Cherry Nutritional Benefits
Cherry Nutritional Benefits
Cherry nutritional benefits have received a great deal of attention over the last few years with many different sources claiming that this small fruit is a super food. But first let us go into the basics before delving into the cherry nutritional benefits. The cherry is a stone fruit of the genus prunus. It is small and red and comes in 2 major varieties; sweet cherry (prunus avium) and sour or tart cherry (prunus cerasus). Tart cherries are more commonly used in recipes while the sweet cherry is a popular snack.
The major reason cherry nutritional benefits have received growing interest is because the fruit has been found to contain a significant quantity of antioxidants. The antioxidant compounds that are most often credited with the many cherry health benefits are called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are polyphenolic flavonoids that are responsible for giving cherries their bright red color and are thought to be among the strongest of antioxidants.
As anthocyanins are pigment compounds, their highest concentration is found in the skin of the cherries. For this reason, maximum cherry nutritional benefits are derived if the fruit is eaten whole.
It is very easy to see why anthocyanins are credited with most of the cherry nutritional benefits. Anthocyanins are anti-inflammatory compounds. They block the production of COX-1 and COX-2 (cycloxygenase-1 and 2) enzymes much like the way anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, aspirin and other NSAIDs do. These enzymes are responsible for production of prostaglandins which cause inflammation.
Due to its anti-inflammatory capabilities, the cherry fruit is recommended as helping people with arthritis and gout, reducing the risk of heart disease (caused by high cholesterol levels and plaque buildup), reducing allergic reactions and reducing the risk of some types of cancers.
Anthocyanins are also used in the body to aid in the production of essential amino acids. Amino acids are used in a majority of bodily processes.
Cherries contain other polyphenolic flavonoid compounds as well such as beta carotene (which is converted into Vitamin A), zeaxanthin and lutein. They also contain the antioxidant melatonin which is beneficial in regulating circadian rhythms and fighting jet lag. Melatonin has been credited with slowing the aging process.
Cherry nutritional benefits are also attributable to the fact that cherries contain numerous other nutrients which include Vitamin C, Vitamin E, some amounts of Vitamins A, B6 and K, iron, magnesium, potassium and folic acid.
Even though the tart cherry is said to have more in the way of cherry nutritional benefits (tart cherries have more phytonutrients and higher concentrations of Vitamin C), the sweet cherry is still a useful addition to a healthy diet. Tart cherry varieties include Montmorency cherries and Balaton cherries while sweet cherry varieties include Rainier cherries and Bing cherries. Though the tart cherry has more cherries health benefits they are both a great addition to any diet.