(BPT) – Sweet cherries may conjure images of hot summer days, so who knew that they could be a year-round staple for good health? These sweet snacks provide just the wintertime boost needed to stay on track with any fitness and nutrition New Year’s resolutions.
Winter can pose a challenge to eating right and staying in shape. Certainly, nothing beats the flavor of fresh sweet cherries, but with some preparation and creativity, their goodness can be enjoyed all year long. Those who stocked up on sweet Northwest cherries during their short harvest window and planned ahead to freeze, can or dry them now have a bounty of flavor and nutrients to fuel some of the most grueling months of the year (and for those who didn’t, a trip to the freezer or dried food aisles at the supermarket may work just as well!).
“Maintaining a fitness routine can be challenging during the winter. For many of us, it’s dark and it’s cold, yet despite all the reasons we may want to shake off our routines, paying attention to our health and focusing on nutrition now will set us up for better health year-round,” says Kelly Pritchett, PhD, RD, CSSD, Associate Professor of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Central Washington University.
“As a Pacific Northwest resident and winter sports enthusiast, one of my favorite wintertime health hacks is incorporating sweet cherries into my diet,” continues Pritchett. “Cherries often get overlooked when the warmer months fade, and yet they’re a tremendously versatile fruit and are easy to weave into everything from oatmeal to smoothies. Sweet cherries also offer an abundance of health benefits and can be a great natural health aid for winter sports.”
Sweet cherries are a natural and tasty source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, potassium and melatonin. They also contain anthocyanins — the pigment that gives dark sweet cherries their deep and delicious color — which are linked to anti-inflammatory effects. According to Pritchett, anyone with a training regimen can realize at least three distinct benefits from adding cherries to their daily fruit intake.
A few of Pritchett’s winter training regime tips include:
- Decrease your muscle soreness: Several studies involving athletes suggest that cherry consumption can reduce muscle soreness and also help return loss of strength. By incorporating fresh, frozen or dried cherries into their diets, fitness fanatics may recover more quickly for the next workout.
- Improve your quality of sleep: Everyone needs a good night’s rest, and the melatonin in sweet cherries can promote sleep quality. Sleep is critical to everything from restoring energy to boosting immunity to enhancing metabolism. A serving of sweet cherries about an hour before bedtime can help stabilize and regulate sleep patterns.
- Boost your post-workout recovery: A body that goes through a strenuous exercise routine needs to recover, and dried sweet cherries are an ideal post-workout snack. They provide healthy carbohydrates and help replace glycogen, which gets the body ready for its next go-around.
For those pursuing health and fitness goals, incorporating sweet Northwest cherries into the daily routine is one of the best ways to show some love and stay on track. More information about the health benefits of sweet cherries and the studies that support them is available at sweetcherryhealth.org.