Nutritional Value Of Cherries

A Quick Guide to the Nutritional Value of Cherries

            It’s a wonderful thing when something delicious is also good for your health; consider, for example, the nutritional value of cherries.  Wonderful flavor, versatile to use, easy to obtain and a bounty of health benefits packed in one small sphere.

            Three basic types of cherries are available; sweet, sour and wild cherries.  Each of these types may have numerous sub-types, as there over 2,000 varieties of cherries in the world.  All types of the fruit are classified as drupes; a fleshy fruit with a hard, stony center.  The sweet cherry is a close cousin to the wild cherry that was originally found in the Caucasus Mountain region, between the Caspian and Black Seas.  The sour cherry may have been a hybrid fruit produced by a cross between the sweet cherry and the ground cherry.

            Most varieties of cherries remained in Europe until the 17th century, when colonists arrived in the New England region of the United States.  Wild cherries, or chokecherries, were already present in North America; Native Americans were already aware of the nutritional value of cherries and regarded them as a valuable food and medicine source. When French settlers arrived in the US, they descended upon the Midwest region of the country, in particular Michigan, carrying with them pits from their beloved cherry.   It wasn’t long before cherry trees were a common sight in the Great Lakes region, and one city in particular, Traverse City in Michigan, is now responsible for about 40% of the US production of sour cherries.  Around this same time, sweet cherries were being cultivated in Oregon, where they continue to flourish with great success.

            Native Americans recognized early on the healthy benefits of the cherry. Easing sore throats and coughs was a property that the fruit was primarily used for in those days by a variety of tribes.  Cherokees treated laryngitis with the bark of sour cherry trees; the Ojibwa tribe treated stomach discomfort with crushed roots of the tree; the Potawatomi relieved internal pain with a cherry bark infusion and the MicMac tribes drank a juice derived from the black cherry as a tonic.

            Today more knowledge about the nutritional value of cherries is available, thanks to research.  Tart or sour cherries hold a high quantity of antioxidants, known to be helpful in fighting cancer and heart disease.  The most common type, Montmorency, is considered to be a pain reliever for gout, arthritis and pain in general.  The fruit is rich in vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, Vitamin A and Vitamin C. Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids are two components needed in the human body, providing an anti-inflammatory effect, and cherries possess both of these essential fats.

            Consuming cherries is a benefit for anyone.  Women will improve the collagen quality of their skin when eating the fruit or drinking its juice, since the pigment contained in the plant works together with Vitamin C to strengthen collagen.  Because collagen is contained within connective tissues, athletes who put strain on their joints can also see the benefits of cherries in their diet.

            Many great recipes provide perfect ways to eat cherries, or they can be eaten fresh.  Low in calories and fat, cherries are great for use in soups, sauces and desserts.  Sour cherries are almost never seen on a grocer’s shelf, but can be purchased in canned or frozen form.  Sweet varieties, such as Bing and Rainier, are the commonly seen fresh varieties in the produce market.

            Whether the cherry is sweet or sour, the healthy benefit of the fruit will add nutrition to a diet and be a valuable boost no matter how it is eaten.