Why you should eat cherries
Cherries are one of my favorite summer fruits. They are low in calories at 87 calories per cup, have a low glycemic index of 22, are an excellent source of Vitamin C and fiber, contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, are loaded with antioxidants and are one of the few food sources of melatonin.
Two types of cherries: sweet and tart
There are two basic types of cherries:
Sweet cherries include Bing and Rainier cherries. In the U.S., sweet cherries are grown mainly in the Western Pacific states. They are harvested between May and August.
Tart cherries include Montmorency and Morello cherries. They are grown primarily in Michigan and the North East. These cherries have a shorter growing season and are harvested in July and August.
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Health benefits of cherries
Cherries are much more than an alluring summer treat. Many studies have been conducted on the health benefits of both sweet and tart cherries. Here are some of the health benefits attributed to cherries:
Weight loss and reduced belly fat - Research at the University of Michigan has shown that tart cherries, rich in anthocyanins, reduced belly fat in laboratory animals by 17% over a period of 3 months.
Promotes heart and cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol and triglycerides, normalizing blood pressure, and reducing the risk of stroke.
Reduction of inflammation - anthocyanins helps reduce outbreaks and pain severity of gout, osteoarthritis, migraines and possibly fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis. Research at Boston University has shown that eating 10 cherries a day resulted in a 50% reduction in gout flares.
Improves sleep - cherries are one of the few foods that have high levels of melatonin. Consuming cherries improves sleep by normalizing circadian rhythm and providing a rich source of melatonin.
Protects against cancer - Both sweet and tart cherries are high in antioxidants that have been shown to shut down the growth of many types of cancer cells.
Protects against diabetes - Cherries contain anthocyanins that boost insulin and help control blood sugar.
Natural pain killer - anthocyanins, again, are helpful for reducing muscle soreness after workouts.
Neuroprotective effect - May protect against memory loss, dementia and possibly Alzheimer's disease.
Isn't that an impressive list?
Aside from the fact that cherries taste fabulous, this list of health benefits combine to make cherries a truly super food. It is easy to load up on cherries in the summer, but eating cherries regularly in the winter is more challenging. One solution is to drink cherry concentrate, which comes in both sweet cherry and tart cherry versions. Eating frozen cherries is another alternative.
What about the pits?
The one challenge in cooking with cherries is the pits. How do you remove them? One method is to slice them in half, twist so that one half is pit free, and then use a paring knife to remove the pit from the other half.
Some people advocate using the bent end of a paper clip to scoop out the pit, but I frankly don't much care for this method. I can do a better job with a paring knife.
If you cook with cherries regularly, you may want to invest in a cherry pitter. There are many highly rated cherry pitters available, including this single pit remover that also works on olives and this cherry pitter that pits four cherries at a time. I have not tried either product.