A cherry is a small, soft, pulpy round fruit that is typically bright red in colour. At the centre of the cherry is the ‘stone’, which is a hard covering that, protects the cherry seed within it. There are over 100 varieties of edible cherries and they come in a wide range of colours from white and pink to bright red, purple and even black.
Cherries also vary in taste and flavour although they are generally clubbed into one of two groups – sweet or tart/sour.
Health Benefits of Cherries
- Tart Cherry Juice for Athletes: The British Journal of Sports Medicine recently published a study in which researchers studied the effectiveness of tart cherry juice in the treatment of muscle pain and damage. They concluded that drinking tart cherry juice regularly significantly reduces the risk of muscle inflammation and pain and this resulted in faster muscle strength recovery time.
- Tart Cherries for Seniors: The damage caused by free radicals within the cells of our bodies increases the risk of several age-related diseases such as atherosclerosis, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Antioxidants block the activity of these free radicals and thus reduce the damage caused by free radicals. Tart cherries contain antioxidants called anthocyanins, which have been proved to reduce oxidative stress in seniors. Results from a study published in the Journal of Nutrition showed that consuming tart cherry juice on a regular basis provided older adults with protection from heart disease and cognitive decline.
- Cherries to Prevent Gout Attacks: Gout is a medical condition where the individual experiences recurrent attacks of acute inflammatory arthritis in the joints. Elevated levels of uric acid in the blood cause uric acid crystals to form in the joints and tendons around the joints. Gout flares are so painful that the individual may be unable to use the joint at all until the pain has subsided. A study published in Arthritis & Rheumatism showed that patients with gout who consumed cherries for just 2 days had a 35% lower risk of experiencing a gout attack as compared to those who did not consume cherries. Even consuming just 10 cherries a day will go a long way in gout flares prevention.
- Cherries for Osteoarthritis Relief: According to a study published in the Arthritis & Rheumatism journal, Osteoarthritis patients who consumed 8-ounce two bottles of tart cherry juice on a daily basis noticed significant improvement in physical function as well as pain relief after a period of 45 days. However, once the patients stopped drinking the tart cherry juice, their pain returned. This indicates that consuming cherry juice for arthritis can only help to reduce the severity of the symptoms but it cannot cure the underlying disease.
- Cherry Juice for Insomnia: Melatonin is a hormone that is critical in regulating an individual’s sleep patterns. This is why it is often administered as a capsule or tablet to people suffering from insomnia and other sleeping disorders. Chronic lack of sleep has been linked to several health issues including weight gain, depression, hypertension and type 2 diabetes. Several studies have shown that consuming tart cherry juice concentrate before going to bed improves the quality of sleep as well as the total sleep duration for both men and women. Researchers believe that consuming tart cherry juice for sleep problems is effective because of the cherry’s high levels of melatonin. The highest melatonin levels can be found in Burlat sweet cherries, which has 22.4g/100g.
- Tart Cherry Powder to Reduce Belly Fat and Metabolic Syndrome: Although there have not been any studies on the effects of cherries on belly fat in humans, preliminary tests on rats have had positive results. In a crucial study, a batch of obese rats was divided into 2 groups – both groups were kept on a high fat diet but one group was also fed tart cherry powder. After 3 months, the rats that were given the tart cherry powder had a lower fat mass percentage and less abdominal fat than the rats that did not receive the cherry powder. The rats that were fed the cherry powder also had a reduced degree of metabolic syndrome, which in turn lowered their risk of heart disease and diabetes.
- Tart Cherries to Lower the Risk of Stroke: Prescription drugs called PPAR agonists are prescribed for people with heart problems. These medications work by activating certain receptors within your body’s tissues, which in turn regulates the genes that are involved in the metabolism of fat and glucose. This activation lowers an individual’s risk of heart disease, blood pressure and cholesterol, which reduces the risk of stroke. Tart cherries contain anthocyanins which is the pigment that gives cherries their deep red colour. These anthocyanins may activate the receptors in the same way as PPAR agonists as therefore they would provide similar benefits.
- Tart Cherry Juice to Prevent Premature Aging: Fruits are rich in antioxidants and cherries have the highest antioxidant level of all fruits. These antioxidants prevent the damage caused by free radicals within the body. Cherries contain 2 specific antioxidants called isoqueritrin and queritrin which are linked to slowing down the aging process. According to scientists, drinking just one glass of tart cherry juice a day is enough to slow down the aging process. This would also translate to better skin health and fewer wrinkles and age spots.
Cherry Pie Recipe
- 900 g fresh /frozen pitted sweet cherries
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 5 tablespoons corn starch or tapioca starch
- 1/4 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Pie dough, enough for a 2 crust pie
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar for sprinkling
- Place the cherries in a saucepan and cover it. Heat on a medium flame for 5-7 minutes and then take off the lid and continue cooking for another 7-10 minutes. The cherries should have lost plenty of moisture by this point, so take it off the heat and leave the saucepan covered to retain the heat.
- Mix the ¾ cup of sugar with the 5 tablespoons cornstarch or tapioca starch. Add this to the saucepan with cherries and mix it thoroughly before putting the saucepan back on the stove. Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent lumps from forming, then turn the flame low and continue heating for an additional 10 minutes or until the mixture thickens sufficiently. Add the vanilla extract and then take the saucepan off the stove and keep it covered so that the mixture cools quickly.
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
- Prepare the crust from the dough and divide it into two halves. Roll out each piece on a flour-dusted surface until each piece is large enough to cover an 8 inch pan. Once the dough for the bottom crust is in place, pour in the warm cherry mixture. Dot the top with 2 tablespoons of butter and place the top crust on. Crimp the pie crust to seal it and make a slit in the center of the crust so that the steam from inside can escape. Sprinkle the top with 1 tablespoon granulated sugar and bake for about an hour.
- Once the pie is baked, place it on a cooling rack.