Sweet and Healthy Cherries

Cherries are such a delicious treat; it’s hard to believe they are so good for you. Their bright red color is the result of powerful antioxidants that offer a number of important health benefits, and they are also a great source of vitamins. Available in sweet and sour (or tart) varieties, cherries offer something for everyone. Whether you eat them raw or bake up a special treat, you can’t go wrong with cherries for nutrition and taste.

Although they have a short growing season, cherries freeze well, making them available year round for cooking and baking.

The Nutrition in Cherries

Anthocyanins, the pigment that makes cherries red, have recently been shown to reduce inflammation, lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes, and also fight free radicals to prevent cancer. Research into the health benefits of cherries continues to uncover new information.

Cherries are a good source of Vitamins C and K as well as dietary fiber, potassium and magnesium. They are low in fat and cholesterol, and although they contain sugars, the fiber makes up for the simple carbs with more complex carbs too.

Serving Up Cherries

The most popular method of eating cherries is fresh and uncooked. Use caution when serving them to your children, however, as they do contain pits that could present a choking hazard. Fresh sweet cherries while in season are so tasty, your kids will think you are serving up candy, and they will certainly never guess how healthy they are!

Dried cherries are a great addition to trail mix, hot cooked or cold cereal, and pancakes. They’re also a great snack all by themselves. You can also use dried cherries anywhere you might use raisins, from oatmeal cookies to scones. Dried cherries also work great as a sweet touch to dinner recipes like risotto or pasta. The sweet fresh taste of dried cherries is fabulous in tossed salads too.

Use cherries as a replacement for blueberries in your favorite recipes, like cherry muffins instead of blueberry ones. You can also use sour cherries wherever cranberries are called for. Try a delicious cherry sauce in the place of cranberry sauce with turkey or other poultry dishes, or even with pork.

Cherries make a great smoothie – mix them with yogurt all by themselves, or add other berries such as strawberries or blueberries for a more complex flavor and even more extra nutrients. Cherry juice is a great beverage as well, filled with healthy antioxidants and a quick serving of fruit.

There is no way to talk about cherries without a mention of cherry pie. While not a low-calorie choice, if you are going to have dessert, you might as well make it a choice filled with healthy and delicious fruit like cherries. Make your pie filling from scratch with fresh cherries rather than using a filling from a can, to preserve nutrients and keep control of the sugar that is added. Tart or sour cherries are the best choice for pies and other sweet baking applications, as they won’t taste overly sweet when sugar is added.

When using frozen cherries, be aware that the machines that pit the cherries sometimes miss a pit, so look them over just in case, to avoid a painful tooth or choking hazard.

With an incredible flavor and a long list of benefits for your health, there is no reason not to add cherries to your diet. Look to them as a fresh snack or a great way to make baked goods healthier.

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