Gorgeous and delicious cherries are at their peak right now. If you’re like me, you can’t resist bringing these ruby beauties home from your local market. Did you know that this favorite summertime treat has multiple health benefits?
Here are just a few of the reasons why you should get them now before cherry season is over:
They’re Nutritional All-Stars: One serving of sweet cherries (5 ounces/ 1 cup or about 21 cherries) provides 90 calories, 3 grams fiber, and is a good source of vitamin C and potassium. They’re also a great source of bioactive compounds known as anthocyanins, which may have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and cardiovascular benefits.
They May Ease Achy Joints: Several studies indicate that cherries may help reduce inflammation and joint pain associated with arthritis and gout. Research published in the Journal of Nutrition found that Bing cherries specifically helped lower participants’ blood uric acid levels, which is linked to gout. Another study found that cherry consumption reduced the incidence of a gout attack by more than 30 percent. And when cherries were combined with traditional gout medication, flare-ups were reduced by 75 percent.
They’re a Natural Sleep Aid: Tart cherry varieties are packed with melatonin, a compound that plays a key role in the body’s natural sleep-wake patterns. Research has found that tart cherry juice can boost melatonin levels and may improve the duration and quality of sleep.
They Possess Anti-Cancer Properties: Cherries are rich in quercetin, a natural flavonoid that is associated with strong antioxidant and health properties. Quercetin helps neutralize potential DNA damage caused by free radicals and may help protect against heart disease and certain cancers, including breast, colon, prostate, and lung. Quercetin also has strong anti-inflammatory and antihistamine effects.
You Can Enjoy Them All Year Long: This is the time of year when I stock up on cherries because the nation’s largest growing region, the Pacific Northwest, is nearing the end of their season. Freeze them and you’ll be able to enjoy cherries throughout the year. Before freezing, wash the cherries, removing stems and other debris. Use a firm straw (or a cherry pitter) and place it at the point where the stem was attached and push it through the cherry to remove the pit. You’ll want to have the pits out for easy use in cooking, baking and smoothies. Place the cherries in a single layer on cookie sheets and freeze for about an hour before transferring to freezer bags for longer term storage. You can also freeze cherries whole with stems for a delicious snack.