Until a few years ago, I hardly paid any attention to cherries. At most, they were the topping to an ice cream sundae or the garnish on my Manhattan.
But my view changed when I was shopping at a local farmer's market and caught sight of a pint of plump, blood-red cherries. Back at home, I washed the cherries and eagerly bit into one.
News flash! Evidently not all cherries are sweet.
What I had purchased were sour cherries. I signed online to find out what in the world I was going to do with a pint of sour cherries and ironically I found an email from my brother asking me to blog about the health benefits of cherries.
Apparently cherries were tired of being ignored and demanding my attention.
But most impressive, cherries are a rich source of phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are substances naturally occurring in plants. In many cases, these chemical compounds provide health benefits beyond those provided by essential vitamins and minerals (precisely why we need to eat fruits and vegetables and cannot rely solely on supplements!).
Phytochemicals are powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents that work hard to protect our bodies' cells and lower the risk of developing chronic disease.
Research has suggested that cherries have the potential to reduce the risk of developing certain cancers, Alzheimer's, cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, gout, kidney stones and other inflammatory conditions.
A study in 2002 recorded that sweet cherries had the highest antioxidant activity among a group of selected fruits. Blueberries were second.
But while cherries may rank superior in certain antioxidants they lag behind in other departments. That's why it is so important to eat a balanced diet from a variety of fruits and vegetables.
*Notes for IBD/IBS readers:
- Unless pureed, cherries are not appropriate on a low roughage diet.
- Cherries are high in FODMAPs.