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4 Healthy Reasons To Add Cherries To Your Diet

February is Cherry Month! If you suffer from pain from fibromyalgia, arthritis, or can't sleep, reach for the cherries! Here's why.

Believe it or not, National Cherry Month is February! And it’s because it’s the month of Presidents’ Day and Washington’s birthday. Which makes more sense, as cherries aren’t in season in February. They’re officially in season from May to July. They are such a fantastic superfood, you’ll want to enjoy them year-round. And fortunately, thanks to your grocer’s freezer section, you can!

Natural Health Benefits of Cherries

Pick up a bag of frozen cherries when fresh aren’t available.

Cherries are rich in powerful antioxidants, vitamins A, C, and B-6, potassium, magnesium, protein, iron, and calcium. An average serving is 1 cup (138 grams) and contains a mere 87 calories, with 0 grams of fat and 3 grams of dietary fiber. Cherry juice is a little steeper in calories at 140 per 8 oz., and while the juice has no fiber, it contains 350 mg of potassium.

Here are just some of the reasons to add cherries to your diet:

1. They bust pain and inflammation

Cherry juice is favored by many exercise and sports enthusiasts as a pain-relieving natural sports drink. In a study, runners who drank 10.5 ounces of 100% Montmorency cherry juice twice a day for seven days prior to their daily run reported less muscle pain than athletes who drank another fruit beverage. Cherry’s ability to relieve pain is attributed to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Besides easing muscle pain associated with exercise, cherry juice also relieves inflammation and discomfort associated with fibromyalgia and arthritis. Drinking cherry juice is a healthier alternative than taking NSAIDs and other over-the-counter pain medications.

2. They lower risk of heart disease, cancer, and more  

Inflammation isn’t restricted to the joints and muscles. “Chronic inflammation is a whole-body condition that can affect health, especially when it comes to the heart,” says University of Michigan researcher, Mitch Seymour, Ph.D. In one study, overweight adults drank eight ounces of tart cherry juice every day for four consecutive weeks. Risk factors and known markers for inflammation, as well as high triglycerides, were significantly reduced. People who suffer from gout have found that drinking tart or sour cherry juice greatly reduces gout flare-ups and pain. The potassium in cherries helps normalize blood pressure and heart rate. 

Cherry juice is a natural sleep aid.

3. They boost brain health

Antioxidants in cherries also boost brain health and help reduce the progression of dementia. Because cherries enhance brain function and health by reducing inflammation in the body, they’re beneficial to help protect against diseases like Alzheimer’s. 

4. They’re a natural sleep aid

Tart cherry juice contains melatonin, a hormone that assists the body in regulating the sleep-wake cycle. Researchers at Louisiana State University reported that when study participants drank tart cherry juice twice daily for two weeks, their quality of sleep improved. Participants slept an average of 84 minutes longer. This is especially helpful for senior adults with insomnia, as consuming cherry juice is much safer than OTC sleep medications, which can increase the likelihood of falls and subsequent injuries.

Cherry Buying Tips

Cherries should be deep maroon or mahogany red to almost black. The exception is Rainier cherries, which have a golden skin with a blush of red color. The exterior should appear bright, glossy, and plump with stems intact. Don’t purchase cherries that appear to be soft, shriveled, have mold growth, or brown discoloration.

Skip The Maraschino Cherries

No, maraschino cherries don’t count! In the United States, most commercially available maraschino cherries are cured in brine, preserved in a sugar syrup, and dyed a vivid red. They are mostly used as a garnish for cocktails and ice cream sundaes and don’t have the health benefits of fresh, so skip them!

Add Cherries To Your Diet!

To get cherries’ benefits, try these ideas:

  • Drink a small glass of cherry juice or eat a handful of fresh cherries daily.
  • Mix chopped cherries into pancake or muffin batter, crepes, or fruit salad.
  • Fresh or frozen cherries can be tossed into fruit smoothies and sauces, or mix the juice with some limeade for a refreshing drink.

With fresh or frozen cherries on hand, you can make this delicious and easy chunky cherry vanilla ice cream in your blender!

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Deborah Tukua

Deborah Tukua is a natural living, healthy lifestyle writer and author of 7 non-fiction books, including Naturally Sweet Blender Treats. She has been a writer for the Farmers' Almanac since 2004.

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Ellie

How much in ounces should a person drink to get the maximum benefit? I have a tart cherry tree in my back yard and every year I can the stoned cherries for desserts or just the juice. Believe me, they are really sour and require some kind of sweetener. If I make a dessert out of a pint of cherries I generally need a half cup of sugar to make it edible. I can the juice with sugar so it can be mixed into sparkling water or some other drink. I think the prudent use of sugar is appropriate here. Besides my homegrown cherries I usually buy a crate of sweet cherries when they are in season. I pit them and then freeze on a cookie sheet before storing in freezer bags inside of ice cream pails (they used to be 5 quart pails). I do blueberries the same way. Better quality when they are in season. They can be eaten plain or added to yogurt. I use dried cherries in an oatmeal cookie that is almost like an energy bar. It has beneficial spices and healthy nuts along with enough sugar to make them palatable. Nothing wrong with a little sugar as long as you don’t don’t use a lot. If you think you need a lot of sugar, cut down and you will be surprised at how naturally sweet some foods are. We have been conditioned to prefer super sweet things at the risk of becoming addicted to it and losing the natural flavors of foods.

Susan Higgins

Ellie, I think by adding them to the diet the way you are allows you to get the benefits. And there are some new sweeteners out there, like Monkfruit, which is our new favorite! You can read about it here.

Dirk

I love this. But know that cherries suffer from shot hole fungus (Wilsonomyces carpophilus) as a disease and that there is a very good chance that yours – out the shop – may have fungicide on them, be sure to wash them well with soap. Yep they sell organic cherries, but what worries me is who is checking. Wash them anyway.

Deborah Tukua, editor Journey to Natural Living

Beth, dried cherries generally are high in sugar, which would work against the health producing benefits. When fresh cherries aren’t in season, opt for bottled 100% cherry juice with no additives, or tart cherry powder.

Beth

Couldn’t find fresh cherries today, I bought dried cherries are those okay?

Nancy Braatz

Here ya go!

Nancy Pack Braatz

This is it!

Deborah Tukua, editor Journey to Natural Living

Yes Mary, cherry powder can easily be added to smoothies and other blender concoctions. If you enjoy Greek yogurt you can stir a spoon of cherry powder into it and some cocoa powder if you like and enjoy!

Mary

I love cherries! I have some Tart Cherry Powder, would have a suggestion on how to use it?

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