Cherries are not only a summer staple, but a perfect snack to have year round. They compliment desserts, fruit bowls, and are a filling, refreshing snack all on their own. They also carry many benefits that will convince you to eat year round, and not just during the summer. The delicious fruits are known to be great sources of vitamin C, fiber, and are packed with antioxidants. Both the sour and sweet kinds of cherries are equally beneficial for you, according to Kristin Gillespie, M.S., R.D., C.N.S.C., a Virginia-based registered dietitian. If you’re looking to incorporate cherries into your summer meals, here are some benefits to look out for.
Like all fruits packed with vitamin C, cherries can help reduce inflammation because of their many antioxidants. Cherries are also filled with anthocyanins, (especially found in sour cherries) which are a pigment found in cherries that not only give it its red color, but are essential in ridding the body of free radicals. Kelitha T. Anderson, R.D.N., L.D.N., a Miami-based registered dietitian nutritionist, says that anthocyanins act as “police officers within the body to maintain safety and order,” by fighting off unstable molecules that could cause cell damage and lead to inflammation.
Ease muscle soreness & arthritis symptoms
The anthocyanins aren’t just good for fighting off inflammation. Anthocyanins found in cherries help reduce oxidative stress in areas where your muscles may feel sore, ridding that muscle of oxidative stress and free radicals caused by damage. Drinking some tart cherry juice after an intense workout has been linked to reducing soreness in muscles. These same anti-inflammatory properties can help combat painful symptoms of arthritis and gout. Nondiabetic individuals who drank two 8-ounce bottles of tart cherry juice per day for six weeks had symptom alleviation for mild to moderate osteoarthritis symptoms, according to a 2013 study.
Reduce blood sugar
In comparison to other fruits, cherries rank much lower than other fruits on the glycemic index, meaning they will not cause large increases in blood sugar and insulin. According to Heather Hall, R.D.N., a Nevada-based registered dietitian, most of the world population is immune to insulin, meaning the body begins to produce more insulin in the pancrea, which then increases blood sugar, leading to a higher risk of diabetes. Hall explains that cherries are one of the few fruits that can help to lower blood sugar and help protect against diabetes.
Helps improve sleep
Both sweet and sour cherries actually contain melatonin, a natural hormone that helps control your sleep-wake cycle. In other words, it is your body’s natural way of helping you get restful and deeper sleep. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food cited that cherry juice helps adults sleep better, and improves insomnia. Of course, while this cherry juice did aid in improving sleep, it is important to not consume too much of this juice as it is packed with sugar.
Can help fight against cancer
Although small in size, cherries’ natural ingredients (fiber, vitamin C, anthocyanins) are the body’s natural antioxidants to fight off diseases. Consuming cherries on a regular basis gives your body the natural antioxidants it needs to fight off free radicals, and can be the key to reducing oxidative stress. Cancer can often stem from high levels of oxidative stress, which can damage cells and DNA. Fiber, as you may know, is an essential nutrient needed to regulate the body’s digestive system. It also has been linked to lower risks of colorectal and breast cancers, according to American Institute for Cancer Research.
Despite being such a small fruit, cherries of both the sweet and sour kind are nutritional and beneficial for regular consumption. Of course, it is important to consume these bite sized fruits with caution, as their pit can be a choking hazard if not careful. Additionally, the pit in the middle actually contains a toxic chemical known as amygdalin which can turn into cyanide when crushed. As with all fruits as well, make sure you are carefully washing and cleansing your cherries before consumption to get the most out of this healthy snack.