There is a summertime fruit that is both abundant and has real health benefits. That fruit is cherries. Especially Bing cherries from Michigan.
I’ve always enjoyed the taste of cherries. And when my daughter brought some home from the grocery store, I was reminded on how much I enjoy their taste.
So much that I’m now making them a daily part of my diet.
Because of this I decided to do some research on the health benefits of cherries. And while I wasn’t surprised, I was definitely pleased at how nutritious this fruit is.
I’ve been eating cherries each day as an afternoon snack.
Instead of reaching for a bag of potato chips I’m filling a cup with Bing cherries. Here is the overall nutritional value for one cup:
2 grams of Protein
25 grams of Carbohydrates
3 grams of Fiber
18% of my daily need for Vitamin C
10% of my daily need for Potassium
5% of my daily need for Copper
5% of my daily need for Manganese
And while this nutritional profile is good, what’s even better are the polyphenols and antioxidants that make the health benefits of cherries real.
Health Benefit 1 – Rich in Anti-Inflammatory Compounds
I’ve written multiple articles on inflammation and how it’s the cause of most chronic diseases. Anything you can do to reduce chronic inflammation reduces your risk for chronic disease.
Cherries are rich in anti-inflammatory compounds like polyphenols, vitamin C, and beta-carotene. In a review of the scientific literature there were 11 out of 16 studies that showed how eating cherries effectively reduced inflammation.
In 8 out of 10 studies, cherries were shown to reduce the markers of oxidative stress that lead to inflammation. Which brings us to the next health benefits of cherries.
Health Benefit 2 – Rich in Antioxidants
Cherries are packed full of antioxidants. Antioxidants protect us from free radical damage. Free radicals are unstable molecules that steel electrons to stabilize themselves. This ends up causing cellular damage or inflammation.
Antioxidants give up their electrons to stabilize free radicals. This prevents cellular damage since antioxidants remain stable even after they give up their electrons.
In a clinical study at the University of Michigan, they had their participants eat one-and-a-half servings of tart cherries. They then analyzed the blood and urine of these participants. What they found was increased antioxidant activity for up to 12 hours after eating the cherries.
Health Benefit 3 – Improve Insulin Production
Cherries are a good source of fiber, which usually aids in blood sugar control. Cherries also contain the antioxidant anthocyanin. In lab studies using animal pancreatic cells, anthocyanins increased insulin production by 50%.
Your body uses insulin to get blood glucose out of the blood stream into the cell where it can be properly metabolized for energy production.
Health Benefit 4 – Improves Exercise Recovery
This combination of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds found in cherries also helps to relieve exercise-induced muscle pain and inflammation.
For example a study of 27 endurance runners showed how the health benefits of cherries improved both athletic performance and decreased muscle soreness.
One group was given 480 mg of powdered tart cherries daily for 10 days. The other group was given a placebo. Both groups competed in a half-marathon. The group that consumed the tart cherries averaged 13% faster race times. Plus they experienced less muscle soreness.
Health Beneift 5 – Improves Sleep
Most people would never consider this as a health benefit of cherries but cherries contain melatonin. Melatonin helps to regulate your sleep cycle.
In a small study of 20 people, those who drank tart cherry juice concentrate had a significant increase in melatonin levels, sleep duration, and sleep quality when compared to the placebo group.
In a 2-week study of older adults who experienced insomnia, researchers found that drinking 1 cup of tart cherry juice before bedtime increased sleep time by 84 minutes. That’s almost 1 and a half hours.
Additional Health Benefits of Cherries
In multiple animal studies done to evaluate the health benefits of cherries the following were noted:
Helps to lower the risk of heart disease
Helps to lower the risk for colon cancer
Helps improve memory
Helps to lower the risk for gout
These are potential real health benefits that go beyond the 5 that I focused on in this article.
One final note on cherries. They are a great source of potassium. Potassium is needed for proper muscle relaxation. It is most likely one of the contributing factors in improved muscle recovery for athletes.
But with modern day diets high in sodium intake, potassium helps to offset this in a positive way. Making cherries a part of your diet is a smart way to improve your overall health and wellness.