Cherries- The Antioxidant All Star

June and July are peak months for cherries and  I wondered if  they were as healthy as  they are gorgeous.  Cherries clock in at about 70 calories a cup and deliever an impressive payload of potassium, vitamin C, beta carotene,  and phytosterols  which lower cholesterol.  

But what makes cherries a nutritional rock star are the anthocyanins found in the red pigment.  These powerful antioxidants have been shown to reduce inflammation linked to heart disease and diabetes.  Since inflammation  also damages collagen, anthocyanins  may reduce  the development of  lines and wrinkles. 

Like  many fruits, cherries are often used in delicious, albeit  fat and sugar laden desserts.   And one of  my  top guilty  pleasures– brandy cherry sauce over roast  duck or pork loin– in equally lethal.  These days my favorite  early summer dessert is a bowl of  freshly washed  cherries.  If  I want to  show little more effort to take advantge of the cherry season,  I  make cold cherry soup.  Its practically a staple in Northern Europe where it  is served  with sour cream.  I like to  top it with fat-free Greek style yogurt. 

Hungarian Cold Cherry Soup

Ingredients: 3 1/2 cups  water, 2 cups of pitted   Bing cherries, 1/2 cup  white wine,  8-12 packets of Equal, one cinnamon stick, 1/2 cup fat-free Greek style yogurt

Directions:  Combine fruit, water, cinnamon stick and wine in a pot and simmer until  cherries are very soft– about 5-8 minutes.  Remove  cinnamon and add Equal to taste.    Serve cold  topped with a dollop of yogurt.

Cherry soup  tastes wonderful with a tea party style chicken sandwich  or as a first  course for a dinner of cold chicken  on a  hot  summer night. 

FYI– Dried cherries retain much of  their  antioxidant values  but do  lose a good bit of vitamin C and minerals.  I love to add dried cherries to a bread stuffing for chicken  or turkey,  cook them with oatmeal or dump them into a quiona or rice pilaf.

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