By: Nutrition expert- Vidula Kozarekar, Mumbai.
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The cherry fruit is a nutrient dense food with relatively low caloric content and significant amounts of important nutrients and bioactive food components including fiber, polyphenols, carotenoids, vitamin C, and potassium (1). In addition, cherries are also good source of tryptophan, serotonin, and melatonin (2), (3).
While there are more than a hundred cultivars of cherries, they are grouped into two major types, the sweet (Prunus avium L.) and tart (Prunus cerasus L.) cherries (4). The most commonly grown cultivar of sweet cherries in the USA is Bing and for the tart is Montmorency. The majority of sweet cherries are consumed fresh with the remaining 20–25% processed as brined, canned, frozen, dried, or juiced. In contrast, 97% of tart cherries are processed primarily for cooking and baking (1).
Health benefits of Cherries:
- Decrease risk of Metabolic syndrome
Both sweet and tart cherries are rich in polyphenols. Many factors including the cultivar, stage of ripening, portion of fruit, storage, and others contribute to the polyphenolic concentration and composition of cherries (5). Polyphenols are believed to decrease risk for metabolic syndrome, diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and CVD (6).
- Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects
Various published human studies have shown effects of both sweet and tart cherries and cherry products on markers of oxidative stress. They have found to reduce muscle damage caused by intensive strength exercise, improve Sleep, increase anti-oxidant status, help in recovering post marathon running, and help reduce plasma urate in healthy woman and lower uric acid levels and inflammation (7), (8), (9), (10), (11), (12).
- Cherry intake and Heart health
Regular tart cherry juice consumption helps to reduce CVD risk factors in older adults by reducing systolic BP and LDL cholesterol. The BP- and LDL-lowering effect of tart cherry juice may be through its anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties (13).
- Cherry intake and Diabetes
A study has found that the concentrated sour cherry juice (CSCJ), as an anthocyanin-rich food, produces significant improvements in weight, glycaemia and blood pressure in diabetic type 2 patients. It also improves blood lipids in diabetic patients with hyperlipidemia. So, this juice or the fruit could be suitable in diabetic diet (14).
- Effects of Consuming Cherries on Arthritis and Associated Risk Factors
Researchers have tested different amounts of several varieties of cherries in almost every form, from juice to pills. Various studies have reported that cherries help keep painful osteoarthritis (OA) and gout flares in check. Scientists attribute the positive effects to anthocyanins – plant pigments that have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Anthocyanins are found in red and purple fruits, including raspberries and blueberries, but cherries, especially tart cherries, contain higher levels (15).
- Effects of Consuming Cherries on Sleep, Mood, and Cognitive Functions
Both quality and quantity of sleep were improved by the consumption of sweet (16) as well as tart cherries (17), (18). The studies using sweet cherries also reported a decrease in urinary cortisol and anxiety, and improved mood (8).
Easy to add to your diet:
Both sweet and tart varieties pair well with many foods. Plus, related products, such as dried cherries, cherry powder, and cherry juice, make interesting additions to many recipes.
Following are certain ways to incorporate cherries in your diet-
- Enjoy them fresh as a sweet snack.
- Combine dried cherries with dark chocolate, unsweetened coconut flakes, and roasted almonds for a homemade trail mix snack.
- Mix tart or sweet cherries and spoon of yogurt, oatmeal and chia seeds for healthy breakfast option.
- Add it to salad for that sweet and tangy taste.
- Add a bit of tart cherry juice to lemon water to enhance taste.
- Add fresh cherries to your favorite smoothie.