Cherries: One of Nature's Tastiest Superfoods

May 17 is National Cherry Cobbler Day - a day we recognize one of the sweetest and tastiest American treasures. Many believe the early American Colonies are where this recipe began born out of a lack of suitable ingredients and proper cooking equipment, English settlers were unable to make their traditional suet puddings, so they improvised by covering a stewed filling with a layer of uncooked biscuits or dumplings.

For all of its decadent goodness, cherry cobbler actually offers a bounty of nutrients. Cherries are often regarded as a superfood because of the powerful health benefits that come from the fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and polyphenols they contain. They are nutrient-dense and loaded with vitamins and minerals. Here are 10 health benefits of cherries:

  1. Cherries have a low glycemic index (GI) score. Cherries initiate a low glycemic response, which means the carbs they contain are digested slowly, making them a useful addition for those with blood sugar issues including diabetes, as well as those following a low-GI diet.
  2. Eating cherries is a heart-healthy choice. Cherries are rich in heart-friendly nutrients including potassium, vitamin C and fiber; the high levels of protective plant compounds (such as anthocyanins) also promotes the health of the heart and cardiovascular system.
  3. Cherries may reduce blood pressure. Research has found that a combined cherry and berry juice may help manage blood pressure, thanks to high amounts of plant compounds called polyphenols, which have numerous health benefits.
  4. Cherries may help manage cholesterol. Consuming either sweet or tart cherries appears to help lower levels of cholesterol, most notably the very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) that contributes to plaque build-up in the arteries. These results were seen in both diabetic women and those classified as obese. The effects were reported after only a short period. In the case of the addition of Montmorency (A type of tart cherry) juice, effects were seen in just six days.
  5. Cherries may help manage blood sugar levels. Studies suggest that consuming cherries may decrease hemoglobin A1C (HBA1C), a marker that provides an indication of how well managed your blood sugar levels are. In addition to this, consuming the juice of Montmorency tart cherries appeared to lower fasting glucose in just one week.
  6. Cherries may help inflammatory conditions. Well known for their protective antioxidant properties, cherries contain plant compounds called anthocyanins and cyanidin which may have anti-inflammatory effects. Initial research suggests that these antioxidants may be beneficial in inflammatory conditions such as arthritis; however, more research is needed to replicate these results in human studies.
  7. Cherries may enhance recovery after exercise. There has been a fair amount of research into cherries, and specifically tart cherries and the role they play in exercise and exercise recovery. Research by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that drinking tart cherry juice (11 ounces) for seven days before and during a strenuous running event minimized post-run muscle pain. Another small study found that tart cherry juice appears to aid recovery and muscle function after strenuous exercise.
  8. Cherries may improve sleep. Tart cherries contain high concentrations of phytochemicals including melatonin, which is involved in the regulation of our sleep cycles. There has been mixed research as to whether cherries, and specifically cherry juice, is of benefit to those who have trouble sleeping, but the signs are encouraging. Research by the European Journal of Nutrition found that tart cherry juice is beneficial in improving both the quality and duration of sleep, and may be of benefit to those who have disturbed sleep, while another small study suggests that cherry juice may be beneficial to those with insomnia.
  9. Cherries may help those with gout. There has been some research into the effects of cherry juice on gout. One study demonstrated that consuming cherries or cherry juice appeared to lower the risk of flare-ups, while another study suggests that cherry juice needs to be consumed for at least four months to reduce acute attacks. Further research suggests that drinking cherry juice lowers blood uric acid levels, which can trigger an attack of gout in healthy individuals. It is important to say that, although encouraging, these results have not been replicated in large-scale studies and many of the studies to date have been observational only. More research is needed before we can say that cherry juice prevents or eases gout.
  10. Cherries may help prevent cancer. Cherries have a relatively high antioxidant activity and have demonstrated anti-carcinogenic effects both in vitro and in animal studies. The mechanism behind this involves the ability of the phytochemicals in cherries to reduce the oxidative stress and inflammation involved in the development of cancer. However, more studies are needed to substantiate these benefits in humans.

While the other ingredients in cherry cobbler (mainly sugar and butter) can interfere with some of the health benefits of cherries, it's nice to know that we are making a healthy choice when including cherries in our diet. Click here for a tasty, easy, and healthy cherry cobbler recipe, and enjoy National Cherry Cobbler Day!