Calling All Cherry Lovers!

I realize that this post is a bit out there, but hang with me. All of the grocery stores have started to put out cherries. First off, yay, because cherries are amazingly yummy and one of my favorite fruits! But two, yay, because of their amazing benefits that can help you with your training.

The main thing that cherries are known for is their anti-oxidant properties. This means a few things for you if you consume 1.5 cups of cherries (Dr. Axe):

  • Studies have shown that consuming cherries can help to reduce exercise-induced muscle soreness. I know this is something we can all get on board with after a long class of push-ups!
  • Not only are cherries low in calories, but research suggests that they help reduce the concentration of fats in your blood too.In a 2009 study published in the Journal of Medical Food, rats that received whole tart cherry powder for 90 days, mixed into a high-fat diet, didn’t gain as much weight or build up as much body fat as rats that didn’t receive cherries. Tart cherry intake was associated with reduced concentration of fats in the blood, percentage fat mass and abdominal fat weight. (2)The rats’ blood showed much lower levels of inflammation, which has been linked to diseases like heart disease and diabetes. By consuming tart cherry juice or a cherry supplement, you reduce inflammation and lipids in the blood, which lead to heart conditions and weight gain.
  • The antioxidants found in cherries are known to improve cardiovascular health. Research done at the University of Michigan suggests that tart cherries provide cardiovascular benefits and can reduce the risk of stroke. The study showed that tart cherries activate peroxisome proliferator activating receptors (PPARs) isoforms in many of the body’s tissues.
  • Cherries are one of the top anti-inflammatory foods. A study published in the Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition evaluated cherries’ ability to reduce muscle damage and pain during strenuous exercise.In the study, 54 healthy runners ran an average of 16 miles over a 24-hour period. Participants drank 355-milliliter bottles of tart cherry juice or a placebo cherry drink twice daily for seven days prior to the event and on the day of the race. (9)While both groups reported increased pain after the race, the cherry juice group reported a significantly smaller increase in pain compared to the placebo group. This is thought to be because of the anti-inflammatory properties of tart cherries. The post-run muscle pain was minimized because the cherries were able to reduce inflammation.
  • A cup of cherries fulfills about 9 percent of your recommended daily value of potassium. While you snack on this delicious potassium-rich food, you feed your body a required mineral for the function of several organs. Potassium is vital for the heart, kidneys, brain and muscular tissues.
  • Tart cherry juice contains high levels of phytochemicals, including melatonin, a molecule critical in regulating the sleep-wake cycle. In a study published in the European Journal of Nutrition, 20 volunteers consumed either a placebo or tart cherry juice concentrate for seven days. As a result of this treatment, total melatonin content was significantly elevated in the cherry juice group. (14)Melatonin is a hormone made by the pineal gland, a small gland in the brain. It helps control sleep and wake cycles. The cherry tart treatment also led to significant increases in time in bed, total sleep time and sleep efficiency. This data suggests that tart cherry juice or supplements can benefit sleeping patterns and help people with disrupted sleep or those who can’t sleep.

Cherries are widely available in grocery stores, especially when they are in season during the summer months. Off season, you can find frozen or dried cherries and cherry juice. One of the favorite varieties of cherries, called bing cherries, are only available in July. They are known to be the most delicious type of cherry because of their natural sweetness.

There are a ton of fun and healthy ways to use cherries. When they’re in season, the fresh fruit can be added to oatmeal, yogurt parfaits, salads, desserts, drinks and smoothies. They can also be eaten plain, of course. It’s easy to take out the pit of a cherry. Just use a knife, and cut the cherry in half — the pit will come right out.

The cherry season is short, so thankfully cherries freeze very well. You can keep cherries in the freezer for up to a year! Off season, you can also snack on dried cherries, which are great in grainless granola and oatmeal. Cherries can also be canned in water, apple juice, white grape juice or syrup.