Q: I’ve seen the cherries in the store lately and am wondering what type of health benefits they offer?

A: We are at peak cherry season, particularly cherries from the Northwestern United States. In fact, slight climate differences throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, and Montana ensure that ripe cherries are being harvested from June through August, and typically hit the produce department within two days of being picked.

So why should you pick up a bag cherries? In addition to being a delicious and fun-to-eat snack, here’s five amazing things cherries can do for your health.

Sleep better

Cherries are a natural source of melatonin, which helps regulate your sleep cycles. According to a study by the University of Texas Health Science Center, eating cherries daily can aid in better sleep. And if you’ve got plans for summer travel, remember that melatonin from cherries may also fight jet lag.

Reduce pain

Because of their anti-inflammatory benefits, cherries may help reduce your risk of gout attacks and pain from arthritis. Studies show that tart cherries (and their juice) can even help alleviate post-workout soreness.

Lower risk of disease

Cherries are packed with antioxidants called anthocyanins which may help reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. Studies have shown that eating foods high in anthocyanins may improve cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and blood pressure, ultimately reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and related complications.

Improve immunity

Like many fruits, cherries are a good source of vitamin C, which may help aid your immune system. Because vitamin C is an antioxidant, it fights damaging free radicals in your body and helps prevent disease. As a bonus, eating foods rich in vitamin C may also help delay aging.

Gut health

Cherries are good source of fiber, which is extremely important for your digestive health. Eating a handful of cherries, about one cup, provides more than 10% of your recommended daily fiber intake.

Remember that fiber feeds the good gut bacteria in your digestive tract and a healthy gut biome may help prevent diabetes, heart disease, inflammation and obesity among other things.

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