Cherries have a deep red color which signifies its richness in polyphenol flavonoid compounds known as anthocyanin glycosides. These antioxidants have a wide range of health benefits, and tart cherries contain more of these antioxidant substances than sweet cherries. The antioxidant content in frozen cherries is slightly lower, and canned cherries have an even larger decrease in antioxidant content, but the amount of antioxidants in canned cherries is still significant.
The antioxidant levels in dried cherries and in cherry juice, both sweetened and unsweetened varieties, is similar to the levels in fresh cherries. However, fresh organic cherries are best for antioxidant amounts and overall quality. Cherries are on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list, which means that conventional cherries are one of the most contaminated fruits in terms of pesticides. The level of pesticide residues in conventional cherries is much higher, so when possible it is highly recommended that you purchase organic cherries.
Cherries improve sleep
If you have difficulty sleeping, drinking tart cherry juice may improve your overall sleep quality. Tart cherries contain high levels of phytochemicals including melatonin. As people age, their natural levels of melatonin drop. One clinical trial provided volunteers with either a placebo or a tart cherry juice concentrate for one week. The cherry juice group’s melatonin levels were significantly elevated by the end of the trial, while the placebo and baseline group had no change.
May help fight diabetes
Cherries get their deep, rich color from having a high amount of anthocyanins, which are antioxidants. In a laboratory study using animal pancreatic cells, researches observed that anthocyanins increased insulin production. This effect could help lower blood sugar levels and provide support to diabetics. Tart cherries are a low-glycemic food, which are foods that will not cause big spikes in blood sugar levels.
Lowers risk of recurring gout
A study published in Arthritis & Rheumatism found that consuming cherries lowers the risk of a gout attack. It also found that increased servings of cherries continues to lower the risk. Even over a two-day period, patients had a 35% lower risk of a gout attack than those who ate no cherries at all.
Cherries have anti-inflammatory properties and are high in antioxidants. These are cancer-fighting properties that are essential for your diet. Anthocyanins, the antioxidants found in cherries, exhibit multiple antitoxic and anticarcinogenic effects. One study found that mice that were “fed an anthocyanin-rich tart cherry extract had 74% fewer cecal tumors” than untreated mice.
Anthocyanin-rich diets may reduce risk of stroke
Group research at the University of Michigan Health System found that eating tart cherries activated PPAR (peroxisome proliferator activating receptors) isoforms in body tissues. PPAR regulate genes that work with fat and glucose metabolism, which means that activating these receptors can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. E. Mitchell Seymour, Ph.D. noted that tart cherries can “reduce risk factors like high cholesterol and diabetes” and additionally, stroke-prone rats had significantly improved locomotion, balance and coordination when given a tart cherry diet.
Cherries can improve brain function
Cherries are a great source of anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are linked to an amazing record of broad health benefits throughout history. For example, anthocyanins from Hibiscus flowers have been used in remedies to treat liver dysfunction and hypertension.
In one study, memory in older adults improved when given a supplement of blueberry juice, and the antioxidants in cherries have also been shown to act as a protective force against oxidative stress. What this means is that cherries may protect against neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia.
Cherries are a nutritionally dense food
As previously mentioned, cherries are rich in anthocyanins. They are also rich in the antioxidant quercetin, hydroxycinnamates, potassium, vitamin C, fiber, melatonin and carotenoids. These nutrients have a very good potential for providing disease-preventive health benefits, including guarding against cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory diseases and Alzheimer’s disease.
Helps with exercise recovery and pain reduction
Athletes or people who participate in strenuous exercise can damage their muscles, resulting in inflammation and pain. The body responds to injury through inflammation, swelling and erythema (reddening of the skin or dilation of the blood capillaries). Injuries are often treated with the RICE method: rest, ice, compression and elevation. Anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen, are also relied upon to reduce swelling. Natural anti-inflammatory compounds found in cherries, particularly in tart cherries, can also provide effective relief for acute and chronic inflammation. An article in Medicine and Sport Science explores the similar effectiveness that tart cherries have on treating the anti-inflammatory processes when compared to traditional non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Very high levels of vitamin C
Not all cherries are created equal. Tart cherries are arguably more beneficial to your health than sweet cherries. And acerola, also known as Barbados cherries, West Indian cherries and wild crepe myrtles, are known for being extremely high in vitamin C. One hundred grams of acerola cherries (equivalent to 2/3 to 3/4 of a cup) has 1,677.6 mg of vitamin C, which is equivalent to 2,796% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance. The West Indian cherry also has very high levels of vitamin A.
Good source of copper
In addition to being a great source of vitamin C and A, cherries are also a good source of copper. They are a moderate source of iron, potassium and magnesium, as well as a mild source of zinc. The antioxidants in cherries include lutein (the “eye vitamin”), zeaxanthin and beta-carotene. These antioxidants act as protective shields against free radicals which cause cell damage that leads to aging.