Cherries are one of the most healthy and delicious fruits during the spring and summer months and a favorite in U.S. households: people consume more than 2 pounds of cherries each year.
Whether you add them to a lunch box, serve them as a snack or dish them up as an after-dinner treat, chances are, they’ll be a hit with your kids.
Not only do kids love to eat bite-sized foods, but they also get to be in control and feel empowered to choose how much they want to eat, which may encourage them to make healthy choices at other times of the day too.
It goes without saying however, that if you have little ones, be sure to pit the cherries to prevent choking. Since they have a tough texture, it may also be a good idea to puree them if you’re serving them to an infant.
Read on to discover 5 reasons why cherries are healthy for kids, plus some healthy and delicious recipes.
1. Rich in antioxidants
Cherries are high in polyphenols and vitamin C, which have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
Vitamin C in particular, is important for skin, bones and connective tissue, promotes healing, helps the body to absorb iron and helps in the formation of neurotransmitters, or the body’s chemical messengers.
2. Supports brain health
Cherries are also rich in anthocyanin, an antioxidant that provides their rich red pigment.
Anthocyanin is also known to support cognitive and motor function and improve visual and neurological health.
Studies in mice suggest consuming cherries also supports brain health, improves memory, and prevents Alzheimer’s disease.
3. High in fiber
Since most kids don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables, they’re falling short on fiber which is necessary to satiate hunger, keep blood sugar levels steady and prevent constipation.
Studies also show eating plenty of fiber lowers the risk for heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
In fact, a January 2019 review in The Lancet found compared to people who ate less fiber, those who ate more fiber had a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, colon cancer and a risk of dying early from any cause, by 15 to 30 percent.
With more than 3 grams of fiber in one cup, cherries will help kids get the fiber they need.
4. May prevent type-2 diabetes
Cherries have a low glycemic load so they don’t spike blood sugar and insulin levels, which may prevent type-2 diabetes, a condition that’s on the rise among kids.
Although the research is still unclear, some studies suggest drinking tart cherry juice or consuming cherries may lower levels of total cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure—all risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
In fact, a small June 2019 study published in the Journal of Functional Foods found consuming the juice of Montmorency cherries reduced insulin levels and blood pressure.
Although heart disease isn’t something to be concerned about when your child is young, what they eat today can set the stage for their diet—and their health—well into the future.
6. May make bedtime easier
If you have little ones, bedtime is one of the most dreaded times of the day to begin with.
But older children may get less sleep than they need because of electronics use, evening activities, homework, and a lack of sleep rules such as a sticking with a consistent bedtime, for example.
Instead of turning to a melatonin supplement, which experts say is a concern for kids, eating a handful of cherries may help.
In fact, a December 2012 study in the European Journal of Nutrition suggests consuming tart cherry juice can improve the duration and quality of sleep.
That’s because cherries are the only natural source of melatonin, Rania Batayneh, MPH, a nutritionist and best-selling author said in this article.
Melatonin, known as the sleep hormone, regulates the body’s sleep-wake cycles.
Healthy Cherry Recipes
Here are some of my favorite healthy cherry recipes to try.
Brown Butter Cherry Bars by Tutti Dolci
Fresh Cherry Sauce by The Brewer & The Baker
Cherry Almond Smoothie by Hungry Girl For Vida
Super Detox Salad by Well Plated
Cherry Chocolate Hazelnut Muffins by Hip Foodie Mom
Cherry Pomegranate Limeade Popsicles by Chef Savvy