The Health Benefits of Cherries
Let's take a leap back in time and take a more careful look at one of our favorite fruits - what are the different types of cherry, what are the health benefits of daily consumption, and how to make the most of the cherry season! This article is about to get sweeter and sweeter - so sweet that you'll probably be running out for some cherries at the end of it. We don't blame you, we will too!
Alright, how many types of cherries are there and how are they different?
Botanically speaking, there are about 20 varieties of cherries, but we have access to very few of them. The two main types of cherry we can find in our local shops are sweet and sour.
Sweet cherries include dark red or black fruits, whose shape resembles a heart. They are extremely juicy and are ideal for fruit salads and cherry tarts. There are also, although less common, pink and yellow (white) cherries, which are also sweet, but not as much as the darker ones. They are often served as a compliment to charcuteries, or cheese starters.
Sour cherries are smaller in size than sweet cherries and have a characteristic bright red color. Their tart, slightly sour taste makes them ideal for pies, cakes, cobblers and many other sweet desserts.
Now, let’s get to the point - what are cherries good for?
Cherries have been labeled as a superfood - a term that has been thrown around for some time now, quite often without reason. A superfood is any food that has the power to maintain our overall health, boost our immune system, and provide us with a large amount of vital nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Although it’s not scientific, the term superfood is not simply a marketing trick. What links all superfoods is the rich amount of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids they contain. Antioxidants protect the body from oxidative stress and can contribute to our longevity, improving our quality of life. On the other hand, the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and seafood cannot be produced by our bodies, so in addition to a healthy diet, we need to take high-quality omega-3 supplements - click here to check out our full catalog.
Benefit #1 - Better and longer sleep
Cherries contain melatonin, the compound that regulates our biological clock. When it's time to sleep, our body secretes melatonin, helping us to fall asleep, and when it's time to wake up - it reduces its production, allowing us to wake up.
As we age, our levels of melatonin drop down, and its production decreases dramatically. This usually results in shorter sleep, which is not as refreshing. That's why most seniors need an afternoon nap - it's a catch-up of sorts.
Sour cherries are richer in melatonin than their sweet cousins.
Benefit #2 - Healthier joints
Joint pain can be caused by a plethora of circumstances - improper movement, improper sitting & posture, lack of movement, overexertion, calcium deficiency, even genetic predisposition.
Another common cause is the accumulation of crystallized uric acid, which leads to joint inflammation. According to research, cherries are one of the few fruits that have the unique ability to regulate uric acid levels. People suffering from gout or other joint problems can add cherries to their diet and reduce the inflammation in their joints.
According to this comparative review, which looks at various studies on the benefits of cherries, cherry consumption can lower joint pain after only a few days. While the studies primarily used cherry extract, fresh cherries are just as suitable.
Benefit #3 - A stronger heart
In addition to cherries containing a number of nutrients that improve cardiovascular function, they are also extremely rich in fiber. Fiber helps proper digestive function, regulates cholesterol levels, and improves blood health.
They are also a prime source of potassium, a mineral that is involved in balancing sodium levels and helping the body maintain normal blood pressure levels.
Research suggests that consuming juiced cherries can reduce blood pressure within two hours after consumption. In addition, it can also lower bad cholesterol levels. High LDL cholesterol increases the chances of developing heart disease.
Benefit #4 - Better recovery after exercise
As we have already said, cherries are a source of antioxidants. In addition to that, however, they are also rich in anti-inflammatory compounds that directly repair the areas affected by intense exercise.
Consuming cherry juice immediately after a workout has several surprising, but real effects on our body:
- Reduced pain
- Better recovery
- Reduced muscle soreness in the following days
A surprising study on long-distance runners found that athletes who took half a gram of cherry extract a day, for 10 days, before a half-marathon, were 13% faster than the control group.
In addition, the researchers reported that the group taking cherry extract also experienced much lower levels of pain right after the race. Therefore, your favorite cherries can be an excellent partner in your recovery.
And now for the sweet stuff - the nutritional values!
100 grams of cherries contain:
- Calories: 63
- Fat: 0.2 g.
- Cholesterol: 0 mg.
- Sodium: 0 mg.
- Total carbohydrates: 16.01 g.
- Fiber: 2.1 g.
- Protein: 1.06 g.
- Calcium: 13 mg.
- Iron: 0.36 mg.
- Potassium: 222 mg.
- Vitamin A: 3 mcg.
- Vitamin C: 7 mg.
Of course, there are also a few cons associated with cherry consumption:
To begin with, the beneficial properties of cherries can only be reaped by eating unprocessed, raw cherries, taken directly from nature. Cherry syrups, jams and pastries contain heaps of added sugar that can affect your health negatively. So, only eat cherries when they are fresh and well washed!
The second con is that if you are not used to regular consumption of fruits and vegetables, or other foods that are rich in fiber and fructose, excessive consumption can lead to stomach upset. Specifically - they can cause an acute laxative reaction. Eat responsibly and don't overdo it - no matter how delicious cherries are!
Have a cherry summer!
We could talk about cherries at length, but there's no need. We all love them! So hurry up and include them in your healthy diet - you'll thank us later!