Ever wonder where cherries get their vibrant red color? The secret to these red gems is in pigments known as anthocyanins, a group of compounds whose colors can range from bright red-orange to blue-violet. They are found in many fruits and vegetables and provide a protective mechanism against environmental stresses such as cold temperatures and drought.
Nutrition researcher Denise Webb writes in Today’s Dietician that, “while the answers to how and why anthocyanins may help prevent disease remain undiscovered or unexplained, the literature is intriguing, and most researchers are calling for more studies to explore the potential health benefits of these naturally occurring compounds.”
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) website adds additional information about the nutritional benefits of cherries with this statement: “Lab studies suggest that the phytochemical anthocyanin, credited with giving cherries their notable red hue, has been recognized for its antioxidant power.” Antioxidants help prevent damage to healthy cells caused by free radicals, an unstable molecule. This destructive process contributes to the development of many diseases. A study published in 2013 in the American Society for Nutrition found that sweet Bing cherries lowered inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP) for chronic disease in healthy humans.