Why are Cherries Awesome?
These ruby red fruits are loaded with powerful phytonutrient compounds and antioxidants that can help combat cancer, protect your heart, and reduce oxidative stress, inflammation, and muscle pain. Cherries are rich in antioxidants, vitamin A, C and the flavanols quercitin and ellagic acid. The combination of phenolic compounds in cherries has shown to help prevent and fight off cancerous cells. Additionally, cherries provide anti-inflammatory support and may help reduce uric acid buildup for those suffering from gout. Tart cherry juice has concentrated anti-inflammatory effects helpful to reduce post-exercise muscle pain and soreness. One study found that runners drinking tart cherry juice for 7 days prior to a strenuous event had reduced muscle soreness and aches after their race. Sweet and sour cherries also contain small amounts of melatonin that help regulate the body’s natural circadian rhythm and improve the quality of sleep. Whether, you are looking to reduce muscle pain, prevent cancer, or simply add a pop of color for your taste buds, cherries are nutrition all-stars.
- High in Antioxidants, Vitamin A, C, ellagic acid
- Fights cancer
- Reduces post-exercise muscle pain/soreness
- Helps to improve sleep
- Heart protective
How to Shop for Cherries
Cherries have a short growing season, so be sure to stock up when you can! In Australia, cherries are available in December, compared to June in North America and Canada, and July to August in the UK.
- Look for large, plump and firm cherries with a bright rich color.
- Avoid those that are bruised or damaged - just a few at the bottom of your storage bag can spoil the whole bunch.
Whether you plan to enjoy your cherries raw or cooked will determine your choice of sweet or sour varieties.
- Tart, sour cherries like Montmorency and Morello are popular in baked dishes like in my Baked Berry Breakfast Dish.
- Sweet or “black” cherries are dark red, and best eaten raw; These include Bing, Lambert, Chelan, Sweetheart and Tulare varieties. Use this sweet cherry eating guide here.
- Pink and yellow colored cherries include Rainier and Royal Ann varieties and have a milder sweet taste.
How to Store Cherries
Keep cherries loosely packed in a plastic bag or lay them in a shallow pan to prevent bruising. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week and wash before eating. If you see any bruised or damaged cherries, remove these immediately to prevent spoilage of the entire batch.
To freeze and save for later, first rinse and drain your cherries. Spread them out into a single layer on a baking pan and place in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer into a plastic bag to store up to 1 year.
How to Prepare Cherries
Cherries can be enjoyed in all sorts of ways – juiced, blended, raw in salads, as a snack, or baked in your version of a healthy apple “pie”.
- Juice: Wash cherries well, remove their pits and then add through the juicer chute at a low speed. Tart cherry juice has shown significant health benefits to reduce pain and inflammation. A 2014 Study , found that 60 ml of Montmorency tart cherry juice reduced uric acid (problematic for those with Gout) and reduced C-reactive protein, CRP, a measure of inflammation.
- Blend: Before blending, rinse and remove the pits. Add cherries into your blender with other favorite smoothie ingredients. Use frozen cherries for a colder, thick finish or even to make a frozen treat like this Cherry Coconut Ice Cream.
- Raw: Fresh, raw cherries are an excellent snack, a great addition to a summer salad, or even on warm oatmeal or a chia pudding. Sweet varieties are often preferable – look for Rainier, or Royal Ann varieties that are yellow-pink in color or Bing, Sweetheart or Tulane varieties that are dark red.
- Baked: Tart cherries are the best varieties to use for baking. Add them to this tart cherry bake for a warm treat.
Cooked, Raw, or Frozen? How to Get the Most out of Cherries
The limited growing season makes eating fresh, raw cherries difficult. Although fresh is best, frozen berries are a great alternative for the months when they are not available. A review by the Journal of Science Food and Agriculture found that frozen cherries stored for 6 months retained 88% of its anthocyanin’s and 100% of its total phenolic compounds. Keep in mind, cherries’ water-soluble nutrients vitamin B and C are vulnerable to heat and are greatly reduced when baked or cooked. Juicing fresh tart cherries has been shown to be particularly effective to provide the most concentrated form of antioxidants and nutrients. Overall, fresh cherries at their peak harvest will provide maximum nutrition, but freezing can be a wonderful opportunity to save for later use. Info from: http://ucce.ucdavis.edu/files/datastore/234-779.pdf
To bring out the flavor of cherry, use ¼ teaspoon of pure almond extract when eating them raw or adding to salads.