Bottom Line: Eat cherries (and berries). Mostly because they are damn delicious. Oh, and they’re good for your heart.
I’m sure you’ve heard that eating lots of vegetables and fruits is good for your heart. A diet rich in vegetables and fruit is associated with several heart health benefits including reduced blood pressure, lower cholesterol, healthy weight management, and better blood sugar control.
Each veggie or fruit offers it’s own unique little package of heart healthy nutrients, so eating a variety is definitely important. Having said that, certain vegetables and fruits may be even more beneficial for your heart. Take cherries for example.
Cherries contain heart-friendly nutrients including vitamin C, potassium, folate and fibre. Cherries also have one of the highest levels of anti-inflammatory anthocyanins—the powerful antioxidants thought to be providing cardiovascular benefits.
As a middle age woman, I’m particularly interested in this study: an 18 year-long study following young and middle-aged women showed that a high intake of anthocyanins can stave off the risk of a heart attack by up to 32%. Hello!
What’s a high intake? Well, this particular study found a decreased risk for heart attacks with a combined intake of more than 3 servings a week of blueberries and strawberries. (The researchers didn’t look specifically at cherries but at anthocyanin intakes from various foods).
The heart health protection provided by anthocyanins may be in part due to reduced hypertension. A 14 year- long study involving over 110,000 participants found high anthocyanin intake to be associated with reduced risk for high blood pressure.
It’s important to note that both studies found that those with a higher anthocyanin intake exercised more and ate healthy. So, it’s big picture here friends – one particular food on it’s own is not going to make or break your health.
Having said that, while there is no one magic dietary bullet, I recommend a daily serving (1 cup) of berries or cherries for a healthy heart and brain – as part of an overall healthy diet.
Sadly, cherry season is coming to an end; but the good news is, you can find frozen cherries all year long!
5 Ways to Love Cherries
Chopped and topped onto whole grain peanut butter toast.
Added to a leafy green salad – especially one made with a peppery green like arugula.
Stirred into Greek yogurt, overnight oats or whole grain cereal.
Whirled together in a blender with a frozen banana to make cherry nice cream.
Splash pure tart cherry juice into some sparkling water with a big squeeze of juicy lime.
Slavin J and Lloyd B. Health benefits of fruits and vegetables. Adv Nutr 2012;3:506-516.
He FJ et al. Increased consumption of fruit and vegetables is related to a reduced risk of coronary heart disease: meta-analysis of cohort studies. J Hum Hypertens. 2007 Sep; 21(9):717-28.
Bhupathiraju SN et al. Quantity and variety in fruit and vegetable intake and risk of coronary heart disease. Am J Clin Nutr 2013;98:1514-23
Cassidy A et al. Habitual intake of flavonoid subclasses and incident of hypertension in adults. Am J Clin Nutr 2011;93:338-47.
Cassidy A et al. High anthocyanin intake is associated with a reduced risk of myocardial infarction in young and middle age women. Circulation 2013;127-188-196.
Canadian Nutrient File version 2015.