Cherries have been a favourite for centuries, dating back to ancient Rome, Greece, & China. The first cherry trees were thought to have come from Asia, before crossing into Europe & eventually North America. It’s season is short & among the first of the summer harvests we get to enjoy. It’s small & bite sized; compact & incredibly juicy. They grow on big, bushy trees & love the sun. A single tree can produce up to 100 pounds of fruit in a season. For many, myself included, cherries mark the true beginning of summer. Berries, an earlier harvest are how you know it’s warmed & summer is coming; cherries though, cherries are how you know it’s here. Usually a deep, romantic red, they come in several varieties, each as wonderful as the next. The two main being sweet & tart.
Health benefits vary slightly between sweet & tart cherries but only mildly. The general theme in both is similar.
Cherries have excellent antioxidant properties containing anthocyanin & cyanidin. The antioxidant properties of tart cherries is believed to be better than that of Vitamin E (Mercola). Sweet cherries possess quercetin which is also considered among the strongest of the antioxidants & also possesses other beneficial properties. These same free-radical fighting antioxidants slow the signs of aging skin.
The Alzheimer’s Association “includes cherries as one of the memory boosting foods because they are rich in antioxidants.” (Care2) Being high in potassium, cherries help regulate heart & blood pressure reducing risk of hypertension & the phytosterols help reduce cholesterol levels.
Since cherries are also high in fiber, vitamin C, Carotenoids, & anthocyanin they possess cancer prevention properties. The National Cherry Growers & Industries Foundation:
“The potential role of sweet cherries in cancer prevention lies mostly in the anthocyanin content, especially in cyanidin. Sweet cherries are a good source of cyanidins, which appear to act as an antioxidant & in this role may reduce cancer risk…
A study…using human cancer cell lines demonstrated cell cycle arrest & apoptosis of mutated cells exposed to cherry anthocyanin…
Further research suggests that the growth arrest characteristics of cyanidin are likely, at least in part, to be a result of significant inhibitory effects of these cherry components on epidermal growth factor receptors…
Finally, there is compelling evidence from basic science that cyanidin may also promote cellular differentiation & thus reduce the risk for healthy cells to transform to cancer.”
Cherries reduce inflammation & risk of gout. They also contain a natural melatonin that supports sleep & bodily regeneration. It also fights free radicals & helps the ‘cooling down’ process by reducing inflammation. These same anti-inflammatory properties reduce pain, including that from arthritis & exercise, by 20 percent. Research has noted that tart cherries have the “highest anti-inflammatory content of any food.”
Finally, cherries are said to lower our risk of stroke due to it’s activation of PPAR (peroxisome proliferator activating receptors) which “help regulate genes involved in fat & glucose metabolism.” (Dr. Mercola)
Why are these important?
Anthocyanin is one of the most prominent of the flavanoids & has "been used historically to treat conditions as diverse as hypertension, pyrexia, liver disorders, dysentery and diarrhoea, urinary problems including kidney stones and urinary tract infections, and the common cold. They have even been purported to yield improvements to vision and blood circulation."
Carotenoids are responsible for the orange & red hues found in plants. They are free-radical fighting, thus cancer preventing & immune boosting. They convert to Vitamin A thus promoting clear vision & are associated with cardiovascular health.
Cyanidin is a sub-category of the deep blue, purple pigments of anthocyanin. It's primary benefit is as a protector against diabetes but it is also helpful as an anti-inflammatory & anti-oxidant.
Dietary Fibre normalizes bowel movements & helps maintain bowel health. It lowers cholesterol, maintains weight, & aids in glucose regulation.
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal glad that promotes sleep & restfulness. It regulates the circadian rhythms of sleep & wake. It also regulates blood pressure, seasonal reproduction, & acts as an antioxidant.
Potassium can be found in most food, particularly leafy greens. Like magnesium, calcium, & chloride, it's an electrolyte, promoting electrical charges throughout the body, as well as an essential mineral in the maintenance of proper blood levels & the maintenance of healthy heart & nerve function.
Phytosterols "are a group of naturally occurring compounds found in plant cell membranes. Because phytosterols are structurally similar to the body’s cholesterol, when they are consumed they compete with cholesterol for absorption in the digestive system. As a result, cholesterol absorption is blocked, and blood cholesterol levels reduced." Cleveland Clinic
Vitamin C is one of the vitamins humans are not able to produce themselves. They can only get it by consuming it through food or supplements. It's required for the absorption of iron, maintaining immunity, & correcting protein imbalances. It's also an antioxidant in the fight against free-radicals. Honestly thought, its list of uses is a mile long.