For me, the summer is not complete without cherries in the fridge for my family to eat. As a registered dietitian and a Produce for Better Health Fruit and Vegetable Ambassador in Acton, I am a huge fan of finding ways for everyone to increase their produce consumption in any way that they can. #haveaplant. Cherries may be small, but they are mighty, bringing the delight to each bite. But aside from taste, cherries confer several nutritional benefits to the body. They are a source of fiber, which most of us don’t get enough of, they are a source of carbohydrate, Vitamin C and phytonutrients ( plant nutrients) specifically anthocyanins which give cherries their special hue but are also so good for you. The phytonutrients in cherries s play a role in decreasing the risk of chronic inflammatory diseases such as:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Certain types of cancer
And cherry consumption can also help to decrease uric acid resulting in alleviating gout flare ups.
I am a sports dietitian who consults with high schoo, collegiate, professional and Olympic athletes as well as performance artists. I always recommend a food forward approach to help my athletes eat well, stay well and play well and am a big believer in produce in the glass, bowl or plate with #producetoperform We all know that being physically active is essential to staying healthy, but let’s face it-To train in pain sends fitness down the drain. Foods that play a role in preventing some of the oxidative damage that can result from exercise. This means you may have less post exercise soreness and muscle damage to help your body better repair from the activity you just did and better prepare for your next activity. Feeling less sore is of benefit to anyone from weekend warriors to professional athletes.
The phytonutrients or in this case (fight-o nutrients) in cherries are a great defense against exercised induced muscle soreness and loss of strength after strenuous exercise. The anthocyanins and quercetin play a role in decreasing the levels of the enzymes that can contribute to inflammation in a similar manner to some of the OTC pain medications!
Getting our ZZZs is critically important to health, cognitive function, energy levels, and recovery and repair. Cherries are one of the few foods that naturally contain melatonin, a hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycle and is produced by the pineal gland in the brain. Studies with cherries have shown an improvement in sleep quality and quantity with regular consumption.
So let’s root for this fruit. 1-2 handfuls a day may close the produce gap, reduce the risk of disease, decrease inflammation so you can train, improve sleep so you can recover, restore and renew for a healthy you!
Leslie Bonci , MPH,RDN,CSSD,LDN is the sports dietitian for the 2020 Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs and also a Produce for Better Health Fruit and Vegetable Ambassador in Action.