Cherries are the typical sweet fruit of the spring season, they contain numerous substances that give important anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. Let’s discover all the properties and benefits of cherries.
Cherries are the small and very tasty fruit of the cherry tree, a majestic tree native to Europe and Asia, which in spring produces a large quantity of white or pink flowers, which adorn parks and large gardens. It is widely spread throughout our country and continent and its cultivation does not require special attention; cherry is also resistant to cold temperatures.
There are two different species of cherry: the first produces sweeter fruits, with numerous nutritional properties, which can take on different colors from white, to red, to black.
The second species produces more acidic fruits, used for the production of jams, juices or liqueurs. The fruits of the sour cherry are better known as black cherries, sour cherries and morello cherries.
The sweet cherry, which produces the juicy and sweet cherry, is called Prunus avium, a Latin name which can be translated as “bird cherry”, a tree belonging to the Rosaceae species. There are several genera of this cherry that produce slightly different fruits, known as duracine cherries (also called corns) or tender cherries.
Cherries ripen between May and June, the only months in which it is possible to find them widely on the market and are used for the production of sweets, compotes, ice creams, drinks, liqueurs or simply consumed alone. On the other hand you know: one cherry leads to another!
The most common varieties of cherries
Our country offers numerous varieties of cherries, which are distinguished by color, flavor and size. The most common types of cherries are:
- Railway cherry: it is a rather widespread variety of cherry and is distinguished by its important size, a dark color, firm pulp and a rather sweet taste;
- Durone di Vignola: it is one of the most popular and consumed varieties of cherries due to its very sweet flavor, dark color and large size;
- Cherry of Marostica: it is a product with a typical geographical indication. The fruit is characterized by its red color, the very firm pulp and the dimensions must have a minimum caliber of 23 mm;
- Mora di Vignola: it is a variety of native and rather ancient cherries from the Vignola area (MO). The Vignola blackberry is characterized by a very dark color, firm pulp and a very sweet flavor;
- Anella cherry: also called durone dell’Anella it is a hard red color with firm pulp and a fairly sweet flavor;
- Mora di Cazzano: also called durone di Verona, it is a variety of cherry typical of the Veneto region. It is distinguished by its dark color, crunchy pulp and sweet flavor.
These fruits, as well as tasty, have received more and more attention for their use in the medical field. In fact, they turn out to be fruits densely rich in minerals and antioxidants, as we will see better in the next paragraphs. Let’s now take a look at the nutritional values of cherries.
Cherries: calories and nutritional values
Cherries are fruits on average more caloric than other fruits typical of the spring-summer period, due to the high quantity of sugars and in particular of fructose and glucose. 100 grams of cherries in fact bring about 63 calories. In this sense, it should be emphasized that different cherries have different sugar content: higher for tenerine and duracine and lower for sour cherry fruits.
The low glycemic index makes them a fruit suitable for all those who are following particular diets. Like all fruits, however, it is necessary to consume them in moderation. They are rich in various minerals, in particular we find representative quantities of magnesium, potassium, copper and vitamin C, while the B vitamins are not particularly represented.
Nutritional values per 100g of cherries:
- Waterfall: 82.25 g
- kcal: 63
- Proteins: 1.06 g
- Fat: 0.2 g
- of which saturated: 0.038 g
- Carbohydrates: 16.01 g
- of which sugars: 12.82 g
- Fibers: 2.1 g
- Potassium: 222 mg
- Magnesium: 11 mg
- Iron: 0.36 mg
- Phosphorus: 21 mg
- C vitamin: 7 mg
- Glycemic index: 22
- Cholesterol: 0 g
Cherries: what they contain
As anticipated, 100 grams of cherries contain significant quantities of only some micronutrients: vitamin C (about 7% of the recommended daily dose), magnesium (just under 5% of the recommended dose), potassium (about 6%) and copper (just under 7%), a molecule with redox activity and essential for the formation of erythrocytes, as well as for the well-being of our bones.
In addition to vitamins and minerals, what most characterizes these fruits is the fact that they contain high quantities of some carotenoids, polyphenols and anthocyanins and in particular of lutein + zeaxanthin (85 ug), cyanidin (30.21 mgr), catechins and of quercetin (2.3 mgr). Let’s now see the properties of these antioxidants:
- Cyanidin: red-colored anthocyanin, responsible for the coloring of the fruits and with important anti-inflammatory properties;
- Catechins: a set of substances with antioxidant activity;
- Quercetin: this flavonoid present in cherries has been found to interact with various cellular enzymes involved in inflammation and cell proliferation. It is also a powerful antioxidant capable of eliminating free radicals and protecting cells;
- Lutein: belonging to the carotenoid group, this molecule has a strong antioxidant property. It is concentrated above all at the level of the eyes and the retina and is essential for the health of the visual apparatus;
- Zeaxanthin: it also belongs to the carotenoid family and performs an action very similar to that of lutein.
Cherries: health benefits
The most represented components give cherries properties that are of particular interest in the medical field, thanks above all to their anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant action, useful in various diseases such as cardiovascular, diabetes, cancer, arthritis and ‘aging.
As we will deepen shortly, in fact, these particular properties have made it possible to propose these fruits as a natural alternative to the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Recently, attention has also focused on the use of cherries in muscle problems and in the optimization of post-workout recovery.
Furthermore, cherries are mainly composed of water and therefore moisturizing, as well as diuretic. Finally, remember that they contain melatonin, a substance that promotes sleep. Now let’s see in detail the benefits of cherries.
✓ Muscle function
Excessive training, numerous repetitive exercises or power exercises can lead to damage to the muscle structure, with subsequent activation of the inflammatory cascade and muscle pain. A study conducted on a fairly small sample showed that supplementation with cherry juice was able to speed up post-workout recovery times.
Even recently, other studies have confirmed these conclusions following the evaluation of blood creatine kinase: an enzyme that our body normally produces following a stress such as training. In a study, the values of this enzyme were higher in the placebo group and therefore were not given cherry juice. However, it should be emphasized that the results did not reach statistical significance and therefore this topic will need to be further investigated.
✓ Anti-oxidant properties
Thanks to the high content of polyphenols and antioxidant molecules, the consumption of cherries is an aid in the fight against free radicals, thus helping to maintain the oxidative balance of the cells and therefore their state of health. However, the mechanism of action of cherry juice on oxidative stress is not yet known and will be the subject of further research.
✓ Anti-inflammatory properties
It has been shown that the use of cherries inhibits the activity of an enzyme activated specifically in the presence of inflammatory processes (COX2), thus exerting an action very similar to that of common anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen.
✓ Benefits for cardiovascular health
Cherries are rich in levulose, a low glycemic index sugar, which is therefore absorbed more gradually by the body. Thanks to their composition, moreover, it seems that they help maintain normal blood cholesterol levels.
Due to the richness of soluble fiber, they have a high satiety index in the face of a limited calorific value and can therefore be an excellent snack for those who need to lose a few pounds. Maintaining normal body weight is another very important factor for cardiovascular health.
✓ Cherries for liver health
Cherries contain malic acid, a substance capable of stimulating the activity of the liver. Thanks to their composition, cherries are purifying, draining and detoxifying.
✓ Cherries for the beauty of the skin
Cherries contain carotenoids and stimulate the production of collagen, two substances that, in different ways, favor the well-being and beauty of the skin. Their pulp, in fact, is also often used in the preparation of creams and face masks.
The activities described above make cherries (and their juice) useful in the treatment of several pathological conditions closely associated with inflammation, pain and oxidation. Cherries have been proposed, for example, as a functional food in the case of diseases characterized by chronic inflammation such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. Finally, they have been studied in case of hyperuricemia: although the results have not reached statistical significance, they seem to be encouraging.
How many cherries to eat per day
To guarantee all the benefits of these fruits, it is sufficient to eat one or two portions a day, when they are in season (in late spring / early summer). Recall that a portion of cherries corresponds to about 150 grams or, more practically, to 15/20 fruits. As for cherry juice, it is also possible to drink a glass a day (about 200-250ml), pure or diluted in water, to benefit from the precious nutrients present in these fruits.
Cherries: some usage tips
Cherries are very perishable fruits, which should be eaten fresh as much as possible, within 7-14 days of their harvest if kept at adequate temperatures. It is possible to recognize less fresh cherries because they are less hard to the touch, they can change both color and flavor and become shriveled or moldy.
Our advice is to feast on fresh and natural cherries only in the period of the year associated with their ripening (in the months of May, June and the first days of July). The best times to consume them are at breakfast, as a snack or as a snack, preferring to consume them away from main meals, especially if these are rich in carbohydrates.
In addition to being eaten plain as a snack, these fruits lend themselves well to the preparation of cakes and pies and to the preparation of mustard, excellent as an accompaniment to boiled meats or cheeses.
How to freeze cherries
A good way to keep cherries for a long time is to freeze them. In fact, cherries are fruits that can be frozen without losing their flavor and nutritional properties too much.
To freeze cherries correctly, it is first of all necessary to choose firm fruits at the right point of ripeness. Once you have selected the cherries, you need to wash them and let them dry well, then place them in a tray so that they are spaced apart and put them in the freezer. After a few hours, when they are completely frozen, they can be transferred to the special food bags. In this way, cherries can also be kept for 5 or 6 months.
The fruits can be frozen both with and without stones. In the latter case, before placing them on the tray and freezing them, they must be cut in half to remove the core.
When we decide to use frozen cherries, it is sufficient to take the portion that interests us out of the freezer and let it defrost. To speed up the defrosting process, we can rinse the fruit under running water.
If we have frozen cherries without stones, we can use them still cold to make delicious and refreshing smoothies, perhaps combined with strawberries and bananas. Or, again, we can use them as a garnish for homemade desserts.
Cherries: contraindications and potential negative effects
There are no particular contraindications to the consumption of cherries, however they could cause colic or worsen the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. In these cases, their consumption must be as limited as possible. Furthermore, it should be noted that cherries have laxative properties and, especially for the little ones, their consumption should be limited as they can cause diarrhea.