Cherry pits were found in European caves dating back to the Stone Age and were equally beloved by Roman conquerors, Greek philosophers, and Chinese noblemen alike. Aside from their delicious taste that can be sweet or tart, they are also loaded with nutritional goodies to benefit your health. June is peak cherry season in North America, so you still have a few months to gather cherry recipes and plan how you’ll incorporate this terrific superfood into your diet.
Types of Cherries
Most of the cherries we see come from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, or Michigan. There are two main types of cherries: sweet and sour. Sour cherries (like the Montmorency cherry) are lower in calories and higher in Vitamin C and Beta-Carotene than sweet, but are mostly used in pie-making. Sweet cherries are much more popular, going by names like Lambert, Bing, Royal Ann, or Rainer.
One-third cup of cherries contains:
- 50 calories
- 1 gram of fat
- 12 grams of carbohydrates (4%)
- 2 grams of dietary fiber (8%)
- 10 grams of sugars
- 1 gram of protein
- 4% DV Vitamin A
- 8% DV Vitamin C
- 2% DV Calcium
- 2% DV Iron
Top 5 Health Benefits of Cherries
- Ease arthritis pain: Arthritis pain, swelling, and tenderness is caused by excess uric acid in the blood. A USDA study found that eating 2 cups of Bing cherries per day may reduce uric acid levels by as much as 15 percent. Another study found that runners who consumed 24 ounces of tart cherry juice a day had less muscle pain after a race.
2. Fight cancer: The flavonoids in cherries are not only responsible for the deep red color of cherries, but also its cancer-fighting abilities. Powerful antioxidants like Cyanidin may help the body rid itself of free radicals and prevent cancerous cells from growing out of control. Choose sweet cherries with a purple tone for the most anthocyanins.
- Sleep well: Two tablespoons of tart cherry juice is all it takes to help you sleep better. Studies have shown it is just as effective as a melatonin supplement – which isn’t surprising, considering tart cherries naturally contain melatonin.
- Lower blood pressure: Cherries contain a good amount of potassium which may, in turn, help the body get rid of excess sodium – which, then, may help lower blood pressure. One cup of cherries has the same amount of potassium as a banana.
- Stay trim: A cup of cherries gives you 3 grams of fiber, which helps you feel full longer. B-vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, and B6 help the metabolism convert nutrients into energy. Anthocyanins may prompt the body to burn fat as fuel.
Tips for Buying, Storing & Eating Cherries
- Buying Cherries: Choose large cherries (one inch or more in diameter) that are glossy, plump, and hard. Cherries vary in color, depending on the type (for instance, Rainer cherries have a light pink color), but choose ones that are deep in color for their variety. Choose cherries with fresh, green stems.
- Storing Cherries: Loosely pack unwashed cherries in plastic bags or in a shallow pan covered in plastic wrap and they should be good for up to a week! To freeze, rinse and drain, and place them on a cookie sheet; once frozen, you may transfer them to a heavy plastic bag for up to one year.
- Cooking Cherries: Poaching is a popular method of preparing cherries. Drop two cups of cherries into one cup of water or wine, and simmer for 1-3 minutes.
- Eating Cherries: There are many ways to sneak cherries into your day. Add them to a fruit salad. Top your coconut yogurt or dairy free ice cream with poached cherries. Use them in salsa. Eat cherry preserves on grain free muffins with almond butter. Drink them in a raw foods smoothie or protein shake.
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