Cherries are not just for pies and ice cream sundae garnishes — and they just happen to be one of the most antioxidant-rich fruits around.
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"Increasing your intake of colorful fruits and veggies — especially those rich in colors like cherries that are known to be packed with antioxidants and phytochemicals — can combat naturally-occurring oxidative stress that can trigger chronic diseases," says Rachel Fine, RD and owner of To The Pointe Nutrition in New York City.
Cherries are also known to be a source of melatonin, a hormone that may help you sleep more soundly, Fine says. With that in mind, "consider saving your sweet cherries for later in the day, to combat the potential of afternoon fatigue early on."
While cherries are thought of as a topping for ice cream sundaes and a filling for cobblers, crisps and pies, they work remarkably well in savory applications as well.
"My favorite way to use cherries in a savory dish is a cherry and goat cheese crostini. The sweet-tart flavor of cherries pairs well with the creamy texture and slightly-salty flavor of goat cheese," Fine says.
Try these five healthy savory cherry recipes to get your fix — without the blood sugar roller coaster.
1. Grilled Chipotle Pork Tenderloin With Fresh Cherry Salsa
- Calories: 379
- Protein: 28 grams
Pork chops and applesauce tend to be the go-to combo. Switch things up with a similar sweet-and-savory mix by topping lean, protein-rich pork tenderloin with a zesty cherry salsa that's spiked with a splash of lime zest and a couple spoonfuls of cilantro.
Pair it with a healthy whole grain, like quinoa or barley, for one well-balanced, nutrition-packed and dairy-free dinner.
Get the Grilled Chipotle Pork Tenderloin With Fresh Cherry Salsa recipe and nutrition info at Sweet Peas and Saffron.
2. Dr. Pepper Sloppy Joes
- Calories: 507
- Protein: 27 grams
Usually sweetened with sugar, ketchup or brown sugar, the sauce for these family-friendly sandwiches score some sweetness from maraschino cherries.
Opt for 85/15 or 90/10 ground beef (or ground turkey!) for a low-fat yet flavor-packed sandwich filling. And swap the Dr. Pepper BBQ Sauce for a low-sugar barbecue sauce to cut down on the sweet stuff.
If you're counting calories or carbs, try piling the cherry and meat mixture over a bed of greens or zoodles instead of using a bun.
Get the Dr. Pepper Sloppy Joes recipe and nutrition info at Dinner Then Dessert.
3. Brussels Sprouts, Bacon and Dried Cherries
- Calories: 123
- Protein: 3 grams
For a quick vegetable side dish that will cure sweet, savory and salty cravings all at once, consider this Brussels sprouts recipe.
Dried cherries and bacon tame any bitterness left in the sauteed Brussels sprouts so even green veggie-averse will gobble them up. The entire dish takes just 25 minutes — so you can even whip it up on a busy weeknight.
Get the Brussels Sprouts, Bacon and Dried Cherries recipe and nutrition info here.
4. Roasted Chicken Salad With Almonds and Cherries
- Calories: 355
- Protein: 34 grams
Mayo-laden chicken salad recipes are not known for being wellness winners, but this nutritious twist will change the way you think about creamy chicken salad.
Crunchy celery, salty almonds, sweet dried cherries and punchy dijon mustard turn up the volume on the flavor, while low-fat yogurt replaces most of the mayonnaise. Tuck it inside lettuce wraps or whole-wheat pita halves.
Get the Roasted Chicken Salad With Almonds and Cherries recipe and nutrition info here.
5. Kale, Dried Cherry and Marcona Almonds Salad
- Calories: 289
- Protein: 8 grams
Instead of croutons, try topping your kale salad with chewy dried cherries and crunchy marcona almonds.
They're higher in fiber and vitamins, plus pack way more flavor than their carb-loaded counterparts. With those two impactful ingredients, you'll be surprised how much flavor you can coax out of a few ingredients (and in just 30 minutes) in this superfood kale salad.
Get the Kale, Dried Cherry and Marcona Almonds Salad recipe and nutrition info here.
- USDA's FoodData Central: "Cherries, Sour, Red, Raw"
- Nutrients: “A Review of the Health Benefits of Cherries”
- Food & Function: “Authentic Tart Cherry Juice Reduces Markers of Inflammation in Overweight and Obese Subjects: A Randomized, Crossover Pilot Study”
- European Journal of Sports Science: “Montmorency Tart Cherry (Prunus Cerasus L.) Supplementation Accelerates Recovery From Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage in Females"