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To “put the cherry on top” of something means to make a good thing even better.
Or, surely you’ve heard the phrase, “life is just a bowl of cherries,” meaning that life is sweet and pleasant.
It’s no accident that the small, sweet cherry has found its way into idioms that express how good life is.
That’s because there are few downsides to eating cherries, and a lot of benefits to be had.
Not only are they sweet, but they’re also rich in natural compounds that can improve your health in a variety of ways. All that said, there is one kind you should definitely avoid…
Cherries are packed with nutrition
Believe it or not, there are more than 1,000 varieties of cherries grown around the world. Some are sweet and some are tart. It’s the sweet cherries that we like to pop into our mouths when they’re in season during the summer.
Both sweet and sour cherries are incredibly nutritious for their size.
One cup of raw, pitted sweet red cherries has only 97 calories, but packs a wallop in terms of nutrition:
- Protein: 1.6 gr
- Fiber: 3.2 gr
- Sugar: 19.7 gr (we’ll talk about this in a minute)
- Vitamin A: 2% of the recommended Daily Value (DV)
- Vitamin C: 18% DV
- Vitamin K: 4% DV
- Vitamin B6: 4% DV
- Potassium: 10% DV (almost as much as a banana, which has 12% DV)
- Copper: 5% DV
- Manganese: 5% DV
- Magnesium: 4% DV
4 benefits of eating cherries
1. Cherries may help treat inflammatory arthritis gout. Like many other foods, cherries may reduce inflammatory markers if eaten regularly.
The research at Oregon Health & Science University presented at an American College of Sports Medicine Conference (ACSM) in San Francisco suggested that tart cherries have the “highest anti-inflammatory content of any food” and can help people with osteoarthritis manage their disease.
When a similar intervention was tried with adults with gout, eating around 16 cherries a day resulted in lower uric acid levels and a 35 percent lower risk of gout attacks.
2. Cherries support heart health. Cherries are especially high in flavonoids. Flavonoids reduce endothelial inflammation (inflammation in the lining of the arteries). Thus, they protect against high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease.
3. Cherries may improve your sleep. Both sweet and tart cherries have a significant amount of melatonin, the “sleep hormone.”
Not only does melatonin promote longer and deeper sleep. Research has found that it also protects brain cells from amyloid beta and tau proteins that play a key role in the brain destruction of Alzheimer’s disease.
4. Cherries help regulate blood sugar. You may think that a sweet fruit like cherries can only harm your blood sugar. But in fact, cherries have among the lowest glycemic index and glycemic load values of all fruit. The glycemic index for cherries is 22, and the glycemic load is three.
Their low glycemic load means that a small portion of cherries (about 14) will not drastically raise a person’s blood sugar.
And on top of that, the antioxidant compounds found in cherries, including chlorogenic acid, flavanols and anthocyanins (like berries), work to prevent blood sugar spikes. Research has shown that tart Montmorency cherry juice can stop or even reverse many known risk factors for diabetes.
Cherry juice works, too!
Although cherries are not in season right now, cherry juice is just as potent for giving you the health benefits we’ve discussed here.
And don’t be fooled by those bright red Maraschino cherries that come in a jar. They are anything but healthy! They are highly processed and preserved using high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors and preservatives. Stay away from them and stick to the real thing!
If you’re having trouble sleeping, here’s a Sleepy Time Smoothie you can whip up in minutes.
- ½ c. tart cherry juice
- ½ c. coconut milk
- 2 Tbsps. creamy almond butter
- ½ c. ice
Blend until smooth.
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Top health benefits of cherries and how to enjoy them — Food Revolution Network
Gout Treatment with a Cherry on Top — Nutrition Facts.org
A Review of the Health Benefits of Cherries — Nutrients