(BPT) - Summer is peak vacation season. According to a recent AAA Travel survey, nearly 100 million Americans will take a vacation in 2019, with 68% of those vacations occurring in the summer. While vacations are fun, traveling can be hectic, making it that much more important to have healthy on-the-go snacks to keep you energized throughout your trip.
Sweet cherries are an ideal grab-and-go summer snack, with high concentrations of nutrients and bioactive components like fiber, polyphenols, carotenoids, vitamin C and potassium. Long praised for their many health benefits, they can help tackle several chronic health issues, according to a review of nearly 30 published studies. Read on to learn how this snack can help you manage five common health concerns.
1. Oxidative stress
Oxidative stress occurs when free radicals and antioxidants are out of balance in your body. Under normal conditions, free radicals help the body by fighting off pathogens that can lead to infection or disease. But when antioxidants are far outnumbered, free radicals can go rogue and attack the body’s fatty tissue, protein or even DNA. Once compromised, the body becomes more susceptible to various diseases over time, such as heart disease, diabetes and hypertension, to name a few.
Sweet cherries are rich in polyphenols and vitamin C, which have powerful antioxidant properties. Studies have shown that eating sweet cherries can increase antioxidant capacity and reduce oxidative stress, bringing the body back into a healthy balance.
If you’re among the 54 million Americans who suffer from arthritis or another rheumatic disease, sweet cherries may be able to provide some relief. Research shows that their anti-inflammatory properties can have the same effect as ibuprofen.
Gout is a form of arthritis, and sufferers tend to experience severe pain, redness and tenderness in their joints. The condition is associated with elevated levels of uric acid in the blood, levels that have been reduced with a diet incorporating sweet cherries. A recent study with gout patients found a 35% lower risk of gout attacks among those who consumed the fruit over two days. When that was combined with their prescribed medicine, specifically allopurinol, the risk of a gout attack was 75% lower.
Vacation and travel can throw off your sleep patterns, and a good night’s sleep is essential in a great vacation. With sweet cherries, you have a reliable source of tryptophan, serotonin and melatonin. Tryptophan is necessary to the development of serotonin, which, in turn, plays an important role in regulating sleep, mood and appetite. Adequate levels of serotonin can contribute to feelings of well-being, while depression has been linked to low measures. Additionally, melatonin helps maintain your body’s internal clock, regulating your sleep and wakefulness patterns.
Studies show that along with this enhanced sleep quality and quantity, mood and anxiety also display improvement. Researchers say enjoying the fruit about an hour before bedtime can help stabilize your sleep cycle.
5. Blood pressure
Finally, studies point to a link between the consumption of sweet cherries and lower blood pressure, both systolic and diastolic measures. Prolonged consumption correlates with a decrease in a potent vasoconstrictor, a compound that narrows blood vessels and restricts blood flow. The fruit is also associated with increased effectiveness of vasodilators, which help widen blood vessels and reduce blood pressure.
The addition of sweet cherries to your diet can reduce common health concerns and minimize the risk for developing illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Best of all, they are delicious! They are only in season for a short time, so grab them while they’re at their freshest, then freeze, dry or preserve them to enjoy throughout the year.