Life may not be a bowl of cherries, but a bowl of cherries may do wonderful things for your life. We’re here to tell you why this summer fruit is the cherry on top of your healthy diet. When it comes to these sweet little red gems, you’ll be shocked that something so delicious can be so good for you. Our health and wellness experts have done some research on the benefits of cherries and how they can help you reach your weight loss goals.
Here are five reasons to add cherries to your SmartCarb shopping list:
1. Cherries put out the fire.
Cherries can help you keep the pounds at bay during your weight loss journey by reducing a damaging process in your body called inflammation. Research shows that obesity can cause inflammation. It’s a chemical reaction triggered by your immune system that, in response to an injury, can help it heal. The problem is that when it becomes chronic, inflammation can cause significant damage to your arteries and organs. “Overeating increases the immune response. This increased immune response causes the body to generate excessive inflammation, which may lead to a number of chronic diseases,” says Science Daily.
Runaway inflammation might also contribute to weight gain. One study, published in the journal Diabetes, found that men who had high levels of certain inflammation-sensitive proteins in their blood were more likely to gain weight. “This relation could contribute to the relation between inflammation, the metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease,” says researchers.
Cherries contain high levels of compounds called anthocyanins, which may quell the damaging obesity-related inflammation that can lead to disease, says Technology.org. According to CarePointHealth.org, the Oregon Health and Science University says that these beautiful little berries, particularly tart cherries, have the highest level of anti-inflammatory compounds of any food. That gives them the potential to put out the fire that puts on the pounds during your weight loss journey!
2. They have a secret ingredient that creates calorie-burning fat.
There’s another beneficial compound in tart cherries that might surprise you: melatonin. You probably know it as the hormone your body produces to help put you to sleep. However, according to Science Daily, researchers from the University of Granada have found that it might also help you control your weight.
In their studies on obese diabetic rats, published in the Journal of Pineal Research, scientists found that melatonin can help control weight, even without curbing food intake. According to Science Daily, “melatonin consumption helps control weight gain because it stimulates the appearance of ‘beige fat’, a type of fat cell that burns calories instead of storing them. White adipose tissue stores calories leading to weight gain whereas ‘beige fat’ (also known as ‘good or thinning fat’) helps regulate body weight control, hence its metabolic benefits.”
3. Cherries might help you sleep.
According to Healthline, melatonin can also help you get a good night’s sleep, another factor in keeping unwanted pounds at bay. Scientists have discovered that people who don’t get enough sleep at night experience an increase in hunger and appetite, particularly for calorie-laden foods, says Mayo Clinic. One reason: Lack of sleep may affect the hormones that regulate hunger. Another: Fatigue makes you look for energy in all the wrong places (like the kitchen) and may discourage you from exercising too.
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4. Cherries may improve your heart health.
While you’re getting in some melatonin by sipping a glass of tart cherry juice, you may also be reducing your risk for heart disease. Researchers at the University of Michigan Health System found that rats who were provided a whole tart cherry powder on a high-fat diet didn’t gain as much weight or body fat as the rats who didn’t eat the cherry powder. According to Science Daily, “their blood showed much lower levels of molecules that indicate the kind of inflammation that has been linked to heart disease and diabetes. In addition, they had significantly lower blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides than the other rats.” The rats who ate cherries also experienced another benefit: less weight gain in their stomachs. Belly fat is said to increase the risk for heart disease.
5. Cherries may counteract a high-fat diet.
What about sweet cherries? Don’t pass them by. Research out of The University of Tasmania found that mice on a high-fat diet who were treated with inflammation-reducing compounds from sweet cherries gained 19 percent less weight than mice whose high-fat diet wasn’t supplemented with the compounds.
Obviously, sweet cherries are available in the produce section of your supermarket. Eat them out of hand, toss them in a green shake to mask the taste of kale or spinach or pit and freeze them for an icy snack (you can buy cherry pitters for under $20). You can get your daily dose of tart cherries by drinking juice (available in bottles and as concentrate) or popping a few dried tart cherries—also right there in your market. Make a refreshing summer drink by combining tart cherry juice with no-calorie seltzer and add a non-calorie sweetener to cut the tartness if needed.
Both sweet and tart cherries are considered a SmartCarb on the Nutrisystem plan, meaning they’re packed with nutrients and fiber but low to medium on the Glycemic Index. One cup of cherries is only 77 calories, has 2.5 grams of fiber and supplies 39 percent of your daily recommended amount of vitamin A, says the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Looking for some healthy recipes to enjoy this delicious fruit? Check out some of our favorite ideas below:
Fill your summer menu with fresh, fun and fruity sweets! Check out these mouthwatering and nutritious dessert recipes from our expert recipe developers at The Leaf. Enjoy these healthy treats throughout the summer months or any time of year for that matter!