Cherries and cherry juice have long been known to be effective against the pain of gout, which scientists believe is due to the fruit’s high concentration of compounds known as anthocyanins. Cherries (along with raspberries) have the highest yields of pure anthocyanins of any fruit. In one study, the ability of cherry anthocyanins to reduce pain was found to be comparable to that of ibuprofen and naproxen. Researchers feel that in addition to helping with pain and inflammation, consuming anthocyanins on a regular basis may help lower heart attack and stroke risk.
Worth noting: Although you can use unsweetened sweet cherries in the following recipe, you can also use juice-sweetened tart ones. Both varieties are a good source of anti-inflammatory anthocyanins, but tart cherries actually have a lot more. Animal studies conducted by University of Michigan researchers suggest that tart cherries can reduce factors linked to heart disease and diabetes.
Chewy Cherry Truffles
Makes 20 truffles
This treat is the easiest thing in the world to make, and it's an even greater pleasure to eat. Plus, making them at home is far less expensive—and lower in sugar—than buying nutrition bars at the store. It's simplicity itself, comes together in minutes, and will knock your socks off with its rich, chewy texture and sweet-tart flavor.
½ cup loosely packed, pitted Medjool dates (about 6—7 dates, the fresher the better)
½ packed cup dried, unsweetened sweet cherries or juice-sweetened tart cherries
2/3 cup raw almonds
1/3 cup pine nuts
1—2 Tbs. water
Combine dates, cherries, almonds, and pine nuts in food processor, and process 1—2 minutes, scraping down sides a couple of times. Mixture will first come apart, and then break down into finer crumbs, finally holding together in a clump of "dough" that will roll around in processor. If dough doesn't hold together after 1 minute processing, add water 1 Tbs. at a time until it does. When ingredients are well incorporated, roll dough into quarter-sized balls. Store in refrigerator.
PER SERVING: 79 cal; 2g prot; 4g total fat (<1g sat fat); 10g carb; 0mg chol; <1mg sod; 2g fiber; 8g sugars
Notes From Chef Leannette
It's very easy to make these tasty frui t and nut "truffles," and nutritionally they beat the pants off of any conventional processed granola bar. Dates simultaneously provide a sticky binder and a gentle, nutrient-rich sweetener. There are many different types of dates and most will work in the recipe, but you may need to presoak the drier varieties (such as Zahidi and Deglet Noor) for 10—15 minutes before using. Medjools are considered to be the king of the date family (and indeed were once reserved exclusively for royalty), with a luscious sweet, caramel-like flavor and a unique chewy texture that turns creamy when blended or processed. Though they are a bit pricey at $7—$10 per pound, they're worth every penny. And these homemade truffles are still less expensive than most organic fruit and nut bars.