Summer is here, and that means it is the season for cherries.
Cherries are one of the trendiest fruits of the summer and provide many health benefits.
We spoke to registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Association of Dietetics in South Africa, Nathalie Mat, about the health benefits of cherries, and below is what she said.
Improves circulatory health
Multiple studies have shown that eating fresh cherries can help to improve the short term health of arteries and veins by reducing blood pressure and reducing free radicals in the blood. Free radicals damage our arteries and veins in the same way rust damages metal.
Eating cherries while they are in season is a delicious way to reduce the free radicals in your blood. The high levels of potassium in cherries can also help manage blood pressure.
Possible sleep aid
Tart berry juice has been found to contain phytochemicals including melatonin. The production of melatonin in the human body peaks around midnight and is considered an important aid to sleep.
While some research shows that tart cherry juice may improve sleep for those with insomnia, this has not been replicated with fresh fruit. As a dietitian, Mat always advocate fresh fruit over fruit juices.
The best kind of sweetness
Cherries, like all fruit, are a great source of carbohydrates. The glycemic index of cherries (how quickly they are absorbed) is low meaning that they will not spike your blood sugar if eaten in a moderate portion, making them a great way to satisfy a sweet craving.
We know that people with diabetes have to manage their blood sugar levels. It may surprise you that this sweet fruit has been shown in a study to improve blood sugar control, lower VLDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides in women with diabetes.
Cherries contain high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds and these are believed to play a role in improving health for everyone, including those with diabetes.
Improved sports performance
In a study of half marathon runners, supplementation with tart cherry powder was found to improve running performance. Supplemented runners were able to run faster than those that were not supplemented.
Muscle biopsy showed less muscle damage in the supplemented group and blood tests showed that the supplement takers had less free radicals in their blood as well as reduced markers of immune and inflammatory stress. In the case of running, fresh cherries may be difficult to consume and so in this instance, fruit juice or powder may be easier to use.