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The health benefits of cherries and how to enjoy them

Roasted cherry, basil and mozzarella puffs. Picture: Supplied

Roasted cherry, basil and mozzarella puffs. Picture: Supplied

Published Nov 2, 2020


It’s cherry season! Cherries are delicious, easy to eat, versatile and packed with a multitude of nutrients and health benefits.

It’s been a challenging year, but now it’s time to slow down and reap the rewards of all the months of making it through this difficult winter. And the prize is the fruit of labour, the cherry.

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Sensual, sweet, chirpy and cheerful, you can’t help but smile when a cherry’s tucked in your cheek, releasing all its juices.

Below, Cherry Time which is a brand owned by Dutoit Agri, highlights some of the health benefits of sweet cherries and ways to enjoy them long beyond the summer season.

Cherries help fight diseases and support immune function

Although they’re small and sweet, cherries are packed with antioxidants, which fight free radicals in the body.

Cherries reduce inflammation

In contrast to strengthening the body against disease, cherries can also have a soothing side. Two of the kinds of antioxidants found in cherries, anthocyanins, and cyanidin, have been shown to possess anti-inflammatory effects. That means a bowl of fresh cherries could be useful in managing arthritis, gout and joint pain – not to mention cheering up anyone who’s sore!

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Cherries can help you sleep better

Giving Sleeping Beauty a run for her title, cherries can help with shut-eye because they contain melatonin, the hormone that helps control sleep-wake cycles.

Cherries are low GI

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The Glycaemic Index (GI) measures how much a food boosts blood-glucose levels - a score of 55 or less is considered to be low. With a score of only 22, sour cherries rank lower than almost all other fruit, including apples, bananas, grapes, oranges, peaches, pears and watermelon, making these natural bonbons ideal for diabetics and those who are watching their sugar intake.

In a recent interview, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Association of Dietetics in South Africa, Nathalie Mat, said that cherries can also improve sports performance. Mat said 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 who 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,” she said.

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Here are two recipes that you can try using cherries.

Cherry lane cocktail


40ml rye whiskey

40ml fresh cherry juice

20ml Cointreau orange liqueur

15ml lemon juice 2 dashes chocolate bitters


Place all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Add 1½ scoops of cubed ice and shake hard. Fine-strain over fresh ice into a tumbler glass, and garnish with a fresh Cherry Time cherry.

Recipe by Travis Kuhn.

Roasted cherry, basil and mozzarella puffs


1 cup pitted Cherry Time cherries

1 x 400g roll of ready made puff pastry

3 tbsp olive oil

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

salt and pepper, to taste

200g buffalo mozzarella, torn into chunks

1 cup torn basil leaves

To serve: Crème fraîche


Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Line a baking tray with baking paper and sprinkle with flour.

Roll out the puff pastry onto the prepared baking tray and prick the pastry with a fork in a few spaces.

In a bowl, mix the garlic with the olive oil.

Brush the pastry with some garlic oil, leaving some aside.

Toss the cherries in the remaining garlic oil and spread across the pastry, taking care to leave a border around the edges.

Season with salt and pepper.

Place the tart in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven, scatter the mozzarella across the top, and bake for a further 5 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes. Scatter over the fresh basil, cut, and serve immediately with a dollop of crème fraîche.

Recipe by Saadiyah Hendricks.

With cherries (and other fruit) in season, they are featured prominently in the Spring edition of the IOL Food Digital Mag. You can read the magazine here.

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