Portably delicious and sweet, cherries are one of the most healthful fruits you can have. Grab a handful, and enjoy them while you can before the summer is over!
BY: CARA HARBSTREET, MS, RD, LD
If you’re like me, I never get tired of the summer-sweet flavors of cherries. There was even one summer I had cherries for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert over the course of a few days. I found other creative ways to enjoy them as snacks, but my go-to was always to simply grab a handful or pack a bag with me wherever I went.
It was glorious (so long as I didn’t care about leaving traces of cherry juice on everything I touched). I remember my fingers and lips had a semi-permanent stain from the sheer number of cherries I ate that summer.
So when is cherry season?
Sweet cherry season can vary slightly depending on the particular variety you’re looking for, but the sweet Northwest-grown cherry season typically runs from late June until the end of August.
Eighty percent of the U.S. sweet cherries are grown in the Pacific Northwest. You’ll find them in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, and Montana, and since the topography changes from state to state, there are cherries ripening on trees throughout the growing season. Cherries can be harvested, packed, and delivered to your grocery store within 2 days – so this is some seriously fresh fruit we’re talking about!
There are multiple variety options – ranging from the brightly colored Rainier cherries that are yellow and pink and easily recognizable, to the sweet cherries deep red in color like Bing.
Beyond their beautiful and vibrant colors, cherries are also really good for you.
As a dietitian, I’m often asked if there’s any health benefit to eating more servings of fruit because of the concern about sugar. Rest assured, even if you were to take a page out of my book and enjoy multiple servings of cherries, they have some proven health benefits.
Anytime we’re talking about sugar in our diet, I like to share a reminder that the naturally occurring sugar (like what you find in fruit) is not much of a concern. These sugars are actually simple carbohydrates, which happen to be the preferred fuel source for our bodies.
Cherries are one of the lowest fruits on the glycemic index, meaning they provide great taste and nutrition with less impact on blood sugar levels than high glycemic index foods.
Choosing fresh, frozen, canned, or dried fruit can supply you with the energy to keep you fueled and full throughout the busy summer months. When it’s packaged up in such an easy-to-eat form, there’s no reason to avoid fruit!
Here are a few more reasons to give cherries so love.
1. They can help boost your fiber intake.
You constantly hear about the importance of fiber, and for good reason! That’s because most of us aren’t eating enough of it! The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommend 25-35 grams per day but even with fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grains in your daily rotation, it can be challenging to meet that amount. Sweet cherries are an easy way to get a few extra grams!
2. They may help combat inflammation.
We hear a lot about inflammation these days, and research shows that sweet cherries play a role in decreasing inflammation. Sweet cherries contain higher amounts of anthocyanins, compounds that shut down the enzymes that cause tissue inflammation in the exact same way as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen.
3. They might protect against cancer, too.
That’s because they contain several antioxidant and polyphenol compounds that may work to inhibit the growth of cancer cells, which has been demonstrated in lab experiments with in vitro cell culture and in mice.
So don’t be shy about digging into a big bag of sweet cherries this summer! The season doesn’t last long so you’ll want to stock up on this flavorful fruit while you have the chance.
Their smaller size makes them easy to adapt to any appetite – unlike larger fruit, you don’t have to worry about generating a lot of food waste if your eyes are bigger than your stomach.
Just portion out a few containers of washed sweet cherries to stack in your fridge, and grab one off the top before you head out for the day.
And don’t mind those red-stained fingertips, it will come off…eventually.
Adapted from the original post.
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Cara Harbstreet, MS, RD, LD is a Kansas City-based Registered Dietitian helping individuals jumpstart their journey to wellness. By breaking the cycle of dieting, Cara focuses on creating sustainable lifestyle changes for people who are motivated to reclaim their health. Connect with Cara over at Street Smart Nutrition.