Nutrition With a Cherry on Top

By Samantha Sullivan
Dietetic Intern

Day trips to the beach, backyard barbecues, and picking out fruit for dessert is one of the many vivid memories that come to mind when thinking of summer. Selecting the fruit after a summer barbecue in my family was almost as big of a deal as who got to pick the movie for Friday family night. It was a big responsibility!

The decision between watermelon, fresh peaches, pineapple, strawberries or cherries could be slightly overwhelming. Standing there with the fridge doors open, staring at the bright variety of fruits looking back at me, I could always hear my sweet little 86-year old grandma’s voice whispering in my ear, “a cherry a day keeps the doctor away!”

With that in mind, my decision was made. Not only was my grandma in full support, but those little round gloriously sweet treats (with maybe a little spoon of whipped cream) were the best way to end a day in the sun. Heart-shaped sweet cherry

At the time I thought my grandma’s little saying was based on her on her personal opinions—she lives for cherries—but little did I know at the time that my grandma’s simple saying held a lot of truth.

These flavor-filled, sweet little gems are packed with antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals. They are low in calories as well as a great source of iron, potassium, manganese, and copper, making them a wonderful snack option or way to curve a sweet tooth. Cherries also have a low glycemic load, making them a diabetic’s best fruit friend.

Cherries contain anthocyanin glycosides, which are the red, purple or blue pigments found in many fruits and vegetables, primarily concentrated in the skin. Anthocyanins contain powerful anti-oxidant properties which have been shown to help with inflammation related to osteoarthritis, gout flares, and heart health. Cherries can also help with sleep, weight management, and managing blood sugars.1 All of these traits can help us live healthier lives, keeping us out of the doctor’s office, just like grandma always said!

Anthocyanins also have anti-inflammatory properties, which promote heart health. Anthocyanins have been correlated with lower cholesterol and reduced inflammation.

Studies show that tart cherries help lower high cholesterol and triglycerides, which improve arterial health. Improved arterial health reduces the risk for stroke, heart disease, and diabetes.2

The anti-inflammatory properties of anthocyanins have also been associated with gout and osteoporosis management. A study by Boston University Medical Center from 633 participants showed that eating at least 10 cherries a day protected people with existing gout from recurrent attacks.3

“Cherry intake was associated with a 50% lower risk of gout flares over a 48-hour period.” said Hyon K. Choi, MD and co-author of the study.

In 2013, a research article from the Philadelphia VA Medical Center reported that patients who consumed two 8-ounce bottles of tart cherry juice daily for six weeks experienced improvements in pain, stiffness, and physical function. The participants also showed a marked decrease in CRP, which is a lab associated with inflammation in the body.3

Athletes have started to reap the benefits of cherries and tart cherry juice as post-workout smoothies or healthy desserts. Studies have shown cherries have a positive effect on fighting muscle inflammation. Their studies have shown that cherries were just as effective and safer than prescription drugs to help with muscle inflammation. This decrease in muscle inflammation is helping athletes recover faster from tough workout and come back stronger the next day!

Not only do cherries help with inflammation but also cherries have been shown to help us achieve a better night sleep. Cherries promote melatonin production in the body, which is necessary not only to help you fall asleep but also to help you stay asleep and wake up around the same time each day. Sleep is extremely important to prevent excess cortisol, which can lead to heart disease, weight gain, and even muscle and joint pain!

These dark red sweet little treats are a great option for snacks, brighten up a dish, and add a little extra flavor! They are in season from the end of May until August. When they are not in season, you can find them in the frozen fruit isle and add them to smoothies or yogurt. When you get fresh cherries from the store you want to make sure that they have bright, shiny skin, with green stalks firmly attached to the top end of the fruit. You want to keep fresh cherries refrigerated and wash them before eating.

Cherries are such a great treat for after dinner or to help you curve that sweet tooth. Not only are they sweet and absolutely delicious, but they also provide many health benefits. Try adding cherries to your meals this month. You can simply add them to your smoothie, or even get a little more adventurous and add them to your main dish! And always remember: 10 cherries a day keeps the doctor away.

Here are two great recipes to get you started:


Cherry Summer Kale Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette 

(Borrowed from: http://www.joyfulhealthyeats.com/cherry-summer-kale-salad-with-balsamic-vinaigrette/)

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups kale, leaves
  • 2 cups romaine, leaves
  • 1 cup cherries, halved with seeds removed
  • ½ cup blueberries
  • ½ cup goat cheese
  • ½ cup diced granny smith apples
  • ¼ cup pecan pieces (can use walnut pieces if preferred)

Balsamic Vinaigrette:

  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • ½ Tbsp. honey
  • ½ tsp. dry basil
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Pepper to season

Instructions:

  1. In a small bowl add Dijon mustard, honey, basil, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and pepper. Whisk until the oil and vinegar are no longer separated.
  2. In a large bowl add kale, romaine, cherries, blueberries, goat cheese, apples, and walnut pieces.
  3. Serve dressing on the side or toss in at the last minute.

Cherry, Goat Cheese, and Arugula Pizza 

Borrowed from: http://reciperunner.com/grilled-cherry-goat-cheese-arugula-pizza/

Ingredients:

  • Pizza dough (made from scratch or pre-made)
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, smashed
  • 1 cup cherries; pitted and halved
  • 2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1 cup arugula
  • 1 cup red onion; diced
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 Tbsp. oregano
  • Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat grill to medium high heat
  2. While the grill is heating add balsamic vinegar, honey, oregano, and a pinch of pepper to a small sauce pan.
  3. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce heat to medium low and summer for 6-8 minutes or until it has reduced to about 3 tablespoons and is thick and syrupy.
  4. In another small saucepan heat the tablespoon of oil then add in the smashed clove of garlic.
  5. Remove oil from heat and let the garlic infuse the oil f for 3-5 minutes.
  6. Roll out the pizza dough and brush the tip of it with half of the garlic infused oil.
  7. Place crumbled goat cheese and halved cherries on a plate and take them out to the grill with you along with the prepared pizza dough.
  8. Oil the grill grates then place the pizza dough oiled side down onto the grill and brush the tip of the pizza dough with the remaining oil.
  9. Grill the pizza dough for 2-3 minutes then remove from the grill. Top with arugula, balsamic drizzle, and pepper to taste.

 

References:

  1. Cherry fruit nutrition facts. 2009-15. http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/cherry-fruit.html. Accessed May 9, 2016.
  2. Ansel, K. Cherry Nutrition Benefits. May/June 2012. EatingWell http://www.eatingwell.com/nutrition_health/nutrition_news_information/cherry_nutrition_benefits?page=4. Accessed May 9, 2016.
  3. How Cherries Help Fight Arthritis. Arthritis Foundation. 2016. http://blog.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/arthritis-diet-cherries/. Updated January, 2016. Accessed May 10, 2016.
  4. Downey, M. Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Tart Cherry. Life Extension. June 2013. http://www.lifeextension.com/Magazine/2013/6/Anti-Inflammatory-Properties-of-Tart-Cherry/Page-01. Accessed May 10, 2016.
  5. McClees, H. The Many Benefits of Cherries for your heart, health, weight, and more. One Green Planet. March 2015. http://www.onegreenplanet.org/natural-health/the-many-benefits-of-cherries-for-your-heart-health-weight-and-more/. Accessed May 9, 2016.

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