Fresh cherries are one of summer’s most-anticipated treats. They’re juicy and delicious, fun to eat one-by-one or to use as an added burst of flavor in many recipes. While you may be able to buy cherries frozen or dried at any time of year, they’re widely available fresh only during summer months.
Cherries are SmartCarbs, which means they’re nutrient-rich, high in fiber and low to medium on the Glycemic Index. You can enjoy a one-cup serving of fresh cherries and still stay on track with your Nutrisystem weight loss plan. That cup of cherries has just 77 calories, 2.5 grams of fiber and about 40 percent of your recommended daily amount for vitamin A.
Cherries are known as a “superfood” because they have exceptional health benefits, such as:
Cherries get their red color from anthocyanin, the same antioxidant found in red wine. It’s linked to reduced inflammation and lower cholesterol.
Managing Blood Pressure
A cup of sweet cherries has about the same amount of potassium as a small banana. Potassium helps balance the fluid levels in our bodies, offsetting the impact sodium has on elevating blood pressure.
Tart cherries are one of the few foods with a natural supply of melatonin, the compound that helps regulate our sleep and awake cycles.
Easing Aches and Pains
Excessive uric acid in your blood causes swelling, inflammation and soreness. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) researchers have found that eating fresh sweet cherries lowered the body’s uric acid levels and also reduced C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation.
Reducing Belly Fat
Researchers at the University of Michigan studying weight loss found that rats consuming tart cherries along with a high-fat diet didn’t gain as much weight or build up as much belly fat as rats that didn’t have cherries.
All varieties of cherries offer the benefits listed above, so you can choose those that best match your tastes and needs.
Cherries come in distinct types, with a few variations for you to pick from:
Bing cherries are plump, deep red and almost bursting with crimson-colored juice. They’re the most widely available variety of sweet cherries. Dark Hudson and Lambert are two other common sweet varieties, both of which have very dark skin and firm flesh.
Also sweet and juicy, Rainiers have yellowish skin with a pink blush and pale flesh that is more tender than the red types. They’re also milder-tasting. Royal Ann is another popular light-colored variety. Both are available only for a very brief time in summer and in limited quantities throughout most of the U.S.
Also known as “pie” or “sour” cherries, these varieties are smaller than the sweet types and are brighter red. Tart cherries are most often used in pies and other cooked dishes, though many people do enjoy them fresh, too. Montmorency is the variety typically sold in stores. Morello is a tart cherry that’s slightly sweeter and darker than other varieties.
Get creative: Here are a few other healthy and delicious ways you can take advantage of the bounty of cherries this season:
Create a cool and refreshing snack by rinsing sweet cherries and removing the stems, allowing them to dry thoroughly and placing them in a freezer-safe container or bag. Pull a few out on a sweltering day and pop them in your mouth for a fast way to chill out. Frozen cherries also make a great substitute for ice cubes in any drink.
The extra-sweet flavor of cherries helps mask the taste of kale, spinach or other greens in smoothies, so you get all of the nutritional benefits in a very pleasurable drink—with no sugar added. Click here to discover some delicious green smoothie recipes you can do right at home >
Our favorite green smoothie recipe? Mix one cup of frozen cherries with one cup of fresh spinach, your Chocolate FreshStart Shake mix, and water (and ice if you like your smoothies super thick). Blend it all up and voila! A delicious Chocolate Cherry Smoothie that sneaks in a whole serving of veggies you won’t even taste. Running low on FreshStart Shakes? Click here to order more >
Skewered and Grilled
Many people have discovered that grilling brings out the flavor in cherries. After pitting them, slide them onto a grill-safe skewer along with chunks of peaches and plums and cook until they soften a bit. Serve with a dip of plain low-fat yogurt.
Sweet and Spicy
Blend pitted and sliced sweet cherries with minced onions, chopped jalapeno peppers, cilantro and a splash of vinegar to create a simple salsa that perks up the flavor or grilled chicken or fish. Click here to view a version of this recipe that uses mango—just swap in cherries! >
You can make a hearty lunch or side dish with a base of whole grains, such as brown rice or quinoa, mixed with pitted and sliced sweet cherries, diced celery, toasted pecans or almonds and herbs such as mint or basil. For a little extra protein and creaminess, add a small dollop of goat cheese.
Cool off with a simple “mocktail” that starts with your favorite (calorie-free) club soda or seltzer. Slice tart cherries in half and add them to the drink along with ice and a lime wedge.
Cherries make a naturally sweet base for a frozen treat. After pitting sweet cherries, puree them in a food process or blender. Add a couple splashes of cranberry or pomegranate juice and the juice from a fresh lime. After mixing well, pour into a popsicle mold or into a bathroom-size paper cup. Insert sticks and freeze until solid.