Cherries, often regarded as a dessert fruit, are popular worldwide due to their unique taste and flavor.
Apart from being tasty, cherries have a healthy side, too. They are rich in antioxidants and many other health-promoting polyphenol and phytosterol compounds.
They are also good sources of dietary fiber, potassium, protein, and vitamins A and C. In addition, they contain copper, manganese, magnesium, iron, calcium, phosphorus and zinc.
Sweet cherries are best eaten fresh, while tart cherries (also known as sour cherries) are often used in cooking or for garnishing. Tart cherries are also used to make juice concentrates.
Here are the top 10 health benefits of cherries.
1. Eases Pain and Inflammation
Those who suffer from pain, such as arthritis pain, should add cherries to their diet.
Cherries contain high levels of flavonoids and anthocyanins that have anti-inflammatory properties that help reverse oxidative damage, which can increase pain and inflammation in the body.
It can even reduce painful inflammation by decreasing the amount of C-reactive proteins produced in the body.
A 2012 study published in Medicine and Sports Science reports that tart cherries have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects on prevention, treatment and recovery of soft tissue injury and pain.
Plus, cherries help reduce excess uric acid in the blood, which can cause swelling, tenderness and inflammation that leads to excruciating pain.
2. Helps You Sleep Better
Tart cherries contain melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycle and makes you feel sleepy.
In fact, it increases exogenous melatonin in the body that is beneficial in improving sleep duration and quality.
Melatonin has also been found to help with jet lag.
A 2010 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food suggests that tart cherry juice can modestly improve sleep in older adults with insomnia.
Later, a 2012 study published in the European Journal of Nutrition reported that consumption of tart cherry juice is beneficial in improving sleep duration and quality in healthy men and women. This study suggests that it may be beneficial in managing disturbed sleep.
If you are having problems sleeping, aim to drink ½ to 1cup of tart cherry juice twice daily.
3. Reduces Muscle Soreness
Cherries, especially tart cherries, have a positive effect on muscle pain. Rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, tart cherries are highly beneficial for people suffering from muscle pain, arthritis or fibromyalgia.
In fact, these cherries have a protective effect in reducing muscle damage and pain during strenuous exercise.
A 2010 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition reports that intake of 24 ounces of tart cherry juice for seven days prior to and during a strenuous running event can help reduce post-run muscle pain.
Another study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports in 2010 notes that tart cherries provide a viable means to aid recovery of muscle function following strenuous exercise by increasing total antioxidative capacity and reducing inflammation and lipid peroxidation.
4. Lowers Gout Attack Risk
Both sweet and sour cherries are beneficial in treating gout due to their antioxidant properties. Plus, they help reduce inflammation as well as minimize gout flare-ups.
A 2003 study published in the Journal of Nutrition shows consumption of cherries lowers plasma urate in healthy women, which supports the reputed anti-gout efficacy of cherries.
A 2012 study published in Arthritis & Rheumatism found that patients with gout who consumed cherries over a two-day period showed a 35 percent lower risk of gout attacks than those who did not eat the fruit.
Furthermore, the study suggests that risk of gout flare-ups was 75 percent lower when cherry intake was combined with uric acid-reducing drug.
For gout patients, eating 15 to 20 cherries a day is highly recommended.
5. Decreases Belly Fat
Belly fat, the most stubborn fat in the body, is hard to burn off. Now, you can get rid of it by including cherries in your diet.
They have high concentrations of antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins that help regulate genes involved in fat and glucose metabolism.
Plus, cherries contain fiber, which will keep you feeling full longer. Also, they contain many B-vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin and vitamin B6, which boost metabolism and aid in converting food into energy.
A 2008 study by the University of Michigan Health System reports that obese rats fed tart cherry powder mixed into a high-fat diet for 90 days had lower-weight retroperitoneal fat, a type of belly fat that has been associated with especially high cardiovascular risk and inflammation in humans.
In addition, they had significantly lower blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides than rats that were not given tart cherry powder.
6. Supports Heart Health
Cherries also provide cardiovascular benefits. The heart benefits come from the high amount of antioxidants, known as anthocyanins, in them.
The anthocyanins help regulate genes involved in fat and glucose metabolism, which in turn helps lower your risk of heart disease.
Plus, cherries are very high in potassium, which helps regulate heart rate and blood pressure and reduces the risk of hypertension.
A 2013 study by the University of Michigan Health System suggests that tart cherries provide similar cardiovascular benefits as prescribed medications, and it reduces the risk of strokes, even when taken with pharmaceutical options.
Another study published in Circulation in 2013 suggests that bioactive compounds in red and blue fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of amyocardial infarction (heart attack) in young and middle-aged women.