Growing up, I hated cherries. A go-getter in most other aspects of life, food that was the least bit challenging clearly brought out my lazy streak.
I gave no thought to the cherry’s delicious, juicy, sweet-tart flavor, mind you. My loathing was entirely placed directly on that yucky pit. Ugh! Such a pain to pop a cherry, and have to spit part of it back.
I was too much of a health novice at the time to realize that a cherry’s pit actually contains a bit of magic. Just like de-shelling a pistachio or savoring a frozen grape, removing the pit from a cherry forces you to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n your eating. When you’re taking your time, it feels like you’re eating more — and your body can start to recognize when it’s actually full, so you don’t overeat and add extra calories.
So, my advice? Snack on cherries, kids. At roughly 75 calories per cup, an itty-bitty handful of this summery fruit offers a myriad of benefits — from heart-healthy fiber to an immunity boost. Here are a few expert reasons to nosh on a cup.
To reduce inflammation
According to Lisa Moskovitz, RD, founder of New York Nutrition Group, cherries are immunity and disease-fighting superheroes. “Research shows that anthocyanins, which give cherries that vibrant red color, are a type of antioxidant that fights inflammation and damaging free radicals in the body,” she explains. In 2006, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition ranked cherries 14th on its list of foods with the highest antioxidant content per serving.
To fill up on fiber
Fiber keeps you full and protects your heart, so it’s a good thing cherries are packed with it. “Just one cup of pitted cherries contain three grams of heart-healthy fiber that also helps regulate digestion and prevent against colon cancer,” Moskovitz says. It’s the perfect snack to keep you satiated between meals, or a sweet way to top off dinner.
To fight metabolic syndrome
We’re all looking for ways to fight obesity and its myriad of other related conditions — and cherries can help. “In a 2009 study in the Journal of Medicinal Food, researchers found a link between tart cherries and the reduction of metabolic syndrome, which includes Type-2 Diabetes.” Although this work was conducted on rats, it’s promising research to keep an eye on.
To aid in muscle recovery
Moskovitz likes cherries for the potential role they can play in muscle recovery, too. According to a study in the Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition, consuming cherry juice before and during exercise significantly lowered post-exercise muscle soreness and reduced associated inflammation.” Drink up, and then workout.
Bottom line? Don’t discount this fruit in favor of more common fare like strawberries, bananas and blueberries. Whether you want an easy snack to help control weight, or a power-packed inflammation fighter for overall benefits, you can’t do much better than cherries.