(Natural News) You know how the saying goes: Big things can come in small packages. This is especially the case for an often-overlooked superfood: cherries. Each cherry you pop into your mouth is packed with essential vitamins and nutrients that can provide a multitude of health benefits.
Cherries on top
Cherries come in different varieties, many of which can be found all over the US in local supermarkets or even on cherry trees themselves. Some of the common cherry types you can find include sweet cherries (Prunus avium) and sour cherries (P. cerasus). Regardless of your cherry preferences, eating either of these types can help you enjoy the benefits found below. (Related: Cherries a superfood? Research confirms this well-known fruit tackles cancer, insomnia, high blood pressure and gout.)
Rich in nutrients
Cherries are chock-full of important vitamins, minerals and fiber that all contribute to overall good health. According to data from the US Department of Agriculture, a cup (154 g) of raw pitted sweet cherries provides:
- Calories — 97 kcal
- Protein — 1.63 g
- Fiber — 3.23 g
- Carbohydrates — 24.7 g
- Vitamin C — 18 percent of the daily value (DV)
- Manganese — 5 percent of the DV
- Potassium — 10 percent of the DV
These nutrients provide their own health benefits. Vitamin C, in particular, plays an integral role in maintaining the proper function of the immune system and promotes skin health. The fiber in cherries is great for keeping the digestive system in tip-top shape by providing fuel for the beneficial gut bacteria and promoting bowel regularity. Further, a study published in the journal Advances in Nutrition states that potassium is a needed nutrient for nerve function, blood pressure regulation and muscle contraction.
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Promotes heart health
Eating nutrient-dense foods like cherries is a fantastic (and delicious) way to keep your heart healthy. A study published in the journal Nutrients found that fruits have a protective role against cardiovascular disease. Cherries, in particular, were found to have a beneficial role in improving myocardial infarction, or heart attack.
Rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds
This high concentration of various plant compounds is largely responsible for the health benefits of cherries. The high antioxidant content can help fight off oxidative stress, which is linked to a variety of chronic diseases like cancer. In fact, a review published in Nutrients found that eating cherries not only reduced markers of oxidative stress, but also reduced systemic inflammation.
In addition, cherries are packed with polyphenols, which are plant chemicals that fight cellular damage, reduce inflammation and improve overall health. Research has shown that diets rich in polyphenols can protect you from a wide variety of chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, mental decline and certain cancers.
Boosts exercise recovery
The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds in cherries can also help relieve exercise-induced muscle pain, muscle damage and inflammation. Tart cherries, in particular, were found to be more effective at this function than their sweet counterparts. Tart cherry juice can accelerate muscle recovery and prevent strength loss in elite athletes like cyclists and marathon runners.
Improves arthritis and gout symptoms
The anti-inflammatory properties of cherries are also beneficial for people with arthritis and gout, which is a type of arthritis caused by a buildup of uric acid that leads to extreme swelling and pain in the joints. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that two servings of sweet cherries after an overnight fasting session lowered levels of inflammatory markers and significantly reduced uric acid levels only five hours after consumption.
Improves sleep quality
Cherries contain a substance called melatonin, which helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Having high levels of melatonin in the body can improve overall sleep quality. A study published in the European Journal of Nutrition found that those who drank tart cherry juice concentrate for about seven days experienced significant increases in melatonin levels, sleep quality and sleep duration compared to those who drank a placebo.
Easy to add to your diet
Considering the size and taste of this fruit, cherries are surprisingly easy to integrate into your everyday diet. Not only can you enjoy them as a snack on their own, you can also add them as ingredients in recipes for pies, salads, baked goods and salsa. Also, the abundance of related products like dried cherries, cherry juice and even cherry powder only add to the versatility of this superfood.
With a wide array of health benefits, adding cherries to your diet is a great way to boost your overall health.