food to add to the diet. They can be eaten alone (beware of the pits!) or added to fruit salads. They are great with yogurt or cereal and make beautiful jams, syrups, and jellies. When cooking or baking, be wary of adding lots of sugar, as this could undermine the fantastic health benefits of cherries.