Nothing says summer like enjoying a handful of fresh cherries. The unique combination of sweet and tart is what gives this ruby red fruit the taste of no other.
Did you know there are over 1,000 different types of cherries out there? However, with all of the varieties available only about 10 types are commercially grown and available for purchase in the produce section of your local grocery store.
Cherries are part of the Prunus family. Other members of the family include peaches, apricots, nectarines and plums. Members of this special club are referred to as “stone fruits”. The reason is the seed of all of these fruits is very large and hard.
Cherries are divided into two different categories including sweet and tart. Due to the higher natural sugar content of the sweet cherries are enjoyed eating raw without cooking, while the tarts (sour cherries) are mainly used in recipes and cooking into muffins, pies and cookies.
The sweet varieties of cherries include the sweet dark, Rainer, Bing and sweetheart cherries. The sweet dark or black cherries and the Rainer cherries are among the most popular for snack and these varieties are usually found in your local grocery during the summer cherry harvest.
The tart or sour cherries include the Balaton and Montmorency. The sour cherries are best used for cooking and used in recipes. The reason is they are lower in sugar content and deliver a concentrated tart cherry taste which is great for any recipe that includes the cherry as an ingredient. Since these cherries aren’t eaten fresh, you won’t find them in your local grocery store, however, you will be able to purchase direct from the cherry farmer or a food service distributor.
So let’s take a closer look at the health benefits of cherries.
Get a Better Night’s Sleep
Cherries are one of nature’s top sources of naturally occurring melatonin. Melatonin helps to regulate the body’s rhythmic clock and wake-sleep cycle. According to research published in the European Journal of Nutrition participants in the study who drank two glasses of Montmorency tart cherry juice enjoyed about 40 minutes of more sleep per night than the non-cherry juice drinkers in the study.
Soothe Sore Muscles
Professional athletes, weekend warriors and everyday folks are enjoying relief due to the cherries ability to soothe sore muscles after physical exercise. Participants in a relay race where divided into two groups. The first group was asked to drink a placebo, while the second group drank Montmorency cherry juice. The individual who drank the tart cherry juice reported reduced muscle pain when compared to those drinking a placebo.
Improve Your Heart Health and Cardiovascular System
Researchers give cherries high marks for their ability to improve heart health due to the presence of powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins. According to research, individuals who eat plentiful amounts of dark red fruits and vegetables enjoy healthy cardiovascular systems. These dark red fruits and vegetables contain high amounts of anthocyanins. One study showed how high anthocyanin intake was connected with a lower risk of myocardial infarction in young women. The study was conducted by the Departments of Nutrition and Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. The researchers concluded that high intake of anthocyanins may reduce myocardial infarction in young females.
Ease Joint Pain due to Osteoarthritis
Cherries have been long associated with containing anti-inflammatory benefits. Researchers believe it is due to the synergistic makeup of all of the compounds in the tart cherry. One compound, anthocyanins, has caught the attention of the both researchers and joint pain sufferers. The presence of this powerful anti-inflammatory fighter may be the secret behind the cherries amazing ability to ease joint pain. The results of a study conducted by the Oregon Health and Science University found that individuals who drank two servings of cherry juice per day over a 21-day period enjoyed lower inflammation biomarkers. This means tart cherry juice may help reduce pain due to osteoarthritis.
Great for Diabetics: Take Control of Your Blood Sugar
Finally, the tart cherry ranks low on the glycemic index. This tiny red fruit ranks at 22. This is excellent news for diabetics. Low glycemic index foods don’t spike blood sugar levels when consumed, thus cherries are an excellent choice for those managing their sugar intake daily.
So the next time you’re looking for a delicious and naturally healthy food, grab some cherries or enjoy a glass of cherry juice.