Cherries are great for helping you live longer, sleep better, reduce muscular pain, and possibly even prevent cancer. Read on to learn about these and other benefits of cherries.

Which type of cherry?

You can opt for the sweet cherry, the tart one (prunus cerasus) or tart cherry juice. Michigan is the home of the tart cherry, while Washington and Oregon grow the sweeter ones. They all have similar qualities, although the tart cherries tend to contain more antioxidants.

1. Reduce muscular pain

If you are a jogger, you probably feel some muscular aches and stiffness after a long run.  The surprising results of research carried out by the Department of Orthopedics at the Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, showed that tart cherry juice can reduce muscular aches and pains after running.

The participants had to drink two bottles of tart cherry juice on a daily basis for a week before a marathon. The placebo group were given a different type of juice.

The runners who had taken the cherry juice reported less pain than the placebo group. Pain was measured using the VAS (Visual Analog Scale). A summary of the report can be read in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

2. Lower your blood pressure

If you are one of the many people who suffer from high blood pressure, cherries may be a healthy addition to your diet. They could also help you to reduce your intake of blood pressure meds. Cherries are rich in potassium and calcium, which are instrumental in helping you lower your sodium and alcohol levels. This is key to reducing blood pressure.

3. Sleep better and longer

Surprisingly, cherries can even help you get a better night’s sleep!  Researchers from the USA, UK and South Africa conducted trials with a group of 20 volunteers. They were given either a placebo or tart cherry juice for a week.  Feedback on their quality of sleep was analyzed as well as the levels of melatonin in their urine. Results clearly showed that the tart cherry juice group were able to sleep for longer (about 40 minutes more) and their sleep disturbances were considerably lessened.

4. Eat a healthy fruit snack

If you are worried about weight loss, try to avoid those sugary, chocolate snacks. A much healthier choice is to opt for a cup of cherries, which amount to only 100 calories. If you prefer a juice, that is fine too. You can even make your own if you are patient enough. Another alternative is to try mixing a cup of cherries with yogurt.

 5. Cancer prevention

Did you know that the most precious elements in the humble cherry are its antioxidants?  These are essential in fighting free radicals, which are key protagonists in cancer as they tend to damage cells.

Cherries contain the following antioxidants:

  • Cyanidin
  • Anthocyanin
  • Queritrin
  • Ellagic acid

A great tip is to go for the darker, riper cherries, especially the tart ones, as these contain a greater number of antioxidants.  According to the National Cancer Institute, the best dietary antioxidants are found in vegetables and fruit, especially berry fruits such as cherries and blueberries.

6. Pain relief

Research now shows that the humble cherry may be just as effective for pain relief as aspirin or ibuprofen! Eating 20 tart cherries to get pain relief is the surprising advice from Prof. Muralee Nair at the Michigan State University College of Agriculture & Natural Resources. It is just as effective as taking two painkillers.

7. Worried about Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is caused by the progressive destruction of neurons involved in brain processing. Research now shows that phenols and the anthocyanins contained in cherries may add a protective element in the prevention of this debilitating disease. Most fruits will help to strengthen the neuron connectors although the anthocyanins seem to be more efficient. As we have seen above, these are plentiful in cherries.

8. Relief from arthritis and gout

There are quite a few studies which have shown that the anthocyanine in cherries may help sufferers from arthritis due to its anti-inflammatory capacity. The case of gout is better documented in that the Boston University Medical Center in 2012 did a study which involved over 630 patients suffering from this painful condition.  They looked at the number of attacks, their frequency and also dietary considerations.

The fascinating result is that when 20 cherries (1 cup) were eaten before an attack, the results showed that the probability and severity were reduced by about 35%. The medical explanation is that cherries have the ability of reducing uric acid which is crucial in the treatment of gout. More studies need to be done but this is a very encouraging development.

9. Better eyesight

There are many precious vitamins and antioxidants in fruit and vegetables. As regards to beta-carotene (comes from the Latin word for carrot), this antioxidant is vital in that it converts to Vitamin A. This is essential for our eyesight. The good news is that cherries contain about 19 times the quantity found in blueberries. Now, why don’t you pass me that bowl of cherries?

Check out 10 Foods That Fight Pain

Featured photo credit: Bowl of Cherries via basykes via Flickr

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