Need a good night’s sleep? Have a cherry!

Yes, cherry, not Sherry!

If I did a top 5 list of my favorite fruits they’d definitely be there. I love them because they’re sweet, without being overwhelming, and you can have them like a snack any time of the day. The best part is that they aren’t only delicious, but they also bring a lot of benefits to your health. 

When I was in college I remember getting home, feeling super tired and launching myself into the sofa to watch TV with a bowl of cherries. The moment my dog (Dixy) smelled the fresh juice of my cherries he ran and joined me. I ate one half of the cherry (the one with the pit) and he ate the other half until we finished the bowl. I loved those afternoons, and now, I always remember Dixy when I watch TV and eat cherries.

Now, I know why I enjoyed those cherries so much. They gave me the sweet push I needed to get up, do my homework, and finish the day. But that’s not the only thing they have. Their deep red color means that they are rich in polyphenols, the plant compounds with antioxidant properties. They’re also packed with fiber, vitamin C and potassium, among other nutrients that improve your health, like lowering inflammation and protecting your heart.  Plus, they are low in calories! 

Eating cherries can improve your sleep

What makes you fall asleep and rest every night is a hormone the body releases called melatonin. Cherries are one of the few foods that are a natural source of this chemical, which is why eating this red treat can improve your sleep. Melatonin influences sleep and mood. It’s that element that induces sleepiness. The body is very smart and it starts releasing it when the sun goes down. However, the use of artificial light, especially blue light, can confuse the body and mess with our sleep cycles. If you suffer from insomnia or are struggling with getting a good night’s sleep, cherries can be very helpful. 

There have been some studies that analyze the effects of eating cherries on sleep. These have concluded that the people who consume a cherry-based product have their sleep and nocturnal rest improved. One of the things the people in these studies consumed was tart cherry juice concentrate, and it made their melatonin levels rise, which made them enjoy more sleep and better sleep quality.

Healthy heart, strong muscles and other benefits

Cherries may be small, but they carry tons of nutrients. Among them, you can find B vitamins, manganese, copper, magnesium and vitamin K. Having this fruit in your diet can even be helpful for your joints, muscles and heart. Here are some of its benefits: 

  • Reduce oxidative stress – Polyphenols are a powerful source of antioxidants. You can find them in colorful fruits and vegetables, like cherries. These antioxidants are good for reducing bad cholesterol and fighting inflammation. 
  • Lessen muscle soreness – Have you ever felt that burn and pain after a workout? Cherries can help reduce that. 
  • Keep the heart healthy – Because they are rich in polyphenols and potassium, they can help lower blood pressure. In a sodium rich diet like today’s, having a good source of potassium is important to remove the excess and, thus, create balance in blood pressure levels. And you don’t need to eat that many, 100 grams is enough to get about 5% of the potassium you need in a day.  
  • Reduce Gout flare-ups – People who suffer from Gout can have more cherries in their diet because they reduce uric acid levels in the blood, which reduces pain in the joints. People suffering from kidney stones and arthritis can also benefit from this effect.        

How to pick them

I personally prefer fresh cherries instead of cherry juice or other cherry-based products. Eating whole foods guarantees that you’ll get the most of their nutrients and benefits. Summer time is the best time to get great cherries. Look for those that feel firm and plump. The texture should be smooth and the color bright and even glossy. These will be ripe and ready to eat. If they’re soft, mushy, shriveled or look dried up, then they’re no longer good.  

The best way to keep them fresh is in the refrigerator. However, I also like to use them for smoothies, so freezing them is a great option to make them last longer. (Here’s my recipe for a delicious red velvet smoothie)

Need ideas on how to eat them? To eat them fresh, add them to your yogurt or oatmeal, add them to smoothies with berries or other summertime fruits, like mangoes, or just have them fresh as a snack. You can also cook them and create a cherry sauce for a pork or poultry dish, turn them into jam, or use them for cakes, pies or cheesecake toppings. Or, why not, a Cherry Sherry Cobbler like this one!

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