Monday, June 18, 2012

Thank You Cherries! > The Health Benefits of Cherries

Botanically, cherry is the fruit of many plants of the genus Prunus (belonging to the broad rosaceae family) and it is a “drupe” (stone fruit) just like plums, peaches, nectarines, apricots, almonds etc. it is a very beautiful tree that blooms in spring and carries delicate light pink blossoms.
The English word “cherry” (French “cerise” and Spanish “cereza”) all come from the classical Greek word “kerasos” (κέρασος) and the plant is native to Eastern Europe and Asia Minor regions (although the cultivation of cherries has been widely spread in many parts of the world). 
Cherries have been recognized for their medicinal purposes for centuries. Apart from the fruit itself, they also used the cherry-tree bark (and root) as a stimulant and tonic substance. They are considered a “Superfood”, mainly due to their high content of antioxidants. It is interesting to note that in ancient times, unripe cherries were pickled as olive substitutes!
 The health benefits of cherries are numerous! Here is a list of what cherries do to you:

•    High antioxidant
Antioxidants are substances found in foods that may protect cells from damage caused by unstable molecules, known as free radicals. 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! Cherries are especially rich in a phytochemical called anthocyanin. The skin of the cherries holds most of the essential antioxidants. 

•    Anti-inflammatory
Anthocyanins are the key antioxidant compounds in cherries. These phytonutrients have been specifically linked to high antioxidant capacity and are capable of reducing inflammation, at levels comparable to some well-known pain medications.
•    Great for regulating your sleep cycle
Cherries are rich in melatonin, 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.
•    Reduce the risk of cancer
Cherries are high in Beta Carotene (Vitamin A) and this also helps fight cancer in organs and glands. They are particularly beneficial in reducing the risk of colon cancer. In animals studies of mice prone to colon cancer, the addition of cherries to their diet resulted in a reduction in colon tumors and their size. In related studies, cherries also reduced the growth of breast cancer cells.
•    Beneficial for the liver and kidneys
Scientists have confirmed that cherries help our liver and kidneys to get rid of toxicity which makes them perform better.
•    Beneficial against arthritis
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.
•    Beneficial for the heart
Anthocyanins protect cells from damage during an interaction with oxygen, protect the heart and surrounding tissue, inhibit plaque formation and reduce inflammation. These reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
•    Great for the immune system
Cherries are high in vitamin C and melatonin which are essential for are immune system.
•    Anti-aging 

Melatonin is thought to slow down the aging process.
•    Beneficial for muscle aches
Drinking a glass of cherry juice after exercising may help ease aching muscles 

•    Fight jetlag
Due to their high content of melatonin.
•    Promote brain health
Melatonin also helps in maintaining optimum brain functioning and may deter the onset of chronic diseases like Alzheimer’s. Research also suggests that the anthocyanins found in cherries further protect neural cells and promote brain health.
•    Great For Digestion
When we eat cherries, there is more production and secretion of digestive juices, which subsequently improves our digestive system.

Above all cherries are super tasty and the feeling of pleasure I get when eating them is beyond words! Joy is always the best healing method after all. In Greece they are in season between early May and mid July, but you can also enjoy them dried or frozen throughout the year. You can actually freeze them yourself now that they are at their peak. It’s really simple: you just buy them really fresh, wash them well and let them dry, remove the stems and  pits (either with a sharp knife or a cherry pitter), arrange them on a tray (make sure they don’t touch each other), freeze them for two hours and then seal them in a bag or a freezer-proof container and put them back in the freezer. I often use frozen cherries in smoothies or for home made sugar-free sorbet, ideal for children! Thank you cherries!!!




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