Cherries are full of polyphenols and micronutrients that help your body fight disease. In particular, the anthocyanins and carotenoids that give this stone fruit its deep red hue offer anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and they also help fight obesity and diabetes. Additionally, they contain a high amount of quercetin, the same flavonoid that makes grapes and apples so healthy. This helps fight against oxidative damage.
Several clinical studies have demonstrated cherries’ power to improve heart health via multiple courses of action. For example, they can lower your body’s levels of insulin, blood sugar, and triglycerides, all of which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease. They can also increase your levels of HDL, which is the “good” type of cholesterol.
Studies have also found that drinking cherry juice can lower blood pressure significantly, with those with higher blood pressure levels enjoying the greatest benefits from the drink.
Another way that cherries can help your heart is by increasing the blood’s antioxidant capacity. A high antioxidant defense system not only reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, but it also protects neurons from damage and stimulates your immune system. Other studies have shown that a high intake of anthocyanins like those found in cherries is associated with a lower risk of heart attack in young and middle-aged women.
In addition, cherries have been shown to reduce an inflammatory marker related to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease known as C-reactive protein. A University of California, Davis, study found that people who ate 45 fresh cherries per day over the course of four weeks enjoyed a 24 percent reduction in their C-reactive protein, which lowered their risk of cardiovascular disease.
Perhaps one of the most encouraging studies, however, was one in which mice who were fed a tart cherry powder saw their total cholesterol go down by 26 percent and their risk of early death drop by 65 percent, likely because of the improvements the cherries brought to their cardiovascular health.
The benefits of this delicious fruit don’t end at heart health, however. Some of the other health benefits of cherries include alleviating gout, speeding up your body’s fat burning process, preventing colon cancer, and improving the condition of your skin.
Most of the studies into the health benefits of cherries have used varieties like Montmorency, which boast twice the anthocyanin content of other types. Generally speaking, the darker a cherry’s skin appears, the more anthocyanins you can expect it to have. Nevertheless, varieties like Bing have also been shown to be beneficial.
The big caveat here is that cherries are very likely to contain pesticide residue, with the Environmental Working Group noting that they have an average of five detectable pesticides. Because you consume the skin of cherries where pesticides are sprayed directly, it’s particularly risky. Be sure to get organic cherries if you’re looking to improve your heart health. Freezing can deplete anthocyanin content, but studies have shown that liquid cherry extracts and cherry powder also offer benefits if you can’t obtain fresh cherries.
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