Eating More of This Fruit May Be the Secret to a Good Night's Sleep
Cherries—aka summer’s star ruby-red stone fruit—are the key ingredient in some of the most delicious dishes, from sweets like cherry pie and turnovers to savory salads, slaws, and sides. But aside from how great they taste in desserts, cherries are one of the original superfoods: they’re a powerful antioxidant and filled with vitamin C, potassium, melatonin, and more.
To help us break down the many health benefits of cherries, we spoke with Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN. She’s the founder of the media platform Nutritious Life, a best-selling author of four books, and the official tastemaker of the Today Show, so she knows a thing or two about nutrition.
Cherries are one of the best foods for improving sleep. Why? Because they’re an excellent natural source of melatonin, the chemical that controls the body’s internal clock to regulate sleep. Melatonin helps reduce jet lag and promotes overall healthy sleep patterns, too.
Cherries can help reduce inflammation. “Cherries are full of anthocyanins, antioxidants that help fight inflammation by shutting down the enzymes that cause tissue inflammation–the exact same way ibuprofen and naproxen do,” says Glassman.
Fighting free radicals that can cause cancer
Cherries contain agents that may help fight cancer, Glassman says. The flavonoids isoqueritrin and queritrin, and the phenol, ellagic acid, were verified in cherries. The flavonoids are known to be antioxidants, and ellagic acid appears to be a potent inhibitor to the growth of cancer cells. Also, cherries may help fight type 2 diabetes: research at Michigan State University showed that the anthocyanins found in cherries lowered blood sugar in animals and speculate that the same effect occurs in humans.
With a glycemic index of only 22, cherries may help promote weight loss. While foods with GI above 70 cause blood glucose to soar, then quickly crash causing hunger, foods with a low GI release glucose into the body slowly and evenly, leaving you feeling full. Cherries may also help gout sufferers. Gout, a painful form of arthritis, is associated with elevated levels of uric acid. A study at the University of California at Davis showed that participants had reduced levels of uric acid after eating sweet cherries.
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Cherries boost your fiber quota. “Americans are at a fiber deficit, falling far short of the 25 to 35 gram daily recommendation. The latest Dietary Guidelines recommend 2 cups of fruit daily, and cherries help to meet that recommendation,” says Glassman.
How to Store Cherries
As fresh sweet cherry season starts to wind down, you may be wondering what’s the trick to indulging as many cherries as possible (and the amazing health benefits that come with them). The answer = proper preservation. Here’s how to enjoy cherries year-round:
- Freeze them. Rinse cherries with cool water, remove stems. Pitting them is your choice.
- Dry them.Similar to the freezing process, cherries must be washed, dried, and pitted. Then, simply cut the cherries and put them on a baking sheet, cut side up. Bake them in an oven (or dehydrator) at 165 degrees for 3 hours and then reduce to 135 for 16 to 24 hours.
- Preserve them.Cherries can also be made into jellies and jams, which can last up to a year. Mince the sweet cherries in a food processor, leaving little chunks. Bring sugar and vinegar (to taste) to boil, add in your cherry mixture, then add pectin.