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Have a Plant: Fruits & Veggies for Better Health

Cherries & Heart Health

February is the month we promote heart health, and it’s also National Cherry Month, marking this month the perfect time to talk about adding cherries to your diet. Cherries are not only good for you, but they’re also on-trend as a homegrown “Super Fruit.”

A growing body of science reveals tart cherries (enjoyed as frozen, canned, dried or 100% juice) have among the highest levels of disease-fighting antioxidants when compared to other fruits. They also contain other important nutrients such as beta carotene, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, iron, fiber and folate.

Emerging evidence links cherries to many important health benefits, including a reduction in risk factors for heart disease. A growing body of science links cherries’ red color (provided by the fruit’s powerful antioxidants (anthocyanins) to heart-health benefits related to reducing inflammation, total cholesterol, and belly fat. With more than 80 million Americans living with some form of heart disease, the heart-healthy qualities of eating red fruits and vegetables have more relevance than ever.

While there’s currently no established guideline on how many cherries it takes to reap the benefits, experts suggest that 1-2 servings of cherries daily can help provide some of the health benefits identified in the research.

A Serving of Cherries =

    • 1 cup frozen
    • 1 cup canned
    • 1/2 cup dried
    • 1 cup juice
    • 1 ounce (or 2 Tbsp) juice concentrate

Ways to Add Cherries to Meals & Snacks …

    • Grab & Go. Get your antioxidants on-the-go with an easy “do-it-yourself” trail mix using dried cherries, almonds and whole-grain cereal. Or add dried cherries to ready-made granola.
    • A Brighter Breakfast. Swap your typical berries for dried cherries and add them to your cereal, oatmeal, yogurt or pancakes.
    • Cherry Muffins. Make a change from your standard blueberry muffin recipe and use dried or frozen cherries instead.
    • Oatmeal-Cherry Cookies. Enjoy a new twist on the standard oatmeal raisin cookie by using dried cherries instead of raisins.
    • Greater Grains. Add dried cherries to couscous, rice pilaf, grits, risotto and pasta.

Recipes

Curried Chicken Salad
Makes 4 servings

    • 1/2 cup non-fat plain yogurt
    • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
    • 1 teaspoon curry powder
    • 2 ½ cups cubed cooked chicken breast (about 1 ¼ pounds)
    • 1 cup halved green grapes
    • ¼ cup dried cherries, coarsely chopped
    • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
    • ¼ cup chopped roasted cashews

In a large bowl, stir together the yogurt, mayonnaise, and curry powder. Fold in the chicken, grapes, cherries and cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper. This salad will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Right before serving, stir in the cashews.

Nutrition Info:
310 calories, 13 g total fat, 2.5 g sat. fat, 16 g carbohydrate, 75 mg cholesterol, 31 g protein, 1 g fiber, 135 mg sodium

Source: Michigan Cherry Committee

Cherry Yogurt Smoothie
Makes 2 servings

    • 1 cup non-fat plain or vanilla yogurt
    • 1 ripe banana, peeled and sliced
    • ½ cup orange juice
    • ¼ cup tart cherry juice concentrate
    • 1 cup crushed ice

Put yogurt, banana, orange juice, cherry juice concentrate and crushed ice in the container of an electric blender or food processor. Purée until smooth. Serve immediately. Makes 2 (8-ounce) servings.

Note: This smoothie can be frozen in popsicle containers. Serve as a frozen treat, or allow to thaw and drink as a smoothie.

 

Shari Steinbach, MS RD
Meijer Healthy Living Advisor

 

 

 

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