Summer may be thought of as a time of vacation and less responsibilities, but the truth is that it’s often just another hectic season in our already too-busy lives. In fact, Americans rank among the most stressed out people in the world!
Our endless to-do lists leave many of us in a state of heightened, chronic stress that can negatively impact our health. And it’s not just the sugar and caffeine we use to cope that harms us; stress messes with our sleep, blood pressure, and heart health, and causes fatigue, harmful inflammation, and so much more.
Meditation, yoga, and regular exercise can all help reduce stress, but adopting a healthy, nutrient-rich diet is your most powerful tool. Summer brings with it a colorful bounty of fruits and vegetables, and as it turns out, a favorite hot weather treat—cherries—are a stress-fighting superfood. They’re not only a healthy way to satisfy a sweet-tooth, but they’re rich in nutrients that can help alleviate many of the side effects of stress. Read on to learn six big ways this little fruit can heal your body.
They’re Anti-Inflammatory Powerhouses. Stress is a known cause of inflammation, and chronic inflammation can cause a number of diseases and chronic conditions. Cherries, which are packed with antioxidants like polyphenols and vitamin C, can help tamp down inflammation. In fact, cherry consumption has been linked to a decrease in eight different biomarkers associated with inflammatory diseases. Furthermore, polyphenols not only minimize oxidative stress linked to cancer, arthritis, and hypertension, but they’re believed to protect against conditions like metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
They Can Boost Your Mood. Feeling anxious? Cherries are a rare food source of serotonin, aka the “happy” neurotransmitter that helps stabilize mood. Additionally, anthocyanins (flavonoids which give cherries their color) may help protect your brain by preventing memory-loss and Alzheimer’s disease.
They’re an All-Natural Sleep Aid. When you’re stressed, good sleep can be hard to find. Not only is getting to sleep more challenging, but that rest is often, well, restless. Fortunately, cherries can help you drift off to dreamland—and stay there—thanks to their unique combination of serotonin, tryptophan, and melatonin. Serotonin works with melatonin (aka, the “sleepy” hormone) to help you fall and stay asleep, while tryptophan works with them to help regulate your circadian rhythm so you wake up feeling refreshed.
They’re a Heart-Healthy Snack. Stress can be a major contributing factor to hypertension. One way it does this is by encouraging the nervous system to produce hormones known as vasoconstrictors which constrict blood vessels. This makes it more difficult for blood to circulate, causing an increase in blood pressure as well as upping your risk for cardiovascular disease. The phenolic acids in cherries can help regulate blood pressure, however, and the anthocyanins that may protect your brain may also protect your heart by improving LDL cholesterol and regulating glucose metabolism.
They Can Help You Maintain a Healthy Weight. Chronic stress is linked to higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that increases appetite. When you’re stressed, you tend to reach for comforting junk food, which results in a feedback loop of overeating and weight gain. Cherries are low-glycemic and fiber-rich, which not only helps your body absorb the glucose slower, but helps you feel fuller, longer.
They Can Fight Off Illness and Aging. Finally, stress can take a toll on both your immunity and your skin. Thankfully, vitamin C-rich cherries can provide a much-needed boost. In fact, a one cup serving offers up 15 percent of your daily recommended intake. Vitamin C bolsters the immune system by increasing infection-fighting white blood cell production, as well as defends against skin-aging free radical damage.
Cherries may be small, but their healing powers are huge. Their only downside? A relatively short season—June to August—so stock up now. Cherries freeze well, so you can make the most of the remaining season and enjoy their benefits (and yumminess!) all year long.
If you want to better understand how proper nutrition can help fight stress and help you feel your best, contact me!