Wellness for the Family: Benefits of Cherries from Registered Dietitian, Shanthi Appelö
Since the first commercial cherry orchard was planted in the late 1800s, Michigan’s cherry growing quickly grew popular. Today Michigan is the top producer of tart cherries and the fourth-largest producer of sweet cherries in the United States. An average tree carries a remarkable 7,000 cherries and can be harvested in just seven seconds – but that’s not the only impressive quality.
Tart cherries more so than sweet cherries are known for providing a slew of health benefits. Boasting an impressive list of antioxidants in the fruit, cherries can aid in inflammatory diseases such as heart disease and arthritis. But let’s explore some of the lesser-known health benefits.
- Sleep. Studies suggest tart and sweet cherries may help with both the quantity and quality of sleep with immediate effects – within three days. Reasons for improved sleep are thought to be related to improved mood and decreased anxiety. Another study found that tart cherries may increase melatonin, a critical hormone that regulates sleep.
- Cognitive function. Research suggests cherries could juice up the brain. Anthocyanins are not only responsible for giving cherries their dark-red color, but also supplies the fruit with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant powers. This compound along with other antioxidants in the fruit show promise in delivering short- and long-term benefits in age-related cognitive decline. Anthocyanins have a positive role in the pathways involved in neurodegeneration, or the loss of function of the nervous system.
- Recovery after exercise. Tart cherries have shown promise in helping athletes recover after strenuous activity. The reasons can be attributed to the recovery of muscle function, reduced muscle loss and less inflammation. Athletes can enjoy a cup of tart cherry juice within 30 minutes after exercise along with a post-workout snack.
Convinced about the nutritious power of this ruby-red fruit? Cherries are versatile and easy to incorporate in a variety of dishes – add them to anything from barbecue sauce to overnight oats. Moreover, cherries go great with chocolate, almonds, goat cheese, lemon and thyme – all ingredients in the following recipes.
herry and Goat Cheese Salad with Lemon Thyme Vinaigrette – Serves 4
For the salad
- 1 cup cherries, halved and pitted
- 4 cups spring lettuce mix
- 1/3 cup almonds, slivered or chopped
- 4 oz goat cheese
- Combine all ingredients with 1-2 tbsp of dressing for each serving.
For the salad
- 2 lemons, 1 juiced, one chopped
- 8-10 sprigs of thyme leaves, stem removed)
- 2 tsp honey
- ½ cup olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Using a knife, cut the peel off one lemon, then chop the flesh of the lemon finely.
- Add the lemon, along with juice of the other lemon and the other ingredients to a mason jar or other sealable container. Shake up and serve with the salad.
Cherry Chocolate Almond Smoothie – Serves 1
- 1 cup frozen cherries
- 2 tsp cocoa powder (or 1 scoop chocolate protein powder)
- 2 tbsp almond butter
- 1 cup vanilla almond milk
- Combine all ingredients in a blender. Enjoy!
For more recipes from A Healthier Michigan and Shanthi Appelö, click here.