Sweet cherries are small, glossy, deep red, succulent fruits providing an array of vitamins and nutrients. A review published in CN Focus, written by Dr Emma Derbyshire has reviewed the evidence and found a number of studies suggesting that sweet cherry consumption could help to reduce inflammation, levels of oxidative stress and improve sleep quality. Additional cherry feeding studies are now needed to further explore what appears to be a promising area of research.

So, 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. Research suggests that sweet cherries may:

o Promote health by reducing levels of oxidative stress and inflammation.
o Provide the antioxidants beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin.
o Provide anthocyanins, which are flavonoids with antioxidant effects.
o Reduce several markers of inflammation, including C-reactive protein, endothelin-1, interleukin-18 and nitric oxide.
o Contain pectin polysaccharides, which have immune-enhancing effects in reducing inflammation.

Sweet cherries and 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. Research suggests that sweet cherries may:

o Improve your sleep quality by reducing the number of awakenings, reducing nocturnal activity and increasing actual sleep time.
o Act by providing melatonin, which could protect against oxidative processes that contribute to distorted sleeping patterns.
o Provide L-tryptophan, which is believed to induce sleepiness and in turn help us to doze off.

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. Research suggests that sweet cherries may:

o Improve mood, cognition, verbal fluency and short- and long-term memory.
o Reduce stress and anxiety.
o Reduce cortisol, your body’s main stress hormone.
o Boost levels of a urinary serotonin metabolite (5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid), resulting in reduced stress levels and mood improvement.

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