(BPT) - Have you ever said no to a cherry? Probably not. This summertime treat is simply delicious. And if you're looking for another reason to indulge, you'll be pleased to know that cherries are surprisingly good for you. Recent research indicates that this summer's superfruit offers a variety of health benefits, including the four outlined below.
Reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes
Heart disease and diabetes threaten the health of millions of Americans every year, and cherries can help. Research from Michigan State University found that 20 cherries provide 25 milligrams of anthocyanins, which reduce inflammation by shutting down the enzymes that cause tissue inflammation. This helps protect the arteries from the damage that leads to heart disease. Further research shows that those same anthocyanins also help lower blood sugar levels in animals, leading scientists to speculate that a similar blood sugar lowering effect could occur in humans.
In addition to being packed with anthocyanins, cherries also have a low glycemic index, making them a good choice for people with diabetes. Foods with a high glycemic index cause blood glucose to soar and then quickly crash. In contrast, foods with a low index, like cherries, release glucose slowly and evenly, helping you maintain a steady blood sugar level - as well as leaving you feeling full longer and potentially helping you maintain a healthy weight.
Combating arthritis and gout
More than 8.3 million Americans suffer from gout, a form of arthritis characterized by severe pain, redness and tenderness in the joints. This condition is commonly associated with elevated levels of uric acid in the blood. A study conducted by researchers at the University of California at Davis found that people who ate sweet cherries showed reduced levels of uric acid. In addition, research from the Boston University School of Medicine showed that people who ate cherries had a 35 to 75 percent lower chance of experiencing a gout attack.
Sleep support via melatonin
Everyone understands the value of a good night's sleep, but sometimes your body simply doesn't want to cooperate. When you find yourself wide awake and restless, your melatonin levels might be low. Melatonin is the chemical that controls your body's internal clock to regulate sleep and promote overall healthy sleep patterns. Studies show that cherries are a natural source of melatonin, and researchers who have studied the melatonin content of cherries recommend eating them an hour before bedtime to help stabilize your sleep cycle.
Fiber for weight loss
Many Americans struggle with weight issues, and poor diet is often identified as a major culprit. But although there is a great deal of discussion about what people shouldn't be eating, there isn't as much talk about what people should be eating, like fiber. Most Americans' diets are fiber-deficient, falling short of the 25-35 grams per day recommended by the USDA Dietary Guidelines. These guidelines recommend two cups of fruit daily, and cherries are an easy and delicious way to meet that target.
Enjoy a bowl of superfruit today
In addition to all these health benefits, cherries also possess cancer-fighting properties, according to a study by the USDA's Western Human Nutrition Research Center. So whether you're looking to boost your health or you enjoy the taste of this juicy treat - or both - there are plenty of reasons to reach for a bowl of cherries for your next snack or to add them to the menu at your next meal. Whatever your preference, be sure to get them quickly before cherry season is over.
To learn more about the health benefits of cherries, visit NWCherries.com.