We’ve always been sweet on cherries—even before we learned about their stellar health profile. “Cherries are full of inflammation-reducing antioxidants, fiber, and vitamin C,” says Eliza Savage, a nutritionist in New York City.
While all varieties are good, tart cherries stand out. A British Journal of Sports Medicine study found that drinking 12 ounces of tart cherry juice before weightlifting can help prevent muscle damage. And research from Northumbria University in the U.K. suggests marathoners who juice before and after 26.2 miles recover faster. Experts credit the phytochemical anthocyanin—which gives the fruit its rich color—with decreasing inflammation and cell damage, as well as helping the heart.
Cherry season is short, so if you see some, get some. Press a straw through the centers to remove the pits, then chop and toss with quinoa or salads. Frozen, pitted cherries are just as healthful, so include them in smoothies or fruit compotes. Look for unsweetened tart cherry juice—which often comes concentrated—and cut with water or mix with seltzer and a splash of lime. Steer clear of dried cherries, as those tend to contain added sugar. And sorry, that maraschino in your Manhattan doesn’t really cut it.