I am not a huge fan of the hot humid summers I have to live through in the south but I welcome summer because of fresh fruit - especially cherries! So I'm dedicating my first Functional Medicine blog post to cherries.
If you are unfamiliar with Functional Medicine, this blog will help you understand how it is different from regular main stream establishment medicine.
One thing that is different is that we focus on creating health instead of naming diseases. In order to have health and maintain it you need to understand what creates health and what causes disease. From the Functional Medicine viewpoint, disease is just a name given to a group of symptoms or findings and generally created for the purpose of insurance billing or pharmaceutical creation and not necessarily helpful in understanding why a person has their issues.
In Functional Medicine we search for the root cause of illness so that patients can regain a state of health and live healthier lives. Our goal is health creation and maintenance.
So what does this have to do with cherries? Only everything!
In order to keep your body healthy, you need to feed it food that contains nutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that your cells can use to boost your ability to create energy, improve your immune system function, balance your hormones and fight off cancer. Most fresh fruit, including cherries, can do all these things! Note that I said 'fresh' because dried fruit usually has added sugar and chemicals.
You want to try to eat food in season because the nutrient content is at its peak when the food is fresh and not transported around the world to get to you. Cherries are in season now which is why I am celebrating them. I will eat the heck out of them while they are available and then resort to frozen organic cherries until next summer.
I know people debate about whether to spend on organic food but studies have looked at pesticide levels in children on organic and non-organic diets and the difference is remarkable. European countries are banning glyphosate (the main chemical in RoundUp, a very popular and heavily used pesticide) and labeling it a carcinogen but the manufacturer has a strangle-hold on the FDA and Congress so don't hold your breath waiting for legislation, just do your homework before you buy. Look here for guidance on which foods have the highest and lowest pesticide levels.
It is also best to eat foods as close to their natural state as possible. The more a food is processed and treated with added chemicals, the less healthy information it provides to your cells. This means that if it comes in a bag or box it's not as healthy for you. Learn to read labels and look for hidden ingredients. The ingredients list on my frozen bag of organic cherries says 'Cherries'.
So what exactly do cherries do for you?
They provide vitamin A, C, boron and calcium, potassium, iron, protein and fiber. Vitamin A is a fat soluble retinoid that will benefit your eyes, skin and hair. Who doesn't want stronger eyes, smoother skin and shinier hair?
Cherries also contain powerful antioxidants (vitamin C included) which protect against cancer. Antioxidants also slow down the aging process in the body - something I am definitely all about!
The cherry's skin gets its color from anthocyanins which are phytochemicals that can help lower your LDL cholesterol, balance your blood sugar and prevent heart disease, as well as fight cancer.
Anthocyanins can also slow neurodegeneration and prevent memory loss and dementia. The anthocyanins also provide anti-inflammatory properties and have a role in helping to improve arthritis and gout.
Cherries help keep your bones strong with boron and calcium and can be helpful in preventing osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is the loss of bone structure due to an imbalance in bone maintenance. The imbalance is worsened with aging, usually due to declining hormones (estrogen, testosterone) and poor absorption of minerals needed to maintain bone structure, including boron and calcium.
Because cherries have protein and fiber, they have a lower glycemic index so have less of an impact on blood sugar and can aid in digestion. Lower glycemic index foods are beneficial for regulation of blood sugar and for preventing diabetes.
Improving digestion and bowel function helps us in many ways because our gut health impacts every other area of our health. A happy gut (digestive tract) equals a healthy body.
Last but definitely not least, cherries contain melatonin which is a neurohormone linked to sleep quality. It has also been studied for its anti-cancer properties. During sleep your brain repairs itself and your tissues grow and repair. Better sleep translates to better brain health and better overall function and who doesn't need that?
Now excuse me while I have a bowl of cherries and a nap!