Why you should eat this cherrific fruit this summer
Cherries are the ideal summer fruit. After all, they are tantalisingly sweet, juicy and mouth-watering. Enjoy them fresh, frozen, dried, in pies and other desserts (here’s looking at you, black forest cake), or in jams and juice; they are so versatile and are highly nutritious.
Cherries are available from mid-October to late February. It’s fair to say that everyone loves cherries! A whopping 22,000 tonnes of cherries are produced across all Australian states each year. And the evidence suggests that cherries rightly deserve pride of place in fridges across the country. Here’s a top tip – store cherries unwashed and uncovered in the coldest part of the fridge.
So why are cherries one of Australia’s most popular summertime fruits? And what’s so special about them? Let’s explore this classic fruit’s nutritional composition and discuss cherries’ culinary versatility.
Nutrition and health
Did you know that cherries are packed full of nutrients? They are rich in vitamins and antioxidants, low in sugar and also contain a good hit of fibre. This makes them nutritional dynamos. In fact, one cup of cherries can provide as much as 10% of your daily fibre needs1. Further, cherries are also an excellent source of vitamin C, manganese, potassium and antioxidants.
These nutrients all boost our health in many ways.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps protect cells against damage, maintains healthy skin, blood vessels and gums, and assists with wound healing. It also plays a role in keeping our immune system strong and robust; maintaining good immunity should not just be a priority in the winter months.
Meanwhile, potassium is sodium’s number one rival. Potassium can help to counter the effects of sodium by maintaining normal blood pressure as well as playing a critical role in nerve and muscle contraction.
Fibre has been shown to reduce our risk of chronic diseases and certain cancers. A large body of research shows that people with a higher fibre intake have a reduced risk of premature death from a range of chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease, lung disease and even diabetes2. Fibre also helps to increase satiety, which is the feeling of fullness. Therefore, fibre can play a central role in helping to manage our weight. It’s worrying that despite these benefits, most Australians fall well short of their suggested dietary intake of fibre.
Cherries also have a low glycaemic index (22)3. This means that the carbohydrates in the foods we eat are slowly broken down into glucose (the body’s preferred fuel source) in the bloodstream. Therefore, cherries are the perfect choice for people with diabetes and those wanting a more sustained release of energy. I challenge you to find a better snack to combat 3:30’itis.
Cooking with cherries
Cherries are culinary superstars! They work well in both sweet and savoury recipes. Think cherry pies, ice creams, smoothies, salads, sauces, jams and chutneys, and cherry-glazed beef and duck. Adding cherries to a dish can elevate the nutritional content and create a unique flavour profile for your favourite recipe.
Pitting cherries can be arduous. However, investing in a good quality cherry pitter makes the task easier. Remove the stem, place the cherry inside the pitter, and pop out the pip. It’s a great kitchen activity that the kids can do too.
Do you have a surplus of cherries left over at the end of the season? There’s no need to let any go to waste! Pop the cherries in an airtight container and store them in the freezer so they’re ready to use all year round.
Fun facts about cherries
- The average cherry tree has 7,000 cherries.
- Turkey is the world’s largest cherry producer. Cherries get their name from Cerasus, a town in Turkey.
- There are more than 1,000 varieties of cherries.
- Cherries can help reduce gout symptoms by helping to decrease uric acid levels in the body.
- It’s no coincidence that cherries are heart-shaped. The antioxidants and other bioactive compounds in cherries may help reduce heart disease by reducing inflammation and protecting against cellular damage.
Eating fruit is one of the cornerstones of good health. Cherries tick all the right boxes. They’re low GI, deliver nutrients in spades, delight the taste buds and there are countless ways of including them in delicious recipes. Protect your inner health, boost heart health and maintain healthy glowing skin one juicy cherry at a time.
1) Food Standards Australia New Zealand. (2021). Retrieved October 10, 2022, from https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/science/monitoringnutrients/afcd/Pages/fooddetails.aspx?PFKID=F002522
2) Reynolds, A., Mann, J., Cummings, J., Winter, N., Mete, E. and Te Morenga, L., 2019. Carbohydrate quality and human health: a series of systematic reviews and meta-analyses. The Lancet, 393(10170), pp.434-445.
3) Alleaume, K. The Australian Cherry Report. 2010.