If there’s one food object that embodies the onset of warm weather for me, it’s sweet cherries. I viscerally remember running home from the bus to arrive home to a glistening bowl of juicy cherries on the kitchen table for an after-school snack.
In hindsight, I see my mom’s clever idea in that they’re a snack that occupies both the hands and mind. We’d spend time around the table prying out the pits and painting our teeth and gums cherry red for giggles. All while unknowingly being filled with antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins, and fiber.
Sweet cherries are also a staple during any beach trip for my family, so like a Pavlov dog, whenever I see and taste cherries I’m immediately transported to sun and sand. I love them on their own, as a topping, or embedded into a recipe. They’re just the perfect combination of cute and satisfying, which is why I’m so thrilled to be partnering with Northwest cherries to chat with you about 20 reasons to eat sweet cherries in 2020.
Many benefits of cherries can be attributed to a class of flavonoids (fancy type of antioxidant) called anthocyanins. They are responsible for the pigment that gives cherries their rich and vibrant red/purple hue. Anthocyanins are beneficial in a wide range of ways, from brain health to inflammation to sleep to even assisting with blood sugar control. Of course, what matters most is that they’re part of a well-rounded, nutrient dense diet. Read through the many different benefits of cherries below and keep scrolling to find my favorite sweet cherry cheesecake popsicle recipe at the bottom! Lastly, sweet cherries grown in the Northwest have a short season (typically available at grocery stores from June – early August), so be sure to stock up on them now and simply freeze, dry or can to enjoy their health benefits year-round!
20 reasons to eat sweet cherries in 2020
- Anthocyanins have been demonstrated to interfere with inflammation pathways, in turn helping to improve both brain and visual function.
- Anthocyanins further help with brain help through neuroprotection, which means slowing and/or preventing the cognitive decline that’s associated with aging.
- The polyphenols in cherries aid in neuroprotection through their assistance with preventing neuronal cells from oxidative stress.
- Consumption of anthocyanins from cherries appears to improve memory and cognition in older adults with mild to moderate dementia.
- The polyphenols in cherries appear to help diminish elevated blood sugar and the inflammatory markers that are predictors of Type 2 Diabetes.
- The flavonoids in cherries help with blood sugar control by protecting pancreatic beta-cells from damage, enabling them to continue balanced production of insulin therefore keeping blood sugar levels stable.
- One study showed that eating cherries significantly decreased C-reactive protein and nitrous oxide concentrations, both of which are pro-inflammatory markers.
- Beyond just C-reactive proteins, cherries were correlated with decreasing plasma concentrations of eight biomarkers associated with inflammatory disease.
- In another study, researchers found decreases in circulating plasma levels of hsCRP using healthy participants supplementing their diets with sweet cherries. Reductions of 8% and 25% were found for CRP following 14 and 28 days of supplementation (280 g/day), respectively. ( 1 )
- Because cherries have numerous anti-inflammatory properties, they may minimize or prevent inflammation and oxidative stress, which are associated with diseases like arthritis, diabetes, cancer, and hypertension.
- They’re a great blood stabilizing snack! Cherries have some of the lowest glycemic index and glycemic load values of all fruit. The glycemic index measures the effect that a carbohydrate-containing food has on blood sugar levels.
- The presence of tryptophan, serotonin, and melatonin in sweet cherries may assist with sleep cycles.
- Various studies, in fact, have shown that serotonin is an important neurotransmitter that reduces stress and improves mood.
- Anthocyanins found in foods like sweet cherries inhibit lipid peroxidation, which assists with reducing CVD risk factors.
- Anthocyanin interference with inflammation pathways can help in prevention of heart disease.
- Hypertension is a risk factor in cardiovascular disease and studies suggest phenolic acids found in cherries and produced by anthocyanin metabolism exert antihypertensive effects.
- Consumption of cherries can significantly decrease plasma urate, which may help prevent gout.
- Cherries are great for digestion! They pack a punch with fiber and can help with constipation prevention when eaten as part of a well-balanced diet.
- They may help with recovery after exercise. One study was performed in 20 active women, and noted that those who drank 2 ounces (60 ml) of cherry juice twice daily for 8 days recovered quicker and had less muscle damage and soreness after completing repeated sprint exercises, compared to the placebo group. ( 2 )
- They’re delicious and versatile in so many recipes! I love them on their own, topping them on chia seed pudding, or mixing them into a summery popsicle snack. See my cherry cheesecake popsicle recipes below!
Sweet Cherry Cheesecake Popsicles
Makes 7 popsicles
- 1 cup Northwest cherries (look for the dark red color with the green stems!)
- 1 cup coconut milk
- ½ cup plain yogurt
- 2 tbsp cream cheese
- 2 tbsp maple syrup or sweetener of choice
- 2 tbsp pulverized graham crackers (ice cream cones also work!)
- Popsicle molds and popsicle sticks
- Blend coconut milk, yogurt, cream cheese, and sweetener of choice in a blender until smooth. (I chose to add the graham cracker dust on top the following day, but you could also add them right into the blender if you’d like them mixed in with the popsicles).
- In a separate bowl, pit Northwest cherries and mash them with hands or a fork until a slight compote forms, liquid enough to pour into popsicles.
- Pour mixture evenly into each mold, filling them about ¾ of the way.
- Add cherry mixture to the top.
- Add popsicle sticks.
- Freeze overnight.
- Top with pulverized graham crackers the following day when preparing to serve.
Thank you Northwest cherries for sponsoring this post. It has been a delicious joy to work with a company whose product I have been savoring for years. For more on the health benefits of sweet cherries, visit NWCherries/CherryHealthReview.