First Posted: 1/27/2013
Written by Aaron Mulusky, Dietetic Intern, Marywood University
With President's Day just around the corner, the iconic story of George Washington chopping down a cherry tree comes to mind. But why would he just chop down a tree? There had to be a reason, maybe he knew all of its health benefits of cherries and wanted to harness them for himself. Cherries are one of the many Super Foods that does it all. They contain antioxidants and phytochemicals which help in regulating blood glucose, have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and anti-cardiovascular effects, along with many other benefits.
But what makes the cherry such a Super Food? The answer is in the chemical makeup of the cherry. Cyanidin, a phytochemical, is present in most red colored berries such as bilberries, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, and raspberries, but also in other fruits including apples, pears, peaches and plums. The highest concentrations of cyanidin are found in the skin, so remember to wash your fruits and vegetables well to ensure that you are getting all of the nutrients and health benefits from not only the flesh of the fruit but also the skin.
The anti-inflammatory effect helps with decreasing gout attacks by decreasing the urate in blood plasma. Urate is the precursor to uric acid crystals which causes the distress and pain in joints in those who suffer from gout. The cherries are packed with loads of antioxidants including anthocyanins, melatonin, and at least 15 others. Research suggests anthocyanins works similar to common pain medications used by athletes to reduce post-exercise muscle soreness. Melatonin may help the body's natural sleep pattern.
Now that you know more about this Super Food, you are probably asking your-self where can I obtain them? Because the peak season for cherries is in the summer months, finding fresh cherries can be challenging and pricey if you do. But do not fear, for the wonderful thing about cherries is that there are many alternative forms to purchase at a less costly price. They range from dried to canned and even to frozen. For the most part processed cherries have the nutritional values as their fresh counter parts. One thing to look out for is how the cherries are packaged; sugary syrup adds unnecessary carbohydrates and calories. While on the topic of why cherries are good for you, you may be thinking to yourself how can I make cherries apart of my day? Listed below is a great recipe for a delicious breakfast parfait. You can make anytime because it is made with dried cherries instead of fresh. They also make a great snack alternative to candy!
1 (8 oz.) carton low fat vanilla yogurt
1/3 cup dried tart cherries
1 ripe banana, sliced
2/3 cup low fat granola cereal
Directions: Combine yogurt and cherries; mix well. Layer 1/2 of the yogurt mixture, 1/2 of the banana slices and 1/2 of the granola into 2 parfait glasses. Repeat layering once with remaining yogurt mixture, banana slices and granola. Makes 2 servings.
Tip: The parfaits may be served immediately or chilled up to 2 hours before serving and it's a great recipe to make with children.
Nutrition Information per serving: 349 calories, 3 g total fat, 1 g sat. fat, 0 g trans fat, 72 g carbohydrate, 6 mg cholesterol, 10 g protein, 5 g fiber, 155 mg sodium. Daily Values: 25% vitamin A, 15% vitamin C, 20% calcium, 10% iron
Mary R. Ehret, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., is with Penn State Cooperative Extension, Luzerne County, 16 Luzerne Ave., West Pittston, Pa., 18643. (570) 825-1701/602-0600. Fax (570) 825-1709. email@example.com.