It’s hard to think of a summertime snack more perfect than cherries. Aside from being delicious, visually pleasing, and fun to eat, they have a wide range of health benefits.
The popular idiom “life is a bowl of cherries,” which comes from a popular 1930’s song by Lew Brown and Ray Henderson, is apt. Eating a bowl of cherries on a regular basis can certainly boost your quality of life.
Both tart and sweet cherries boast powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, thanks to phenolics. Phenolics are naturally-occurring plant compounds which cherries have in high concentration. A type of phenolics, anthocyanins, have received a great deal of attention lately due to their amazing health benefits.
Anthocyanins have been shown to reduce inflammation and inflammation-related pain in a similar way to aspirin and other NSAID drugs, but naturally and without the chemical processing.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins discovered that anthocyanins from tart cherries reduced pain caused by inflammation in rats. Anthocyanins also have been found to shield neurons from oxidative stress damage in test tube studies.
As a general rule, the darker the cherry color, the higher the cherry’s anthocyanin content will be. Tart cherries usually contain higher concentrations than sweet cherries, but this is not always the case.
Cherries have a high concentration of potassium; one cup of cherries has about as much potassium as a small banana. One of the functions of potassium is naturally lowering blood pressure. Cherries can also help people afflicted with gout; they naturally lower uric acid levels, which are too highly concentrated in gout sufferers.
Furthermore, cherries can help you get a good night’s sleep. There are several studies that shows that cherry juice, especially the juice of tart cherries, naturally boosts the body’s melatonin levels.
Melatonin is the hormone that regulates your sleep/wake cycle, and is naturally released by the brain’s pineal gland when it is dark, signalling your body that it is time to sleep.
According to Dr. Russell J. Reiter of the University of Texas Health Science Center, “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… and, because cherries are so rich in other antioxidants, such as anthocyanins, you get other important health benefits.”
The combination of anthocyanins, beta carotene, vitamin C and quercetin in cherries can be a potent combination to fight multiple types of disease, including some cancers, as some studies suggest. All in all, these sweet and sour treats are chock full of goodness, so keep a bowl on your dining room table, and enjoy throughout the day.
-The Alternative Daily