4 Surprising Health Benefits of Cherries – This Summer’s Superfruit

Have you ever said no to a cherry? Probably not. This summertime treat is simply delicious. And if you’re looking for another reason to indulge, you’ll be pleased to know that cherries are surprisingly good for you. Recent research indicates that this summer’s superfruit offers a variety of health benefits, including the four outlined below.

Reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes

Heart disease and diabetes threaten the health of millions of Americans every year, and cherries can help. Research from Michigan State University found that 20 cherries provide 25 milligrams of anthocyanins, which reduce inflammation by shutting down the enzymes that cause tissue inflammation. This helps protect the arteries from the damage that leads to heart disease. Further research shows that those same anthocyanins also help lower blood sugar levels in animals, leading scientists to speculate that a similar blood sugar lowering effect could occur in humans.

In addition to being packed with anthocyanins, cherries also have a low glycemic index, making them a good choice for people with diabetes. Foods with a high glycemic index cause blood glucose to soar and then quickly crash. In contrast, foods with a low index, like cherries, release glucose slowly and evenly, helping you maintain a steady blood sugar level — as well as leaving you feeling full longer and potentially helping you maintain a healthy weight.

Combating arthritis and gout

More than 8.3 million Americans suffer from gout, a form of arthritis characterized by severe pain, redness and tenderness in the joints. This condition is commonly associated with elevated levels of uric acid in the blood. A study conducted by researchers at the University of California at Davis found that people who ate sweet cherries showed reduced levels of uric acid. In addition, research from the Boston University School of Medicine showed that people who ate cherries had a 35 to 75 percent lower chance of experiencing a gout attack.

Sleep support via melatonin

Everyone understands the value of a good night’s sleep, but sometimes your body simply doesn’t want to cooperate. When you find yourself wide awake and restless, your melatonin levels might be low. Melatonin is the chemical that controls your body’s internal clock to regulate sleep and promote overall healthy sleep patterns. Studies show that cherries are a natural source of melatonin, and researchers who have studied the melatonin content of cherries recommend eating them an hour before bedtime to help stabilize your sleep cycle.

Fiber for weight loss

Many Americans struggle with weight issues, and poor diet is often identified as a major culprit. But although there is a great deal of discussion about what people shouldn’t be eating, there isn’t as much talk about what people should be eating, like fiber. Most Americans’ diets are fiber-deficient, falling short of the 25-35 grams per day recommended by the USDA Dietary Guidelines. These guidelines recommend two cups of fruit daily, and cherries are an easy and delicious way to meet that target.

Enjoy a bowl of superfruit today

In addition to all these health benefits, cherries also possess cancer-fighting properties, according to a study by the USDA’s Western Human Nutrition Research Center. So whether you’re looking to boost your health or you enjoy the taste of this juicy treat — or both — there are plenty of reasons to reach for a bowl of cherries for your next snack or to add them to the menu at your next meal. Whatever your preference, be sure to get them quickly before cherry season is over.

To learn more about the health benefits of cherries, visit NWCherries.com. (BPT)

Pick Your Cherries and Eat Them Too

How to pick the best cherries and make them last longer

Now that sweet cherry season is officially here, these summertime rubies are a must-have for any barbecue or party, whether they’re baked in a pie, crushed into a cocktail or eaten as a fresh out-of-hand snack. But first things first, what should someone look for when searching for the perfect cherry?

The Perfect Cherries

Cherry enthusiasts should keep an eye out for firm, shiny and smooth skins. In general, the darker the cherry, the sweeter, and with most varieties darkness is a sign of ripeness. The stems should be green and flexible. Northwest cherries, in particular, are known for their extraordinarily sweet flavor, due to the area’s excellent growing conditions. There are a wide variety of sweet cherries, ranging up to the extra-sweet, yellow-fleshed Rainier cherries. Though so similar they’re often sold as their collective “dark sweet cherries,” the most common varieties include Bing, Sweetheart, Chelan, Lapins, Tieton and Skeena.

Keeping Your Cherries Fresh

Fresh cherries should be kept in a tightly sealed bag or container and can keep for approximately two weeks in the fridge. While this cherry season will be short, you don’t have to limit these tasty, healthy treats to just the summer. Buying an extra bag (or two, or three) to freeze allows you to have sweet cherries all year long.

To create festive cherry dishes for the summer season, try this Cherry Martini or Cherry Almond Pie and find more recipes and cherry tips at nwcherries.com.

Cherry Martini

Servings: 4

2          cups pitted, halved Northwest fresh sweet cherries, divided

1/4       cup almond liqueur

2          teaspoons sugar

12        lady fingers, split in half lengthwise

4          whole Northwest fresh sweet cherries with stems

1/4       cup whipped lowfat cream cheese, divided

Mix halved cherries, liqueur and sugar; marinate 1 hour or longer.

Arrange lady fingers against sides of 4 martini glasses. Before serving, spoon 1/2 cup cherries over lady fingers and swirl 1 tablespoon cream cheese over cherries in each glass. Garnish with whole cherry and serve.

Substitutions: Orange liqueur may be substituted for almond liqueur. Angel food cake or pound cake, cut into 3-by-1-by-1/2-inch strips, may be substituted for lady fingers. Lightly toast strips, if desired. Sour cream or creme fraiche may be substituted for cream cheese.

Cherry Almond Pie

Servings: 8

1/2       cup sliced almonds, divided

1          pastry (9 inches), for double crust pie

1          egg, beaten

4          cups pitted Northwest fresh sweet cherries

1/3       cup sugar

3          tablespoons cornstarch

1          teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4       teaspoon salt

2          tablespoons red wine

Red Wine Glaze

2          cups powdered sugar

1/3       cup red wine

Heat oven to 375 F.

Finely chop 1/4 cup almonds.

Roll dough into circle approximately 16 inches in diameter and sprinkle chopped almonds over top; roll gently to embed nuts in dough.

Transfer dough to lightly greased baking sheet lined with parchment paper, if desired. Brush with beaten egg.

Mix cherries, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, salt and wine. Spoon cherry mixture onto dough, leaving 4-inch border. Lift edges of dough over fruit, leaving 5-inch circle of cherries showing in center. Fold in edges of pastry to form circle.

Brush pastry with remaining egg mixture; sprinkle with remaining almonds. Bake 30 minutes, or until pastry browns and filling bubbles.

Let stand 15 minutes before cutting. If desired, serve with Red Wine Glaze to drizzle over each serving.

To make Red Wine Glaze, mix together powdered sugar and red wine.