There are many varieties of cherries that grow in nature. Among these, the most commonly sold on the market are sweet cherries (Prunus avium) and sour cherries (Prunus cerasus), which are produced from the crossbreeding between the former and a wild cherry species called the dwarf cherry (Prunus fruticosa). As their names imply, the sweet cherry is rich in sugars but low in acid content while the opposite is true for the sour cherry. Regardless of your preference, you can still enjoy a lot of health benefits from eating either of the two.
Cherries are low-calorie and nutrient-dense fruits. They contain compounds like beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, potassium, magnesium, folate, iron, and fiber that contribute to their many health benefits. Moreover, they are also rich in polyphenols and flavonoids, such as anthocyanins, hydroxycinnamic acid, and quercetin. These components produce synergistic antioxidant effects with vitamin C and carotenoids to improve overall health. Other compounds found in cherries include tryptophan, serotonin, and melatonin.
Health benefits of eating cherries
In traditional Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, cherries were commonly used to get rid of excess body acids and promote blood flow throughout the body. Moreover, they were also used as natural remedies for pain and inflammation associated with gout, arthritis, and rheumatism. In recent years, researchers have conducted countless studies that looked at the scientific basis behind the different therapeutic applications of cherries. Some of the health benefits that they found supporting evidence for include the following:
Reducing inflammation -- Cherries significantly reduces inflammation and oxidative stress with the help of their cyanidin content. These compounds work in the same manner as over-the-counter pain medications, which is by inhibiting cyclooxygenase and its associated pro-inflammatory pathways. Previous studies have even shown that the degree of pain relief brought about by cyanidin in cherries is comparable to conventional painkillers.
Preventing Alzheimer's -- The different phenolic compounds found in cherries reduce oxidative stress and prevent beta-amyloid plaques from forming in the brain. These plaques are known as one of the major contributors to Alzheimer's disease. Moreover, the phenolic compounds in cherries also protect brain cells from damage that could potentially impair neurological functions.
Lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease -- Cardiovascular disease is a major cause of death in the U.S., causing more than 610,000 deaths per year. Studies have shown that people who eat lots of cherries are less likely to develop heart problems since anthocyanins in these fruits significantly reduced triglycerides, cholesterol, and sugar in the blood. Moreover, cherries are rich in potassium, which reduces the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.
Improving strength and stamina -- In one clinical trial, researchers found that athletes who drank cherry juice after a marathon recovered their strength faster than those who took the placebo. They concluded that this effect could be attributed to anthocyanins that reduce post-exercise inflammation and oxidative stress so that these won't interfere with muscle function.
Alleviating symptoms of diabetes -- Anthocyanins found in cherries improve insulin resistance and glucose intolerance in diabetic patients. These natural antioxidants also stimulate insulin production depending on the blood sugar levels. Furthermore, cherries release glucose slowly and steadily so that there won't be an abrupt rise in blood sugar, which can be harmful to the body. (Related: Cherries contain antioxidant that can fight diabetes.)
Enhancing sleep quality and quantity -- If you find it hard to fall asleep at night, drinking cherry juice might do the trick. A 2012 study found that by doing this the participants significantly increased melatonin in the body. This hormone, which is produced in response to the time of day, is responsible for maintaining the body's sleep-wake cycle and higher levels of it have been associated with better sleep.
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