Cherries are currently in season in Europe and I get a little over-enthusiastic about them every year. Growing up in South Africa in the 80’s and 90’s, only glace cherries were available. Once I moved to Europe and experienced fresh cherries for the first time I was hooked!
Cherries are as versatile as they are delicious – their sweet, but complex flavour lends them to all types of dishes, sweet and savoury. And, of course, they are full of goodness, bursting with nutrients!
Broadly, there are two types of cherries: sweet and sour. It’s the sweet ones we see on our supermarket shelves and the sour ones tend to be used for juices etc. Both are full of nutrients, however the sour cherries, appear to have a slightly higher concentration of vitamin C and some phytochemicals.
Three Cheers for Cherries
These vibrant berries are well known for their vitamin C and fibre content, but the real potent, health-giving properties appear to come from their rich abundance of antioxidants.
Antioxidants are molecules that inhibit the oxidation of other molecules. Think of how lemon juice prevents apples from going brown – that’s the antioxidant in the lemon juice preventing the air from oxidising the apple flesh. We need the same process to happen in our bodies, so it is important to eat foods rich in antioxidants.
Antioxidants are measured by their ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) score – the higher the better. 1 cup of sweet cherries has a score of 4,873 while a medium banana has a score of 650. You can read more about oxidation and antioxidants in this post.
Cherries are full of anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid with strong antioxidant potential. Flavonoids are being researched in relation to numerous health conditions, including cancer. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, in laboratory studies, ‘anthocyanins inhibit the growth of cancer cells and stimulate their self-destruction, without affecting healthy cells. These compounds also show anti-inflammatory and strong antioxidant effects1’.
When it comes to cherries in particular, studies have shown that they can be helpful for three common ailments:
- Arthritis: Arthritis is an inflammatory condition affecting the joints. It can be painful and debilitating, and affects around 400,000 people in the UK. Cherries appear to help symptoms of arthritis due to the anti-inflammatory properties of the anthocyanins.
- Gout: Gout is a type of arthritis caused by excess uric acid in the bloodstream. This can result extremely painful inflammatory arthritis if the uric acid crystallises in joints. Joints of the foot, knee, hand and wrist – especially the big toe are most affected. Studies have shown that cherries can lower uric acid in the bloodstream and could reduce gout attacks by 35%.
- Insomnia: Insomnia needs no introduction – most people have experienced it at some point, and some suffer from chronic inability to get a good night’s sleep. The hormone melatonin regulates our circadian rhythm, allowing for a restful sleep. However, things like bright lights, poor diet, jet lag and device screens can interfere with melatonin balance. Cherries are one of the few food sources of melatonin, so including them in your diet may help improve your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
C4: Cherries, Coconut, Chia and Cocoa
This recipe features four powerful foods, each providing nourishment for your body: cherries, coconut, chia and cocoa.
You now know all about cherries and you can read more about chia in this post. Chia seeds form the basis of this dish and the dairy-free coconut milk binds all the lovely flavours together in a creamy ‘mousse’. You can substitute the coconut milk for almond milk or water if you like, but I recommend the coconut milk for its good fats and the level of satiety it brings to a breakfast dish.
Cocoa is a great source of iron and magnesium as well as the powerful flavanol antioxidant. Everyone knows that cherries and chocolate are best friends, however, the chocolate is optional in this recipe. If you want a fruitier flavour, feel free to leave out the cocoa powder.
Pudding for Breakfast
So, if you are looking for fresh breakfast ideas, then this is one to try. If you’ve never tasted chia pudding before, then expect something between that is rice pudding and chocolate mousse in texture. I like to grind the chia seeds for a smoother pudding, but some do prefer the texture of the whole seeds (more rice pudding than mousse!).
I also think that it’s important to try and get a bit of crunch into the final product. I use fresh shaved coconut and fresh fruit, but dessicated coconut, nuts and/or seeds will do.
The good news is that you can make this pudding with other berries too (try blueberry or raspberry). If cherries are out of season, 30-40ml of CherryActive* concentrate will give you the cherry flavour with most of the nutritional benefits. You should be able to pick it up at your local health store in the UK and ROI and, I believe, they do have stockists in South Africa, Australia and parts of Asia.
CHERRY COCONUT CHIA (CHOCOLATE) PUDDING
Serves 2 for breakfast and 3-4 for dessert/snack
- 2 cups whole fresh cherries (or 30-40ml cherry juice concentrate)
- 1 can full fat coconut milk
- 1/3 cup chia seeds
- 2/3 cup cocoa powder (optional)
- Fresh cherries
- Shaved fresh coconut, toasted
- Put the chia seeds into a coffee/spice grinder and grind into a powder. This step is optional – you can use whole chia seeds.
- Remove the stalks and stones from the cherries and place into a liquidiser or food processor with the other ingredients. Blend until combined. You can also use a hand-held stick blender.
- Scrape the mixture into a container or individual bowls/glasses, cover and refrigerate for at least three hours or overnight. Store in an airtight container for a breakfast or snack on the go.
- Serve with fresh cherries and toasted coconut shavings (or anything else that gives it a crunch: toasted and chopped nuts, muesli or seeds).
*This post is not sponsored by CherryActive, nor am I affiliated with them. I have personally tried and tested the product and I think that it is a viable alternative if fresh cherries aren’t available.