I love summer for so many reasons, one of the biggest being the abundance of fresh fruit that comes into season! Juicy peaches, sweet mangos, watermelon, plums, figs, and CHERRIES!!
I have been eating my weight in Rainier cherries. They are so amazingly good!! Tasty, easy, and delicious...sometimes it's the simplest things that yield the greatest benefits.
"The nutritional benefits of cherries are pretty big, particularly when you consider their small size. Many of the health benefits of cherries are related to the natural chemical that gives them their color.
Anthocyanins give flowers, berries and other fruits the colors ranging from red to blue. Some of the best food sources of anthocyanins are red grapes, chokeberry, eggplant and, of course, cherries.
These pigments attract pollinators, act as a "sunscreen" and protect the plant from radicals formed by UV light, so they act as antioxidants. The antioxidant benefits are transferred to people when the fruits or vegetables are eaten.
The health benefits of cherries and other plant foods containing anthocyanins are many. Anthocyanins are used by the body to produce essential amino acids. As antioxidants, they protect the cells of the body from the damaging, aging and disease producing affects of oxygen, nitrogen and UV radiation.
Anthocyanins are also natural pain relievers and anti-inflammatories. They inhibit the production of COX-2 enzymes, as do over the counter and prescription pain relievers. Natural anti-inflammatories are believed to reduce the risk of many types of cancer. But, there are more nutritional benefits of cherries.
Cherries contain melatonin, another natural pain reliever and COX-2 inhibitor. Melatonin also helps to regulate sleep cycles and has been sold as a natural sleep aid. Reduced levels of melatonin have been associated with heart disease and increased cancer rates in night workers. The human body naturally produces melatonin, but primarily in darkness.
Constant artificial lighting present in most homes and work places reduces the amount of melatonin that the body produces. So, one of the health benefits of cherries to modern day man has to do with replacing some of the melatonin that has been lost to artificial light, unhealthy work schedules and unnatural sleep patterns. And, there are more nutritional benefits of cherries.
Cherries, like most fruits, contain vitamin C. The proven and suspected health benefits of cherries and other vitamin C rich foods are too numerous to be covered in this short article. One of the most exciting and newest discoveries has to do with cancer treatment. In both clinical trials and test tubes, vitamin C has been shown to kill cancer cells and inhibit their replication.
Cherries also contain fiber, which is important for a healthy digestive system. Diets high in fiber are believed to reduce the risk of colon and rectal cancer and most other diseases involving the digestive tract.
One of the most recent studies related to the nutritional benefits of cherries had to do with unhealthy cholesterol levels. A group of men with high LDL (bad) cholesterol levels were recruited to participate in this study.
The men were given whole food supplements containing cherries and other fruits. After 4 weeks, total and LDL cholesterol (known as "bad cholesterol") levels were significantly lowered, while HDL (good) cholesterol levels were increased. There were no changes in cholesterol levels in control groups, given a placebo.
In all, the health benefits of cherries and other fruits cover most of the systems of the human body. The healthy function of the digestive system, the immune system and the cardiovascular system are all linked to a healthy diet." (Source)
So eat up and take advantage of the amazing fruits of the season, your body will thank you!!
Photos: Linda Wagner
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