February is National Cherry Month! I can’t think of a better way to celebrate this amazing fruit. Cherries may be small in size, but they pack a big nutritional profile. They are often called a “super-fruit” for good reason: 1 cup of raw cherries contains 87 calories, 3 grams of fiber, and bursting with beneficial vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Cherries are good sources of vitamins C, E, and B (including vitamin B6, riboflavin and thiamin). Additionally, cherries are rich in potassium, which helps to regulate blood pressure.
Here are more reasons to eat cherries:
- Cancer Protection: Cherries contain the antioxidant, anthocyanin, a flavonoid responsible for their bright red color. Anthocyanin helps protect against cancer by inhibiting growth of cancer cells and stimulating their self-destruction. Sweet cherries contain up to 3 times as much anthocyanin than tart cherries.
- Reduction in Gout: Excess uric acid buildup in the blood results in the pain, stiffness and inflammation associated with gout. Cherries have been shown to reduce the levels of uric acid. It was found in one study that consumption of up to 3 servings of ½ cup of cherries in just a 2-day period was associated with a 35% lower risk of gout attacks. Tart cherries are the most potent inflammation fighters.
- Better Sleep: Abundant in melatonin, which is the natural hormone in the sleep-wake cycle that causes drowsiness. One study found that consumption of tart cherry juice concentrate for 7 days increased exogenous melatonin and participants reported improved sleep quality and duration.
When purchasing fresh cherries, be sure to look for those that are firm, glossy, and plump in appearance with their stems attached. The darker the color, the riper they are, and the more antioxidants they contain. Unwashed cherries can be stored in a plastic bag for up to 10 days in the refrigerator.
Cherries are in season briefly starting in June, but that doesn’t mean they cannot be enjoyed year round. They can be eaten fresh, frozen, freeze-dried or in juice form. All of which provide you with nourishing benefits. One of my favorite ways to enjoy cherries during the winter months is in a smoothie. Try it yourself and toast to the all the protective benefits of this super-fruit!
Cherry Almond Smoothie (Serves 4)
- 2 cups unsweetened almond milk
- 1 (10-ounce) package frozen cherries
- 1/4 cup creamy raw almond butter
- Put all ingredients into a blender and purée until smooth. Pour into glasses and serve.
Foods That Fight Cancer: Cherries. American Institute for Cancer Research.
http://www.aicr.org/foods-that-fight-cancer/cherries.html#intro. Assessed on February 5, 2014.
Cherries a superfood? Research confirms this well-known fruit tackles cancer, insomnia, high-blood pressure, and gout. Natural News. http://www.naturalnews.com/041145_cherries_tart_cherry_juice_inflammation.html. Assessed on February 5, 2014.
Zhang Y, Neogi T, Chen C, Chaisson C, Hunter DJ, Choi HK. Cherry consumption and decreased risk of recurrent gout attacks. Arthritis Rheum. 2012; 64(12):4004-11.
Howatson G, Bell PG, Tallent J, Middleton B, McHugh MP, Ellis J. Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality. Eur J Nutr. 2012; 51(8):909-916.