Sweet Northwest cherries are a delicious summer staple, but did you know these little crimson orbs pack a powerful nutritional punch that hits harder than most other fruits? From June through August, over 2,100 cherry growers across the Pacific Northwest will harvest nearly 500 million pounds of sweet cherries, meaning ample opportunities for all of us to take advantage of their amazing health benefits. Sweet, compact, and fun to eat, everyone knows cherries are a fun and easy summertime snack, but their disease-fighting and immune-boosting qualities are often overlooked. Here are seven ways sweet cherries will improve your health this summer.
We know that free radicals in the body can wreak havoc, but did you know that sweet cherries contain free-radical scavengers that may stop cancer cells from receiving the protein they need to multiply? Not only that, but research has shown that several types of cancer are inhibited by the anthocyanins found in sweet cherries. They are even listed by the American Institute for Cancer Research as a food that fights cancer. These same antioxidants help reduce inflammation.
“Sweet cherries reduce inflammation because they’re absolutely loaded with antioxidants,” says nutritionist Keith Ayoob.
When the body cannot rid itself of uric acid, or produces too much, gout is the result. A very painful form of arthritis, this common condition affects over eight million Americans. Sweet Northwest cherries are a powerful prevention tool in the fight against gout due to their anti-inflammatory properties.
“Sweet cherries have been shown to reduce the levels of uric acid in the bloodstream, which can help to reduce the incidence of gout,” said Lisa Richards, nutritionist and creator of The Candida Diet. “One study showed that eating sweet cherries caused a drop in uric acid levels of around 15 percent. That’s a significant drop and could help to prevent attacks of gout. In fact, another study found that gout attacks were reduced by 35 percent in those who consumed half a cup of cherries for two days in a row. Avoiding gout could be as simple as adding sweet cherries to your daily routine. When combined with a healthy diet that includes lots of fruit and vegetables, cherries can significantly reduce the chance of gout attack.”
Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in America with 5.8 million people affected by the condition. As researchers race to find a cure and tools to prevent it, sweet cherries offer us one way to protect our brains against the aggressive memory-stealing disease.
“Sweet cherries boost memory and brain function due to their anthocyanins and flavonoids,” said nutritionist Laura Cason.
The phenols (quercetin, kaempferol, and isorhamnetin) in sweet cherries aid in protecting cells from oxidative stress and have been shown to have anti-neurodegenerative abilities.
Sweet cherries are packed with antioxidants that protect the body from a variety of conditions. The naturally occurring phenols in sweet cherries provide cells with protection from oxidative stress. Hydroxynnamic acids protect neuronal cells from damage, providing vital protection for the brain.
“Sweet, dark red cherries are a great summer fruit packed with many health benefits,” said nutritionist Sharon Holand Gelfand. “Cherries are a nutrient-dense fruit with antioxidants, fiber, polyphenols, vitamin C and potassium.”
We all want to know how we can get better sleep every night, as fewer than half of Americans get the recommended eight hours. It turns out, sweet cherries can help with sleep, too!
“Studies have shown that sweet cherries may improve the quantity and quality of sleep within three days,” said nutritionist Jennifer Glockner, adding that the recommended amount to eat is about 25 cherries or one cup of cherries a day.”
Cherries also contain melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone.
“Many people actually take melatonin supplements to help them fall asleep more easily,” said Nate Masterson, health expert and natural product development director at Maple Holistics. “A glass of cherry juice before you go to sleep can help with insomnia and greatly increase your sleep quality.”
The next time you pull a muscle, you might consider reaching for sweet Northwest cherries instead of a couple of ibuprofen.
“Cherries reduce muscle soreness after exercising,” said nutritionist Allie Gregg. “This is because they are high in anthocyanins which are flavonoids [a type of antioxidant] that help protect your cells from deterioration. They also increase your body’s ability to take in oxygen, which in turn helps with decreasing lactic acid buildup.”
Sweet cherries boast an impressive list of mineral nutrients.
“[When] looking for anti-oxidative nutrients like vitamins C, E, beta-carotene, and colorful plant flavonoid and carotenoid pigments,” said nutritionist Rachel Fine. “Sweet cherries are a perfect example of a deep-colored fruit that provides these anti-inflammatory anti-oxidative benefits.”
Sweet cherries are also high in potassium, according to nutritionist Becky Kerkenbush.
“Potassium can help decrease blood pressure,” she said. “Sweet cherries are also a good source of beta-carotene and Vitamin C, two antioxidants that may boost immunity, protect against infection, and reduce inflammation.”
A big bowl of sweet cherries isn’t just a metaphor for a good time, they can actually help lower your anxiety and increase your mood. “Sweet cherries decrease urinary cortisol [the main hormone associated with stress] and potentially improve anxiety and mood,” said Glockner.
Cherries can also help improve gut health, according to Ayoob. “They have good fiber, making them a ‘pre-biotic’ food and good for helping grow a healthy gut environment,” he said.
They can also help lower cholesterol. “They have a plant sterol—beta-sisterol, that has been linked to lower cholesterol levels,” said Ayoob.
The sweet cherry may be small, but what it lacks in size it makes up for with impressive health benefits. Who knew such a delicious summer treat could be the answer to so many of our most common health concerns?
For more on the benefits of sweet cherries and the people who grow them, visit www.nwcherries.com.