Cherries are beautiful little red fruits that range in flavor from tart to fairly sweet. One of the first things that come to mind is the iconic American cherry pie. But you'll also find cherry preserves, dried cherries, maraschino cherries and chocolate covered cherries.
You may think of cherries as 'dessert' ingredients, but if you look underneath the sugar and chocolate, you'll find a healthful little dietary gem.
Cherries contain several nutrients and phytochemicals called polyphenols, and dark cherries are a good source of melatonin -- similar to the hormone that increases in your body as you get sleepy. In fact, nibbling on a small bowlful of cherries before bedtime just might help you sleep better.
Choosing and Storing Cherries
Fresh cherries should be red in color without any blemishes, cracks in the skin or evidence of mold. Keep the in the refrigerator until you're ready to use them. You'll might also be lucky enough to find frozen cherries at your local grocery store.
Maraschino cherries are sold in jars -- keep them in the fridge after you open the jar. Cherries canned in syrup are often used to make cherry pies.
Healthy Ways to Enjoy Cherries
Cherry pies and cherry cheesecakes are delicious of course, but they're also high in calories from all the fat and sugar. The easiest way to enjoy sweet cherries is to rinse them and eat them one by one.
Here's a few more of my favorites:
- If you're in the mood for dessert, frozen cherries can be thawed served with Greek yogurt or a little frozen yogurt.
- Dried cherries can be used just like raisins -- add them to muffin recipes, top your oatmeal or granola, and add them to a fresh garden salad with a little goat cheese.
- Add cherries to a smoothie with bananas, strawberries or other fruits.
Or try these recipes:
- Rainier Cherry Salad With Yogurt & Buttermilk Dressing
- Vyssino Glyko tou Koutaliou: Sour Cherry Spoon Sweet
- Fermented Pickled Cherries
- Cherry Fig Chicken for Oven or Crockpot
- Cornish Hens with Cherry Sauce (Crockpot)
- Wild Rice with Cherries and Hazelnuts
Cherries are a good source of vitamins, minerals and fiber, but they're not high in calories. The following nutrition information is for one serving of raw sweet cherries, which is about one cup of cherries, or 117 grams.
- Water: 96.23 grams
- Calories: 74
- Protein: 1.24 grams
- Carbohydrates: 18.73 grams
- Fiber: 2.5 grams
- Sugars: 15.00 grams
- Total Fat: 0.23 grams
- Saturated Fat: 0.044 grams
- Monounsaturated Fat: 0.055 grams
- Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.061 grams
- Cholesterol: 0 milligrams
- Calcium: 15 milligrams
- Iron: 0.42 milligrams
- Magnesium: 17 milligrams
- Phosphorus: 32 milligrams
- Potassium: 260 milligrams
- Sodium: 0 milligrams
- Zinc: 0.08 milligrams
- Vitamin C: 8.2 milligrams
- Thiamine: 0.032 milligrams
- Riboflavin: 0.039 milligrams
- Niacin: 0.180 milligrams
- Pantothenic Acid: 0.2333 milligrams
- Vitamin B6: 0.057 milligrams
- Vitamin B12: 0 micrograms
- Folate: 5 micrograms
- Vitamin A: 75 International Units
- Vitamin E: 0.08 milligrams
- Vitamin K: 2.5 micrograms
- Phytosterols: 14 milligrams
- beta Carotene: 44 micrograms
- beta Cryptoxanthin: 0 micrograms
- Lycopene: 0 micrograms
- Lutein and Zeaxanthin: 123 micrograms.
Agricultural Research Service United States Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 26. "Basic Report: 09070, Cherries, sweet, raw." Accessed July 5, 2014. http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2261.