Moment for Health: Health is a Bowl of Cherries

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It’s unexplainable how cherries, sweet or tart, are uncontrollably delicious.

Be it a Bing, Lambert or a Rainer, they rival the heavenly potato chip. Not by equals in taste, but by the sheer compulsion to eat them. You can’t have just one. Maybe that is why 370 million pounds are grown each year. Unfortunately the season comes and goes much too quickly. By the time summer is over, fresh cherries will be nothing more than scattered pits in an empty bowl.

Since fresh cherries have a short run, it’s important to crunch the pretty red fruit right now. Snack on cherries and get some good antioxidants trolling through the body. Cherries contain anthocyanins, free radical scavengers that help prevent cell damage and possibly cancer.

Sweet cherries also have the benefit of carrying a small amount of quercetin, a flavonoid found in the pigment of fruits and vegetables, which also contain many antioxidants. Even more exciting, cherries contain perillyl alcohol that seems to flush cancer-causing substances out of the body and shut down cancer cells.

The deep ruby flesh of this wondrous fruit, whose tiny shape resembles a tiny heart, has incredible cardiovascular benefits. The anthocyanins protect artery walls from damage that could lead to plaque buildup and heart disease. Eat around 20 cherries and receive 524 milligrams of potassium, a mineral that helps control high blood pressure. Those same 20 cherries also include 6 grams of fiber, the kind that keeps cholesterol at bay.

Give gout an out by eating cherries or drinking their juice. The anti-inflammatory properties reduce uric acid forming crystals as well as inflammation. Enzymes that cause tissue inflammation are shut-down by the anthocyanins. Headache and arthritis sufferers can also receive relief from the anti-inflammatory effects that have been shown to be 10 times stronger than aspirin or ibuprofen. And since cherries contain melatonin, the hormone that helps with sleep cycles, eating the red fruit can increase the levels in the blood to improve sleep.

Tart cherries can help in the reduction of belly fat and post-exercise muscle pain due to anti-inflammatory properties. There is also a lowered risk of strokes by consuming tart cherries that seems to activate PPAR (peroxisome proliferator activating receptors) in the body’s tissue that regulates genes involved in fat and glucose metabolism. This might provide similar heart benefits compared to prescription drugs called PPAR agonists.

Bring cherries to the culinary palate this summer. Select cherries that are firm, plump and shiny with green stems. It usually goes that the darker the coloring the sweeter the cherry but can vary between varieties. Rainer cherries, the reddish-yellow kind, are sweet when they have a red or pink blush, and even sweeter if they have brown flecks covered on them.

It’s best to keep cherries refrigerated immediately in a container after purchase (if there are any left from the drive home). Storing them in containers is best since plastic bags can reduce their shelf life. Wash them with cold water just before eating to avoid moisture settling where the stem meets the fruit (which could lead to splits and spoilage).

Cherries can be frozen for up to a year, and might be a good way to keep the nutritional beauties handy year-round or for a cool relief on a hot summer day.

Wash cherries and lay out to dry. When thoroughly dry, spread them on a baking sheet, pitted or whole with stems intact, in a single layer and freeze them until firm. Then store in a zip-lock bag to keep cherries from sticking to each other.

Brought to North America in the 1600s by French colonists, cherries have been blossoming in the U.S. ever since, if simply just to satisfy a gnawing sweet tooth. Don’t let this summer pass by without eating the little red fruit that works big to keep the body healthy and happy.


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