Peak cherry season has arrived. Growing up, we either ate cherries one by one out of the bowl or in delicious cherry pie.

Now, after becoming a dietitian and understanding how beneficial they are to our health, I use cherries as often as I can. You can use cherries to make a chutney to put on grilled chicken or create a salad with cherries, watermelon, blueberries and microgreens, topped with feta cheese.

Did you know you can easily take the pit out of cherries by placing the cherry on top of an open wine bottle and pushing a chopstick through the middle? You can also buy frozen cherries, which are already pitted, and let them thaw in place of fresh cherries.

Some of the many health benefits of cherries include these:

Sleep better. Cherries are a natural source of melatonin, which helps regulate sleep cycles.

Reduce pain. Cherries have anti-inflammatory benefits, which can help reduce pain caused by arthritis.

Lower risk of disease. Cherries are packed with antioxidants, which reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. The antioxidants in cherries also improve cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

Boost immunity. Cherries are a good source of vitamin C, which helps aid our immune system.

I have included three easy recipes to make healthy homemade cherry bars. Enjoy!

Emily McMillan is a registered dietitian for Hy-Vee stores in Rochester. This information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.

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