WHAT’S IN CHERRIES?
Cherries contain many phytochemicals and nutrients contributing to its color and antioxidant activity, most of which are well studied in the laboratory. Both sweet and tart cherries are a good source of dietary fiber and vitamin C, and also contain Potassium. Tart cherries are also an excellent source of vitamin A. The dark red color of cherries comes from their high content of a special class of flavonoids called Anthocyanins, which are powerful antioxidants. The Hydroxycinnamic acid and perillyl alcohol contents in cherries also add to its antioxidant power.
CHERRIES HEALTH BENEFITS
Cherries have antiviral and antibacterial properties, and because of the aforementioned phytochemicals and nutrients, they do have certain significant health benefits.
In laboratory studies, the anthocyanins in Cherries are seen to inhibit the growth of cancer cells and stimulate their self-destruction, without affecting the healthy cells. Lab studies have also shown that the dietary fiber in cherries reduces cells’ exposure to cancer-causing substances, and healthy gut bacteria use the dietary fiber to produce short-chain fatty acids that protect colon cells from cancer. Researchers have suggested that anthocyanins in cherries may reduce your risk of colon cancer, and that cherries may shut down the growth of cancer cells by depriving them of the proteins they need to grow. However, more research is required to validate the impact of cherry consumption in particular on cancer risk in humans. And as it may suggest, cherries may not be helpful in all types of cancers.
Relieving Pain and Inflammation
Strong evidence from several studies has revealed that the anthocyanin compounds in Cherries offer powerful relief against pain and inflammation, with their strong antioxidant effects that counter oxidative stress following an inflammatory insult.
Apart from these benefits, the powerful antioxidant properties of cherries provide neuroprotective and immune-modulating effects, and are thought to fight insomnia and slow down aging process.
Having said all that, it would be overstating to call Cherries as a miracle super food that can protect you against all diseases. There’s nothing like a miracle fruit that cures everything; for good health, we humans need a balanced diet that provides all vital nutrients.
CHOOSE HEALTHY CHERRIES
Considering the aforementioned health benefits, consuming cherries on a regular basis is a good idea. When purchasing fresh cherries, select firm, glossy and plump ones with stems attached. Note that cherries remain fresh and healthy at room temperature for a very short time, for longer periods, they must be refrigerated or frozen. When refrigerated in a plastic bag, cherries will stay fresh for 3–5 days, or even up to two weeks. Frozen cherries can be kept for up to a year, even the canned cherries available in the market have a shelf life of up to a year.
However, note that the Maraschino Cherries we generally use in our drinks and desserts are not a variety of cherry, but are named so because of their manufacturing process used to preserve them. The maraschino cherries are first soaked in a salt brine to remove its natural color and flavoring, and are then pitted and soaked in a sweetener for around a month. Finally, they are dipped in artificial colors that give the modern maraschino its brilliant red color. Apart from these, one should be wary of those processed and packaged brightly colored cherries sold in some bakeries – as they are chemically treated with harmful coloring agents. The food coloring Red #3, which is widely used in baking and lending artificial color to cherries, is known to induce thyroid tumors in rats. So whenever you are buying such cherries, make sure to check the safety of coloring agent used.