What are sweet cherries and why include them in your diet?
Sweet cherries are small, glossy, deep red, succulent fruits rich in vitamins and nutrients. A review published in CN Focus, written by Dr Emma Derbyshire, reveals that eating sweet cherries may help to reduce inflammation, levels of oxidative stress and improve sleep quality.
Where can I find sweet cherries?
Sweet cherries can be bought fresh, whilst in season, dried or as fruit juice from most supermarkets and greengrocers. Of course, you may have a cherry tree growing in your garden, where you can simply pick your own straight from the tree.
How best to eat sweet cherries?
Sweet cherries are best when eaten fresh, and as such there is currently an increasing demand for fresh sweet cherries by consumers. To qualify as one of your 5 A DAY you would need to eat about 14 fresh cherries, or 80g. This one portion of sweet cherries provides useful amounts of fibre, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, calcium and vitamin C. As an alternative to fresh sweet cherries, they are also available as a juice or dried.
Sweet cherries, inflammation and oxidative stress
Inflammation is the bodies defence mechanism to injury or infection, where the body attempts to heal itself. However, chronic inflammation can lead to oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body. An antioxidant protects the body from free radicals. Overproduction of free radicals can lead to many chronic diseases such as asthma, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and stroke.
- Promote health by reducing levels of oxidative stress and inflammation.
- Provide the antioxidants betacarotene, lutein and zeaxanthin.
- Provides anthocyanins, which are flavonoids with antioxidant effects.
- Reduce several markers of inflammation, including C-reactive protein, endothelin-1, interleukin-18 and nitric oxide.
- Contain pectin polysaccharides, which have immune-enhancing effects in reducing inflammation.
Sweet cherries & sleep
It is known that good quality sleep is required to help the body recuperate and stay healthy. In fact, sleeping for seven hours or more a night is required to maintain a healthy mind and body. Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate the body’s internal clock. Melatonin levels rise in the evening, remaining high throughout the night, and then reduce in the morning. The main function of melatonin found in cherry fruits is thought to be as an antioxidant to protect the cherry from oxidative stress.
• Improve your sleep quality by reducing the number of awakenings, reducing nocturnal activity and increasing actual sleep time.
• Contain a high melatonin content, which could protect against oxidative processes that contribute to distorted sleeping patterns.
• Contain L-tryptophan, which is believed to induce sleepiness and in turn helping us to doze off.
• Eating cherries one hour prior to going to bed can aid in a good night’s sleep.
Sweet cherries, anxiety and stress
Anxiety is a feeling of fear, worry or unease. Stress is our body’s response to pressures from a situation or life event, in particular an event that makes you feel frustrated or nervous.
- Improve your mood, cognition, verbal fluency and short- and long-term memory.
- Reduce stress and anxiety.
- Reduce cortisol, your body’s main stress hormone.
- Boost levels of a urinary serotonin metabolite (5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid), resulting in reduced stress levels and mood improvement.
- The antioxidant effects of anthocyanins in cherries could help to improve brain health in older adults with mild-to-moderate dementia.
Derbyshire EJ (2018) Sweet cherries: A review of their health properties. Complete Nutrition Vol.10 No.2: 62-64.