Cherries – A Super Food!

I love my summer treat of fresh cherries with their many health benefits.  The season is usually May through July with a high susceptibility to pest and they do have a short shelf life with the season for them being so short.

Acerola cherries have some of the highest sources of vitamin C and provide about 80 mg of natural vitamin C along with micronutrients.  About 100 cherries will yield about 10 grams of vitamin C.  Deterioration can begin within 4 hours of harvesting and then ferment quickly.

There are both tart and sweet cherries.  Bing cherries are typically eaten fresh and Montmorency (tart) cherries are sold dried, frozen or as juice.  Tart cherries develop a fuller flavor when used in cooking.  Montmorency tart cherries have an anti-inflammatory quality and gives benefits of muscle recovery and pain relief from conditions such as arthritis.  These cherries also contain melatonin, which is a naturally occurring substance that helps regular sleep patterns.

Sweet cherries contain a lot of potassium, which is important for maintaining normal blood pressure and is an important role in fluid balance.  They also help to offset the hypertensive effects of sodium.  Potent anticancer agents are found in sweet cherries such as beta carotene, vitamin C, anthocyanins, including quercetin, cyanidin and ellagic acid.

It is important to remember that both tart and sweet cherries are relatively high in fructose.  About 10 pieces of cherries contain about 4 grams of fructose, so keep the level below 25 grams if you are tracking your consumption.  If you struggle with health issues associated with insulin resistance, keep it as low as 15 grams.

Tart cherries are a natural endurance boosting super food, according to one recent study.  Athletes consuming tart cherry juice prior to long-distance running experienced less pain than those who did not.  Research has confirmed that tart cherry juice is a valuable endurance sports drink as reported by Running Competitor.

Cherries may also stave off exercise-induced asthma including cough, wheezing and shortness of breath when exercising because of their high vitamin C content.  An analysis from Finland found that vitamin C might reduce bronchoconstriction caused by exercise by nearly 50%.

Cherries are also a potent anti-inflammatory.  Anthocyanins and bioflavonoids are powerful compounds contained in tart cherries.  They slow down the enzymes cyclo-oxyygenase-1 and 2 that helps to relieve and prevent arthritis and gout.  Stiffness and swelling are a result of excess uric acid-forming crystals in the joints, and the pain associated with this condition is caused by your body’s inflammatory response to the crystals.  In a study of people with gout, those eating ½ cup of cherries per day for two days had a 35% lower risk of a subsequent gout attack.  Those eating up to 3 servings in two days halved their risk.  By reducing inflammation cherries may also reduce migraine headaches and pain from inflammatory osteoarthritis.

Cherries can support health sleep from the melatonin they contain that helps to cool down excess inflammation and associated oxidative stress.  It provides a vital role in sleep, cancer prevention and general regeneration.

Cherries have other benefits as improving risk factors associated with diabetes and heart disease, reducing your risk of stroke, lowering the risk of dementia and lowering the risk of colon cancer.

Consume fresh cherries within two days if kept at room temperature or they can be kept a little longer if stored in the refrigerator.  Wash them immediately before eating and avoid washing before storing as it accelerates the deterioration.

Dr Fredda Branyon.