Written by: Kellie Shallal MPH RD
A couple of weeks ago, we kicked off the summer cherry season with a round-up of 15 healthy cherry recipes to get you started!
Today, I’m back with another delicious Chelan Fresh sweet cherry recipe: Cherry Chia Greek Yogurt Bowl. I also want to share with you a little bit about the health benefits of cherries, especially when it comes to pain relief and post-workout recovery.
Cherries are probably the nutrition powerhouse you didn’t expect. Just 1 cup or about 21 sweet cherries provides 97 calories, 2 grams protein, 25 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fiber, as well as Vitamin C, potassium, copper, and manganese. They are also incredibly rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds that benefit optimal health in many ways.
One of the compounds that cherries have been heavily researched for containing is a compound known as anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are phytochemicals that give cherries it’s deep red hue, but when consumed, also provide us health benefits. As early as 2001, anthocyanins from cherries were identified for their potent anti-inflammatory properties, actually acting similar to NSAIDS by inhibiting inflammatory pathways in our bodies(1).
The potential for cherries to aid in post-workout exercise recovery is two-fold. First, cherries are a rich source of natural sugar. Research shows that pairing a protein with a carbohydrate post-workout is most useful for exercise recovery and muscle growth than a protein alone (2). Carbohydrates help to refuel your glycogen stores and promote muscle repair. (3) That’s why for this recipe, I wanted to focus on pairing a protein with your cherries for maximal benefit post-workout.
ARTHRITIS PAIN RELIEF
Another 2013 study found that clinical changes in biomarkers of inflammation commonly associated with arthritis were reduced with the daily consumption of sweet cherries. Their findings suggested that increased use of cherries in the diet could potentially prevent or reduce the severity of arthritis. (5)
To date, no clinical trials exist (that I could find) on the direct impact of consumption of cherries on symptoms of arthritis (just the biomarkers of inflammation related to pain.) However, there are studies on tart cherry juice and reduction in pain related to osteoarthritis. One study found that tart cherry juice significantly reduced pain associated with osteoarthritis and inflammation. (6)
Although the study looked at tart cherry juice, I have good news for cherry enthusiasts like you and me. First, you almost always get the most benefits from food in its whole form (aka whole cherries.) Second, the anti-inflammatory properties of whole sweet cherries are thought to be stronger than of cherry juice alone (1).
Given the evidence, I’d say they are worth adding a cup of sweet cherries at least a few times a week if you have a family history or personal history of arthritis.
GOUT PAIN RELIEF
Gout is a condition in which uric acid crystals build-up in certain areas of the body, causing pain. A study with 633 people with gout who ate fresh cherries over two days had 35% fewer gout attacks than those who did not have cherries. Furthermore, the study revealed that if cherry intake was combined with a common gout medication, allopurinol, gout attacks were 75% less likely than having no cherries or medication. (7)