A Super Fruit
Cherries are today's hottest "superfruit." A growing body of science reveals tart cherries, enjoyed as dried and frozen cherries and cherry juice, have among the highest levels of disease-fighting antioxidants compared to other fruits. They also contain other important nutrients such as beta carotene (19 times as much as blueberries or strawberries!) vitamins C and E, potassium, magnesium, iron, fiber and folate.
Results of a study by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists and their university colleagues suggest that some natural compounds in Bing cherries may reduce painful arthritic inflammation.
Cherries also are a rich source of melatonin, a powerful antioxidant known for regulating the body's natural sleep cycle and helping to promote restful sleep. Good news for people seeking a sensible, safe way to help sleep problems!
In a pilot study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, scientists from the University of Pennsylvania, University of Rochester and the V.A. Center of Canandaigua tested the effects of tart cherry juice on the sleep habits of 15 older adults. The research subjects drank 8 ounces of the beverage every morning and night for two weeks. After a two week "wash out" period of no juice, the study participants were switched to another juice drink containing no cherry juice.
The results? During the weeks the study participants drank the cherry juice, there were significant reductions in reported insomnia severity when compared to the weeks when they were consuming the non-cherry juice drink. What's more, drinking the tart cherry juice appeared to help people sleep through the night better, without waking up.
What's even more, emerging evidence links cherries to many important health benefits -- from helping to ease the pain of arthritis and gout to reducing risk factors for heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers, and possibly even the prevention of memory loss.
Cherries are one of the most popular fruit and are grown in 20 countries worldwide. The United States grows approximately 150,000 tons of cherries annually.
The best known varieties of cherries are the Montmorency and the Bing. Bing cherries should be a dark, purplish color and somewhat firm.
Cherries are available from May to August.
Europeans enjoy a chilled cherry soup as a summertime treat.
Cherry trees belong to the family Rosaceae. The sweet, or dessert, cherry is classified as Prunus avium.
Cherries are grown in many parts of the United States. Sweet cherries, more difficult to grow, are cultivated mainly in California, and sour cherries are common in the East.
Some species of cherries with inferior fruit are cultivated especially for their flowers. Most notable of these are the Oriental cherry and the Nanking cherry. Thousands of trees of these species, presented by Japan to the United States in 1912, have been planted in Washington, D.C., around the Potomac Basin, where the cherry blossoms attract considerable attention each year in April.
Cherries do not ripen after harvest. They are very perishable, so refrigerate them immediately after purchase. Cherries can be kept fresh in the refrigerator for up to two days
While there is no clear guideline on how many cherries it takes to reap the health benefits, experts suggest that 1 to 2 servings of cherries daily can help provide some of the health benefits identified in the research.
The twigs and foliage of cherry trees are poisonous, and, if eaten, cause death.
One serving of cherries equals:
- 1/2 cup dried cherries.
- 1 cup frozen.
- 1 cup juice.
- 1 ounce (or 2 tablespoons) juice concentrate.
Honorable Mention: Ayers Cherry Pectoral
Back in the mid to late 1800's (some say 1840's, while the East Carolina University dates this item as 1870 to 1890), someone already knew cherries were beneficial to health - and enjoyed many profits from a product called Ayer's Cherry Pectoral. The product was sold by Dr. J.C. Ayer & Co. Here's a copy of a clipping from one of their ads:
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