It is common knowledge that fruits and vegetables are beneficial to your health. But sometimes, getting children or yourself to eat them can feel difficult. Cherries, however, are a great example of a fruit that most children and adults alike will gulp down with no complaint at all. Tasty and sweet, the little cherry tastes like a treat, but helps your body maintain and improve health.
We’ve been enjoying the sweet taste and wonderful health benefits of cherries for centuries. The first traces of humans consuming cherries date back to 300 BCE, when the Greek author Theophrastus inventoried them in his History of Plants, as a diuretic (helping your body eliminate more water and salt through urine).
Diuretics are often used to treat high blood pressure. Oxygenated blood needs to be carried throughout the body in order for all your organs to work properly, and by beating, the heart is in charge of pushing the blood through the blood vessels. When this pressure is too high, it can have many negative effects, including serious damage to the heart, inducing cardiovascular diseases.
Today, studies confirm that cherries are beneficial to heart health and decrease the risks of stroke. A study conducted at the University of Michigan showed that cherries had effects on heart health similar to a class of drugs called PPAR agonists that help regulate fat and glucose. However, in the long term, these drugs can increase risks of stroke, whereas cherries have the opposite effect of reducing the risk, even when taken along with the drug1.
Cherries are so healthy because they are high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Studies even showed that their levels were comparable to commercial products2. The cherries’ high content in antioxidants is due to two of its components in particular: anthocyanins and cyanidin. The antioxidants prevent and get rid of free radicals, which can induce cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
Finally, cherries can help you with your sleep cycle. In a society so intensely focused on productivity, it can be difficult to find and create the time to rest and sleep. However, the mundane activity of sleeping is absolutely crucial to your physical and mental health. All sorts of important things happen to your body while you are asleep: for example, your brain is getting ready for the next day, forming new pathways to help you remember and learn, your heart and blood vessels heal and repair themselves. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, sleep deprivation (defined as too little or poor quality sleep, or sleeping at the wrong times of the day) can lead to an increased risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke3.
There are many ways you can improve your sleep, and you should rejoice, rejoice, because one of them is consuming delicious cherries! Indeed, the red fruit contains high levels of melatonin, a molecule that is essential in regulating your sleep cycles and providing better sleep quality4.
So don’t skip a beat: as soon as the warm weather comes back, rush out to pick or buy cherries! You can eat them just as they are, incorporate them into breakfast foods, luncheon salads or cakes and cookies. Dried cherries are a wonderful flavor in any type of baked goods and might be a little easier to find year-round. Whatever your choice, you’ll love the result (and your body will thank you too!) The foods you put into your body matter when it comes to being healthy. So cherry-pick your food and choose to chew on a cherry!
Lisa Darmet is a freelance writer, whose passions include not only eating but also food and cooking and their connections to health, culture and society. She is a graduate of Hampshire College, Amherst, MA, USA & a world traveler.