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Put a cherry on top

ELIZABETH HALL, Registered Dietitian, K-VA-T Food Stores • Dec 13, 2017 at 4:30 PM

Have you always considered cherries as just a topper for sweet treats? Well, the real cherry on top is that these delicious little fruits are also jam-packed with nutrients!

Cherries contain potassium to contribute to healthy bones and blood pressure. They are high in pectin, which is a soluble fiber that may help to lower bad cholesterol and promote heart health. Their dark, rich color comes from anthocyanins, an antioxidant that reduces inflammation and risk of chronic disease. Cherries are also one of the few fruits that provide melatonin, which can help you sleep better.

Here are 10 ways to add cherries to your meals and snacks:

1. Top parfaits or cereal: Don’t just top your sundae, but also add cherries to low-fat plain yogurt, oatmeal or breakfast cereal.

2. Add to green salads: Red cherries add a bright color and complementing texture to the typical green salad.

3. Roast cherries: For a savory twist, roast cherries in the oven with thyme, paprika and a little salt if desired. Serve as a condiment for meat or poultry or inside a grilled cheese sandwich.

4. Make a healthier cherry jam: Boil crushed or pureed cherries with no-sugar-added pectin, stevia and water for a low-sugar jam.

5. Bake into muffins or sweets: Fresh, frozen, canned or dried cherries are the perfect addition to breakfast muffins, sweet breads and desserts.

6. Blend in a smoothie: Fresh or frozen cherries add a nutritious punch to a grab-and-go breakfast smoothie or smoothie bowl.

7. Mix with whole grains: Cherries complement the earthy taste and nutty texture of whole grains such as brown rice, faro and quinoa.

8. Make your own trail mix: Add dried cherries to a homemade trail mix with nuts, seeds and whole grains for a sweet and salty snack.

9. Top appetizers and flatbreads: For a spin on the traditional topping for bruschetta, try cherries with goat cheese and mint.

10. Enjoy alone: One cup, or about 21 cherries, is a serving and provides 50 calories. Fresh cherries are available locally in the summer and Chilean cherries are available November through January.

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