Life isn't always a bowl of cherries, as most of us well know, but a bowl of cherries is, well, a bowl of cherries. They enhance our health, no question. Cherries are a fruit that can provide us many health benefits, thanks to a potent makeup that includes plenty of fiber, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory compounds, making the small, red fruits one of the healthiest foods around, even when topping a thick, delicious calories-laden milkshake. Among the characteristics of cherries that make our lives easier and more enjoyable is that they rank lower than many other fruits on the glycemic index, per health.com. Our consumption of cherries, even a bowlful of them, won't trigger spikes or crashes when it comes to managing our blood-sugar and insulin levels. That makes them beneficial to diabetics in terms of managing their condition.
Cherries Come in Different VarietiesNote, though, that not all cherries are the same. They aren't all the sweet, juicy kind you get to enjoy when satisfying one of those milkshake cravings. Per bbcgoodfood.com, there are hundreds of varieties of cherries that come in a variety of sizes and flavors, although they can generally be categorized into one of two categories – sweet and tart. Yes, sweet cherries are preferred when it comes to satiating our taste buds, but tart cherries are nothing to turn your nose up at – adding them to an otherwise tasty smoothie, for instance, can help take the edge off, knowing that, among other things, tart cherries can provide significant weight-management benefits, per huffingtonpost.ca.
Health Benefits of CherriesCherries are packed with an assortment of vitamins and minerals, to include potassium, calcium, vitamin A, and folic acid, making them a healthy choice on many levels, whether it involves our joints, our heart, our exercise habits, and even our sleep. Following is a summary of some of cherries' most notable areas of health benefits:
- Heart health. Let's start with blood pressure. Tart cherries are loaded with antioxidant polyphenols, that can help lower blood pressure, per prevention.com. A 2016 study cited by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that tart cherry juice reduced by about 7 mmHG the systolic blood pressure in males diagnosed with early hypertension. Also, per Huffington Post, researchers at the University of Michigan Health System discovered that tart cherries can induce cardiovascular benefits thanks to the presence of anthocyanins (antioxidants that fight free radicals) that play a role in reducing the probability of stroke, to include lowering bad (LDL) cholesterol levels.
- Arthritis/gout. Various studies have shown that cherry consumption is not only beneficial for those with osteoarthritis, helping to alleviate joint pain, it can also benefit the more than eight million American adults who suffer from gout, a form of inflammatory arthritis, per health.com. Gout is caused by the crystallization of uric acid in the joints, causing pain and inflammation. One study of gout patients showed that ingesting cherries for two days, whether eating the fruit or drinking it in juice form, lowered the risk of gout attacks by 35 percent.
- Belly fat. We touched on this earlier, per the mention of weight management. A study done with rats, per huffingtonpost.ca, found that test subjects given a mix of cherry powder and a high-fat diet didn't gain as much weight or accumulate as much body fat as did rats fed the same diet but without the cherries. Plus, the cherry-fed subjects showed significantly lower blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Diabetes. Cherries' anti-inflammatory properties, as well as their low ranking on the glycemic index, makes them a healthy choice for diabetics as well as anyone who might be pre-diabetic. As cited in the section above about belly fat, those same researchers also found that the study subjects' blood showed reduced levels of inflammation markers linked to diabetes.
- Sleep. Per prevention.com, studies have shown that the consumption of tart cherries or tart cherry juice right before bedtime, with their availability of melatonin, can help people fall asleep faster and sleep longer. This is especially important for adults who typically get fewer than seven hours of sleep a night. One study cited at health.com revealed that men and women given eight ounces of tart cherry juice in the morning and again an hour or two before bedtime increased their sleep time by an average of an hour and 24 minutes compared to those test subjects given a placebo instead.
- Exercise. Also per health.com, exercise enthusiasts, such as distance runners, who regularly ingest cherries or cherry juice prior to workouts, experience quicker muscle recovery following strenuous events, with cherries protecting against exercise-related cellular wear and tear.