Cherries – those red, scrumptious, sweet or sour summer berries – deserve a place on your plate for a wide variety of reasons. Not only are they tasty, they also offer many health benefits that would be a shame to miss out on.
In the US, cherry season spans from the end of May until August. While they are still fresh and available at your local farmer’s market, here are our top 8 reasons to pick up some organic red cherries as soon as possible.
The crimson color of tart cherries (which include Montmorency and Balaton cherries) comes from antioxidants known as anthocyanins, which have been linked to a wide array of benefits, including anti-inflammatory properties. Some research has even found that these compounds can provide more pain relief than NSAID medications including ibuprofen and naproxen.
Tart cherries may help to relieve a variety of types of inflammatory pain, including osteoarthritis pain, muscle pain and headaches (including migraines). Additionally, they have been specifically found to have therapeutic value for those suffering from gout, which is characterised by joint pain stemming from uric acid buildup in the blood.
The anthocyanins found in red cherries are linked to lowering blood pressure, which helps reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke. Cherries are also high in potassium, an important mineral for keeping blood pressure levels stable.
These berries are rich in flavonoid antioxidants, which have been found to help keep platelets from clumping together. Flavonoid antioxidants also aid in protecting the blood vessels from breaking or leaking, and additionally work to reduce system-wide inflammation which may raise your risk of heart disease.
Immune system boost
Cherries are rich in vitamin C, which is a crucial vitamin for immune system health. A diet rich in vitamin C can keep your immune system functioning in tip-top shape, helping to prevent seasonal illnesses and other types of infections, as well as battling existing pathogens should they invade.
The flavonoid antioxidant content of cherries works synergistically with vitamin C in the body; they each help to augment the potency of the other.
Another function of the vitamin C content found in cherries is to support optimal skin health, and to help prevent the wear and tear that free radicals have on our skin as we age. Two of the flavonoids found in cherries, queritrin and isoqueritrin, are also known to protect the body from oxidative stress, thus helping to mitigate the aging process.
Furthermore, the anthocyanins in red cherries have been linked to protecting neurons from oxidative stress damage, potentially preserving brain health and cognitive function as we age.
According to alternative health expert, Dr. Joseph Mercola, “queritrin – a flavonoid – is rich in cherries, and has been found by researchers to be one of the most potent anticancer agents. When eating cherries, the queritrin is set free to fight off all the body’s cancerous cells.”
Anthocyanins have also been linked to anticarcinogenic properties, and ellagic acid, a phenolic compound found in cherries, has been associated by some research to significant potential in cancer prevention.
One rather unexpected benefit of cherries, especially tart cherries, is their ability to enhance the body’s levels of melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that regulates your sleep/wake cycle. Its release is triggered by darkness, at which time it signals to your body that it is time for sleep.
Dr. Russell J. Reiter of the University of Texas Health Science Center states, “when consumed regularly, tart cherries may help regulate the body’s natural sleep cycle and increase sleep efficiency, including decreasing the time it takes to fall asleep.”
Enhanced cognitive function
The various antioxidants found in cherries, including their high vitamin A and flavonoid content, have been linked by research to improved cognitive function, including a boost in memory. As anthocyanins can help to protect neurons from damage, they may help to prevent the onset of age-related neurological disorders, including dementia.
The fiber content of cherries is crucial for a smoothly-running digestive system, and can help ease constipation and other digestive disturbances. The vitamin content of these summer berries helps the digestive system optimally absorb nutrients from the food you eat, and the flavonoid antioxidants that they contain aid in the stimulation of digestive fluids.
With all of the remarkable benefits that they boast, do not be caught without cherries in your kitchen this summer! To avoid exposure to pesticides and other chemicals, always choose organic. When you have the option, locally grown is always best, as long as your local farmer follows organic practices.
-The Alternative Daily