It might seem odd that February is National Cherry Month since they are officially in season from May to July. But it’s not about harvesting cherries, it’s about celebrating their delicious flavor and health benefits. Cherries are such a fantastic superfood, you’ll want to enjoy them year-round.
When fresh cherries aren’t in season, visit the frozen food aisle for bags of frozen cherries, or purchase 100% pure, bottled tart or sweet cherry juice and reap the same rewards.
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.
Natural Health Benefits of Cherries
Here are just some of the reasons to add cherries in some form to your daily meal plan:
- Post-exercise muscle pain relief – 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 the run and on the day of the long-distance relay reported less muscle pain than athletes drinking another fruit beverage. The cherry’s ability to relieve pain is attributed to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
- Reduces pain and inflammation – Cherries contain the antioxidant anthocyanin, which is not only what gives cherries its red color, but has anti-inflammatory power. When inflammation is reduced, joint pain and muscle aches diminish. 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.
- Lowers 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,” stated University of Michigan researcher, Mitch Seymour, Ph.D., in a Newsmax health report. In one of their studies, 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 triglycerides, were significantly reduced. Drinking tart cherry juice is reported to lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. 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.
- Boost brain health and combat dementia – 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.
- Natural sleep aid – Tart cherry juice contains melatonin, a hormone which assists the body in regulating the sleep-wake cycle. Researchers at Louisiana State University reported that when participants in their study drank tart cherry juice daily for two weeks, once in the morning and again at night, their quality of sleep improved. Each night study participants drinking cherry juice slept an average of 84 minutes longer than they did when not consuming cherry juice. This is especially helpful for senior adults with insomnia, as consuming cherry juice does not increase the likelihood of falls and subsequent injuries which can occur when taking over-the-counter sleep aid medications.
What to look for when buying fresh cherries
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.
Add cherries to your diet!
Eating cherries and drinking 100% cherry juice is a delicious way to reduce inflammation in your body. 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 try my delicious and easy chunky cherry vanilla ice cream in your blender!