We’re not talking about the candied red cherries that adorn ice cream sundaes and cocktails (sorry Old Fashioned lovers). Their healthier counterparts found in the produce section can have some serious benefits! Natural cherries are stone fruits, close relatives of plums and peaches, and come in two general varieties: sweet and sour — and both kinds pack a nutritional punch for a small amount of calories. Enjoy one cup of cherries for only 90 calories and a variety of nutrients such as fiber, protein, vitamin A and vitamin C. (Hello, swimsuit season!)
Cherries have a limited growing season, so take advantage of them in the summer months when they’re in peak condition. At the grocery store or farmer’s market, look for plump, dark red fruits, and for the best taste, look for ones with glossy and unblemished skin. Store them unwashed in the fridge in their original breathable packaging to prevent over-ripening, and they’ll keep for up to five days. And make sure to keep the stems intact — they’ll last longer that way! The best part about these summer delights? Cherries are wonderful eaten raw — just wash and serve! To remove the pit, use a small paring knife to split the cherry in half, and the hard center can be taken out by hand. Or, of course, just chew the fruit and spit out the seeds (perfect picnic etiquette!). But don’t frown yet — these treats can be enjoyed all year long, too. Just keep a bag in the freezer year round, as frozen cherries retain 100 percent of their nutritional value and make a great addition to smoothies, yogurt, and oatmeal. Our Favorite Recipes from Around the Web:
In need of a perfect post-workout snack? How about a beneficial breakfast on-the-go? Unlike store-bought granola bars that are often held together with sugar, this homemade option is full of healthy ingredients — and they’re a cinch to make! These bars feature chewy, filling oats, are sweetened with all-natural honey, and even contain antioxidant-rich dark chocolate for heart health. And of course, they’re brimming with cherries — now that’s what we call the cherry on top! What You’ll Need:
1/2 cup reduced-fat creamy peanut butter 1/3 cup honey 2 tablespoons canola oil 1 egg 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 3 cups oats (half old-fashioned style, half steel-cut) 1/2 cup packed brown sugar 3/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup dried Montmorency cherries, chopped 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips What to Do:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, beat the peanut butter, honey, oil, egg, and vanilla until well blended.
In a separate bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar, and salt. Stir into the peanut butter mixture.
Stir in cherries and chocolate chips. (Batter will be sticky.)
Coat a 13×9-inch baking dish with cooking spray, then transfer the granola bar mixture into the dish.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the top is lightly browned.
Cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to the refrigerator until they are cooled completely.
Cut into bars, and enjoy! Pro Tip: For easy transport, individually wrap bars in wax paper.