Monthly Archives: March 2009

Superfoods – Cherries

Cherries in the Raw

Cherries in the Raw

Cherry season is just about over here in Perth, Western Australia.  I did manage to find some nice ones at the local fruit and vegetable shop just the other day.

I did an experiment at the start of cherry season here which was the beginning of summer.  One of my best friends was going to a market and offered to pick up a box of fresh cherries.  They came in a 5 kilogram box which equals 11 lb and 0.36 oz.  This box had some of the tastiest cherries I have ever had.  I thought I would get tired of them but it was actually the opposite.  I realised I would be missing all the health benefits on a regular basis if I didn’t include them almost daily.  They don’t have to be fresh all the time.  Cherries are also available dried, canned, jarred, juiced, and frozen.

Several cherry varieties are produced primarily in Michigan.  Michigan is actually my birthplace and where I grew up.  Some of the things I miss about Michigan are cherry picking, cherry festivals and cherry pie.  I can’t forget Cherries Jubilee – which was one of my favourite desserts.

While writing this post, I was also reflecting and 2 things really stood out:

Firstly, my grandmother’s book by Erma Bombeck, “If life is a bowl of cherries – what am I doing in the pits?”

Erma Bombeck was born in 1927 in Dayton, Ohio.  I didn’t realise she was born in the same city as my husband!  Even though Erma suffered from a hereditary kidney disease, she developed a comical approach to life. Erma wrote about being a mother, wife, journalist, and a woman. She published more than four thousand syndicated columns, wrote 15 best-selling books, and became one of the world’s most beloved humourists. Erma Bombeck passed away in 1996.  Her spirit, however, lives on.

Secondly, the movie, “Witches of Eastwick”.  If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m referring to.

“Have another cherry…..”  If you haven’t seen the movie, here’s a clip of the memorable scene: (Caution – sense of humour needed!)

In Australia, the cherries seem to be very popular at Christmas time because it is summer here in December.  I have no complaints, as they are one of my absolute favourites.

Cherries have several important health benefits – from helping to ease the pain of arthritis and gout, to reducing risk factors for heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers, particularly colon. Cherries also contain melatonin, which has been found to help regulate the body’s natural sleep patterns, aid with jet lag, prevent memory loss and delay the aging process.

Cherries are heart healthy. Studies have found that a cherry-enriched diet can help in loss of weight, body fat (especially the important “belly” fat), inflammation and cholesterol.  All of the above contribute to risk of heart disease.

While there’s no established guideline yet on how many cherries it takes to reap the benefits, experts suggest that 1-2 servings of cherries daily can help provide some of the health benefits identified in the research. Single serving size examples include:
• 1/2 cup dried
• 1 cup fresh or frozen
• 1 cup juice
• 1 ounce (or 2 Tbsp) juice concentrate

Tart cherries offer far more benefits than sweet cherries. Tart cherries are very rich sources of anthocyanins whereas sweet cherries have lower amounts.  In general, the darker the cherry color, the higher the anthocyanin content.  The skin of the cherries holds most of the essential antioxidants vital to their health benefits.

Studies show that tart cherries, enjoyed as either dried, frozen cherries or cherry juice, have among the highest levels of disease-fighting antioxidants, when compared to other fruits. They also contain other important nutrients such as beta carotene, Vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, iron, fibre and folate.

In one study, women who ate two servings of Bing cherries daily experienced decreased markers of inflammation – due to the synergistic effect of all the natural compounds found in cherries. It has also been demonstrated that the anthocyanins in tart cherries may help prevent muscle pain related to intensive exercise.  Cherry juice in the daily diet reported decreased symptoms of exercise-induced muscle damage.  There was also reports of lowered serum urate levels.  Other benefits extend to patients with autoimmune neurodegenerative and connective tissue diseases, particularly rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes.

Hmm…think it’s time for another cherry….

Superfoods – Almonds

Almonds in the Raw

As you can see by my past blog posts, I am passionate about the superfoods I write about.  Another one of my regular favourites is Almonds.  I carry a little almond tin with me in my handbag, and have them almost daily.  So whether I am in the office or out and about, they are a very nutritious snack and are packed with health benefits.

You know the expression, “You are what you eat” – well then, “I must be nuts!”  There are several other nuts with health benefits, but the ones I eat most are almonds.  Walnuts are a very close second in my book.

As a health professional, I feel confident in recommending a daily handful of almonds to my patients. A daily one ounce handful (about 20-24) of almonds can help to achieve an adequate intake of essential nutrients, reduce hunger, and is a heart-healthy habit.  A handful is better than reaching for things that are nutrient deficient.  Almonds are packed with the following health benefits and are very satisfying.

Almonds are heart smart and can help to lower cholesterol as part of a diet low in saturated fat. Almonds (as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol) may reduce the risk of heart disease.  Because people love to eat almonds, they are an ideal way for cholesterol-conscious patients to maintain healthy numbers. Of the 14 grams of fat found in one ounce of almonds, nine grams are monounsaturated (good fat). When choosing, organic raw almonds are best – not salted, sugared, smoked or chocolate covered!
Almonds are also very satisfying.  They may help to stave off hunger, so can be used as a healthy snack.  This makes almonds a good choice for weight loss or to maintain ideal weight. This is mainly due to the protein content (approximately 6 grams per ounce).  They also contain dietary fibre, potassium, copper, zinc, iron and vitamin E .  Almonds are the only good source of protein that is also an excellent source of vitamin E.

Almonds are also unique in that they provide various minerals that are essential for bone health, namely calcium, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus have been implicated in maintaining bone mineral density. Almonds are comparable to skim milk and cheddar cheese in the quantity of these bone-building minerals provided in one serving. Other protein sources like chicken, beef, peanut butter, and eggs don’t offer the same.  This is a great alternative for those that are lactose intolerant.

Another health benefit of almonds is as an antioxidant source.  They are one of the leading food sources of alpha-tocopherol vitamin E. Alpha-tocopherol is the kind of vitamin E the human body absorbs best.
A one-ounce serving of almonds contains a similar amount of total polyphenols as one cup of green tea and 1/2 cup of steamed broccoli.

To receive the health benefits of almonds in other ways, they can be:

  • Added to cooking – savoury dishes such as Almond Chicken.
  • Salads – sprinkling slivered almonds on top, in various recipes.
  • Sweets such as cakes, cookies, muffins (not ideal for weight loss or maintaining ideal weight) but for that special treat.
  • Don’t forget almond butter!  Great on a cracker or biscuit!