The Health Benefits of Cherries
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Cherries are a favourite in the summer months, and given that they have such a short shelf life, those who love the fruit eagerly countdown to its availability. It also helps that it is such a versatile fruit and tastes so good.
It’s truly the cherry on the cake. If someone told you that the glorious cherry could help prevent cancer and even keep hypertension in check, you might be inclined to be sceptical about these tall claims, given that most fruits have some health benefit or the other, and everyone knows that cancer is not so easily dealt with. On the other hand, the optimist in you will be keen to give the fruit a chance. After all, what’s not to love about this sweet and tart fruit that’s packed with goodness?
The effect of cherries on blood pressure
The cherries we eat are broadly divided into sweet and sour cherries. Sweet cherries are rich in potassium, which is a key ingredient that helps keep high blood pressure in check by working to balance the sodium levels in one’s body, keeping the overall equilibrium in place. It is good to remember that approximately a cup of cherries contains as much potassium as a banana. A study conducted by scientists at Northumbria University in 2016, which was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and another, which was published in the British Medical Journal, both say that cherries (especially tart Montmorency cherries) also contain phenolic acids, which have blood pressure reducing properties. It is believed that the juice of a tart cherry goes a long way in maintaining blood pressure, and does so for up to 3 hours after consumption. In fact, those who carried out the study have gone as far as to say that it works as well as a drug would, to reduce blood pressure.
Cherries against cancer
The other reason why cherries, albeit sweet ones, have been in focus is because of the role they supposedly play in preventing, and even killing, cancer. Cherries are said to contain anthocyanins and quercetin, and hence, are rich in antioxidants. According to the health journal www.nature.com, “Cancer is characterised by uncontrolled tumour cell proliferation resulting from aberrant activity of various cell cycle proteins. Therefore, cell cycle regulators are considered attractive targets in cancer therapy”. Keeping this in mind, the fact that sweet cherries can promote cell cycle arrest means that cherries can help kill cancer cells and so, are considered highly beneficial. An important thing to remember about antioxidants is that they work to lessen the problems caused by free radicals in our body. In fact, in this regard, sweet cherries are said to score over their tart counterparts, as they have thrice the amount of anthocyanins. Similarly, a pigment called cyaniding, which has plenty of antioxidants, helps in what is known as ‘cellular differentiation’, which reduces the likelihood of healthy cells being converted to cancerous ones. And finally, ellagic acid, which prevents the binding of carcinogens to DNA and strengthens connective tissue, along with helping kill cancer cells, is also found in cherries.
While cherries alone cannot carry the burden of killing cancer, the fact that there is adequate research to show that they play a useful role is good enough, and often works to supplement whatever other cancer treatment one is undergoing. Giving cherries the anti-cancer tag means they just got a whole lot sweeter!