Last week I saw this season’s first batch of ripe cherries at my local farmer’s market. In northern California, the advent of deep red cherries in the markets is usually the first sign of all the great summer fruits that will soon be coming our way. I think this is a good opportunity to appreciate both the blessings of seasonal changes as well as the opportunities they provide for maintaining great health. Longer days with more sunshine can mean more active things to do like walking or hiking and more time to catch up with friends at outdoor barbecues.
There are great health benefits to be had by taking advantage of cherry season. The darkly pigmented cherries, in particular, carry large quantities of powerful antioxidants known as anthocyanins. These anthocyanins help protects us from cancer, dementia, heart disease and chronic pain by inhibiting inflammation at a cellular level. Cherries are also high in melatonin, which in addition to regulating sleep may also protect the body from cancer. Johns Hopkins is even studying the ability of cherries to alleviate cancer pain, and one animal study found them to be just as effective as the anti-inflammatory medication, indomethacin.
Eating twenty cherries provides approximately 25 milligrams of anthocyanins which is considered enough to shut down the enzymes causing inflammation in the body’s tissues. The beauty of it all is that cherries simply taste great.
Long before we started doing medical research on cherries, the Native American Indians appreciated their medicinal values. Some used them to relieve painful sore throats while others used the bark to treat laryngitis or the roots to alleviate stomach pain. Native Americans saw cherries as a general health tonic, as well. It’s no wonder cough drops often come in cherry flavor.
Next weekend, do your health a favor and take a nice walk to your local famer’s market or grocery store and load up on fresh cherries. The season will be over before you know it.