If life’s a bowl of cherries, then you’re in good shape – at least when it comes to taking care of your heart and warding off those aches and pains. Both dark and sweet cherries offer a large amount of sweet flavor, antioxidants and are a good source of fiber. They’re also a healthier choice of sugar than refined sweeteners and processed foods. If you’ve ever had the luxury of eating a cherry straight off the tree, you know there’s nothing like a fresh cherry’s flavor, however you can still buy frozen cherries and fresh from the supermarket when they’re in season during the early spring and summer. If you buy frozen, you needn’t worry about the pits, but if you eat them whole, be sure you pit and stem them first. They make lovely garnishes, additions to smoothies, cakes, pies, and bowls of oatmeal are always a bit cheerier with a few cherries added in.
But how do they compare to other fruits for good health? They hold up pretty well, as it turns out…
Cherries for Your Heart
Though berries are a great sources of antioxidants that ward off heart disease; cherries also offer a high dose of anthocyanins that lower cholesterol and reduce inflammation. These antioxidants are evident by the rich hue of color found in cherries, which is a key sign they’re incredible for you. In fact, studies show that tart cherries lower high cholesterol and triglycerides, which can do everything from improve your weight to improve your arterial health. This also reduces your risk for stroke, heart disease and diabetes. Dark, sweet cherries also come with these same benefits, though tart cherries are said to be slightly more beneficial. Cherries’ antioxidant content is so high, they’re even higher in these specific antioxidants than red wine or dark chocolate!
Cherry Compounds That Fight Inflammation
Studies performed on cherries and those with inflammation, proved that cherries were just as effective and safer than prescription drugs to fight muscle inflammation, and cherries come with no health risks like medications do. Apparently, certain compounds in cherries protect against inflammation-related diseases ranging from cancer to metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and even Alzheimer’s. They’ve even been shown to have a 65 percent lower rate of mortality when a cup is eaten per day!
Cherries also fight oxidative stress that can cause muscle and joint pain. Cherries are also one of the most recommended foods for those with exercise-related muscle pain. Use a few cherries in your post-workout smoothie or use them as a form of a healthy dessert. You can also eat them for breakfast if you wake up sore in the mornings after a hard workout or strenuous day.
Cherries and Your Sleep
Cherries are also one of the best foods to promote melatonin production in the body. This hormone is necessary for not just sending you to sleep, but also helping you stay asleep and wake up around the same time each day. It helps set your internal clock so that your sleep health becomes more regulated. A good night’s rest isn’t just important for your busy days, but also so your body can recover properly overnight, and to prevent excess cortisol (stress) that can lead to heart disease, weight gain, and even muscle and joint pain.
Cherries and Your Weight
Cherries have also been shown to reduce belly fat due to the way they lower inflammation, reduce stress, improve cholesterol levels, and aid in helping you achieve a healthy sleep cycle. Their specific antioxidant compounds are also directly linked to a lower waistline. Though tart cherry juice and dried cherries are often recommended, be sure to choose whole food cherries when you can, since dried and juice forms are always higher in sugar. Go for the whole, natural fruit the way nature created it whenever possible!
Cherries and Your Blood Sugar
Despite being higher in sugar than fruits like fresh cranberries or raspberries, whole (especially tart) cherries are really very low on the glycemic index. They’ve been shown to improve blood sugar for those with diabetes, and can be eaten with whole grains or nuts and seeds to lower the glycemic spike even more.
So, as you can see, these fruits are pretty amazing for you! Try cherries out an energy bar, in a smoothie, oatmeal, raw cookies, in a batch of muffins, over some quinoa, or puree them and make an instant fruit spread. You can also bake with them in healthy desserts; they go great with chocolate and ginger flavors.
See more cherry recipes here for more ways to use this healthy fruit!
Lead Image Source: Anne/Flickr