Whether you like them sweet or tart, every year from late June to August, another annual crop of fresh cherries is harvested in Michigan. According to Michigangrown.org, Michigan is the largest grower in the United States of Montmorency tart cherries, also known as “America’s Superfruit.” In 2018, Michigan produced over 200 million pounds of tart cherries alone! What is it that makes these tasty little bites of heaven such a popular fruit? Well, it’s not just all about the flavor!
It turns out, tart cherries are very high in polyphenols, a group of compounds in the fruit that can reduce oxidative stress and damage on the body. Studies show that eating sweet and tart cherries may reduce the risk or severity of arthritis, cardiovascular disease, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases that are often associated with chronic inflammation in the body. Additionally, since cherries are high in Vitamin C, carotenoids and polyphenols, all powerful antioxidants, they have been studied for their ability to decrease muscle soreness and increase recovery from intensive strength and endurance workouts. In 8 out of 9 studies reviewed, there was a decrease in pain, soreness or muscle damage (one study showed no change). Cherries are also high in a compound called melatonin, which is involved in sleep regulation. So it turns out, this tasty little fruit may have lots of health benefits!
While cherries do offer the potential to reduce oxidative stress and relieve pain from inflammatory conditions, overall the benefits of regular consumption of fruits and vegetables is associated with lower levels of chronic disease. So make it a point to balance your meals as often as possible with some vegetables and use that sweet or tart cherry as dessert! Here’s to your health!