Wonderfully delicious, cherry fruit is packed with full of health-benefiting nutrients and unique antioxidants. Cherries are native to Eastern Europe and Asia Minor regions.
Botanically, the fruit is a “drupe” (stone fruit), belonging to the large Rosaceae family of small tree fruits in the genus, Prunus. Some of the common “drupe” family fruits are plums, peaches, apricots etc, etc. Although several species of cherries exist, two popular cultivars are wild or sweet cherry and sour or tart cherry. While sweet cherries belong to the species of Prunus avium, tart variety belongs to that of Prunus cerasus.
Cherries are drupe fruits with a central “stony-hard” seed surrounded by fleshy edible pulp. They come in small sizes, measuring about 2 cm in diameter. Externally they covered by bright “shiny” red or purple, thin peel.
The West Indian cherry, known as acerola (Malpighia emarginata), is native to West Indian islands and grown in Mexico, and Texas regions in North America. Acerola belongs to the tropical fruit-bearing shrubs in the family Malpighiaceae and contains 2-3 tiny seeds. Acerola composes exceptionally high levels of vitamin-C and vitamin-A than North American and European cherries.
Health benefits of cherry fruit
Cherry fruit nutrition featured by very low-calorific value and negligible fats. Nonetheless, cherries are a rich source of phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Both sweet, as well as tart cherries, are packed with numerous health benefiting compounds that are essential for wellness.
Cherries are pigment rich fruits. These pigments, in fact, are polyphenolic flavonoid compounds known as anthocyanin glycosides. Anthocyanins are red, purple or blue pigments found in many fruits and vegetables, especially concentrated in their skin, known to have powerful antioxidant properties.
Scientific studies have shown that anthocyanins in the cherries are found to act like anti-inflammatory drugs by blocking the actions of enzymes cyclooxygenase-1 and 2. Thus, consumption of cherries may offer potential health effects against chronic painful episodes such as gout arthritis, fibromyalgia (painful muscle condition) and sports injuries.
Research studies also suggest that antioxidant compounds in tart cherries can help the human body fight against cancers, aging and neurological diseases, and pre-diabetes condition.
Cherries compose of melatonin antioxidant. Melatonin can cross the blood-brain barrier easily and has soothing effects on the brain neurons, calming down nervous system irritability. It, thus, can help relieve neurosis, insomnia and headaches.
Further, they are also a minor source of minerals like zinc, iron, potassium, and manganese. Surprisingly good source of copper. Potassium is a beneficial electrolyte which is an important component of cell and body fluids that regulate heart rate and blood pressure.
They, especially tart cherries, are exceptionally rich in health promoting flavonoid poly phenolic antioxidants such as lutein, zeaxanthin, and ? -carotene. These compounds act as protective scavengers against harmful free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging, cancers and various disease processes.
Anti-inflammatory property of cherries has been found effective in reducing heart-disease risk factors through scavenging action against free radicals.