May 152012

benefits of cherriesLife is just a bowl of Cherries. Luckily, there are many health benefits of cherries!

One of the sure signs that spring is here is the appearance of nutritious, plump and juicy cherries in the produce aisle. The nutritious cherry is among the first tree fruits to ripen, and has a short season — so get them as soon as you see them to start enjoying their unique flavor and health benefits.

The cherry blossoms themselves are a rite of spring and are a tourist draw in places such as Washington, DC, and Door County, Wisconsin. And let’s not forget the famous, (or infamous), story of George Washington and the cherry tree.

Cherries belong to an esteemed group of super fruits including blueberries, acai, pomegranate, yumberries, cranberries and goji berries — all providing exceptionally high amounts of antioxidants. But those aren’t the only health benefits of these nutrition super stars.

Health Benefits of Cherries

  • Cherries contain high levels of anthocyanins, nutrients known to relieve pain, inflammation and stiffness. Some people swear by the pain relieving effects of drinking tart cherry juice concentrate, using powder, or taking supplements. Whether they’re raw or cooked, cherries contain the same anti-inflammatory substances.
  • Cherries are rich in polynutrients, which give the fruit its rich, reddish-purple color—the deeper the color, the higher the level of antioxidants.
  • Cherries have long been used for treating gout — so much so that the United States Department of Agriculture is doing studies that are showing significant reduction in arthritic and gout inflammation. Bing cherries have shown to help alleviate the inflammation severity on cardiovascular disease and some cancers.
  • Cherries are rich with melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland to regulate sleep patterns. Research shows that melatonin is significant in improving the body’s circadian rhythms. Tart cherry juices are a healthy way to induce sleep, without the need for supplements.

Cherry Nutrient Profile

A one cup serving of cherries has about 85 calories, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, and is cholesterol, fat, and sodium free. They are a good source of Vitamin C and have small amounts of Vitamin A, calcium, and iron.

Common varieties of Cherries

  • Bing cherries range from dark red to almost black. They are firm but juicy, and very sweet when properly ripened.
  • Rainier cherries are golden with a pink blush on their skin, and their flesh is yellow to transparent. Don’t let their looks fool you—although they may not be as pretty as the bing, these cherries have a very sweet and delicate flavor.
  • Lamberts are heart-shaped beauties with dark red flesh and skin. Their sweet, rich flavor and juicy, meaty flesh make them a favorite for eating fresh as well as for cooking.
  • Royal Ann cherries have golden-pink skin and flesh. They are difficult to find fresh; most Royal Ann’s are used to make maraschino cherries.

How to select and store Cherries

This is one of those times where you definitely want to taste before you buy. Choose cherries with stems still attached that are firm with a smooth surface and have unblemished skin. Cherries don’t ripen any more once they’re picked so it’s worth hand picking them.
Cherries perish quickly so buy only as many as you plan to eat in the next few days. Keep them separated from strong-smelling foods, as cherries can absorb odors.
Store them loose and unwashed in a plastic bag, preferably with holes in it. They can stay fresh for up to a week, but I dare you to have them in there that long. Once I eat one, I know I can’t stop.
Cherries can be frozen for future use, however wash them before you freeze, and store in a freezer bag.

benefits of cherries Cherry Teriyaki Chicken Lettuce WrapsWhether you prefer them as a nutritious snack, dipped in chocolate, or a classic jubilee — don’t hold back. Treat yourself to nutritious cherries when they’re ripe and in season and enjoy the benefits of cherries.

Enjoy this interesting Cherry-Chicken Wrap Recipe that can be used with tortillas or as the filling for lettuce wraps.

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