A bowl full of sweet cherries is brimming with health benefits. Cherries are naturally low in fat and calories and free of both cholesterol and sodium. They are also a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, potassium and contain boron.
- The word ‘cherry’ comes from the French word ‘cerise,’ which in turn comes from the Latin words cerasum and Cerasus, the classical name of the modern city Giresun in Turkey.
- It is believed that the sweet cherry originated in the area between the Black and Caspian Seas in Asia Minor around 70 B.C. The Romans introduced them to Britain in the first century A.D.
- Cherries are drupes, or stone fruits, and are related to plums, peaches and nectarines.
- There are 430 species in the genus Prunus which include cherries, plums, peaches, apricots and almonds – just to name a few.
- The English colonists brought cherries to North America in the 1600’s.
- There are more than 1,000 varieties of cherries in the United States, but fewer than 10 are produced commercially.
- On average, there are about 44 cherries in one pound.
- In an average crop year, a sweet cherry tree will produce 800 cherries.
- Seventy percent of the cherries produced in the United States are grown in the Northwest.
- Stemilt Growers is the world’s largest shipper of sweet cherries.
- While they have long been a popular dessert fruit, cherries were used for their medicinal purposes in the 15th and 16th centuries.
- Researchers first found that eating cherries may help relieve gout and arthritis attacks back in 1950 during a preliminary study of daily cherry consumption.
- Anthocyanids give cherries their red color.
- The world’s heaviest cherry was grown by Gerardo Maggipinto (Italy) and weighed 21.69 g (0.76 oz) on June 21, 2003. The cherry was presented at La Grande Ciliegia, in Sammichele di Bari, Italy.
Fiber: One cup of cherries contains 3 grams of dietary fiber, an essential ingredient in a healthy diet. Adults should consume between 20 and 30 grams of fiber each day. Research suggests that a high-fiber diet can prevent constipation, lower the risk for developing digestive disorders, lower cholesterol, control blood sugar and aid in weight loss.
Potassium: Cherries are a good source of the nutrient potassium, with approximately 260 milligrams in a one cup serving. The recommended daily dose of potassium for adults is 3,400 milligrams. Potassium is a main electrolyte that keeps the body functioning properly and plays an important role in muscle, heart, kidney and nerve cell functions. It also works with another electrolyte, sodium, to balance water levels throughout the body.
Vitamin C: One serving of cherries has 16% of the recommended daily dose of vitamin C, a water-soluble vitamin that is essential to keep the body functioning normally and maintain a healthy immune system. Vitamin C is also a highly effective antioxidant, which means it may help prevent the onset of several chronic diseases.
Boron: Cherries also contain boron, a mineral that helps maintain calcium balance and promotes bone health. Some research suggests that boron may play a role in preventing osteoporosis, a disease in which bones become fragile and more likely to break. The level of boron needed in the diet is not known, but many nutritionists suggest consuming between 3 and 5 milligrams of boron each day. In addition to sweet cherries, boron is found in many other common fruits, leafy vegetables and legumes.
Cherry Nutrition Facts
Cherries are certainly one of today’s most popular dessert fruits, but they have been recognized for their medicinal purposes since the 1400’s. One cup of sweet cherries has just 90 calories and is a good source of fiber and vitamin C. With these great attributes, it’s no wonder why many nutritionists, dietitians, and other health professionals often refer to cherries as a superfood. Read on to learn about the many “super-powers” of cherries:
Did you know that cherries rank among the top 20 foods with the highest concentration of antioxidants. In fact, the standard one-cup serving of cherries has the capacity to carry 4,873 antioxidants! Antioxidants are substances found in foods that may protect cells from damage caused by unstable molecules, known as free radicals. Cherries are especially rich in a phytochemical called anthocyanin. They also contain melatonin, phenols and quercetin.
Cherries and Melatonin:
There are many instances in life when your sleep patterns are disrupted. Whether it is expected jet lag or an ongoing sleep disorder, fresh cherries and the melatonin they contain can be an ally for you! Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain. It plays a key role in regulating the body’s internal clock and helps determine when we fall asleep and when we wake up. Eating a handful of cherries just before bed is a great way to naturally regulate your sleep cycle.
Great news for arthritis sufferers! A bowl full of cherries may help alleviate pain and inflammation associated with arthritis and gout, the most severe form of arthritis. A gout attack occurs when excessive amounts of uric acid (waste product found in the blood) accumulate in the joints, and cause inflammation and pain.
Back in 2004, researchers from the Agriculture Research Service and University of California-Davis teamed up to study the effects consuming cherries could have on reducing pains caused by gout. They found that participants who ate 45 sweet cherries during breakfast significantly decreased their blood plasma levels while simultaneously increasing the amount of uric acid removed through urine. According to the researchers, these two changes are signs of a healthy immune system fighting inflammation.
Cardiovascular disease, or heart disease, is the single leading cause of death in America. One of the many health benefits of cherries is that they contain powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins, which may reduce a person’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Just like red wine, anthocyanins give cherries their deep red color and also protect cells from damage during an interaction with oxygen. This important process also serves to protect the heart and surrounding tissue, inhibit plaque formation and reduce inflammation.
Cherries and Brain Health:
Cherries are one of the few foods that contain melatonin. In addition to helping regulate sleep patterns, melatonin is an important antioxidant that helps maintain optimum brain functioning and may deter the onset of age-related chronic diseases like Alzheimer’s. Research also suggests that the anthocyanins found in cherries further protect neural cells and promote brain health.