Cherry Sorbet Parfait
Have you heard about the health benefits of cherries? Specifically, tart/sour cherries have become very popular in the athletic and sports medicine research worlds over the past decade or so due their strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidative characteristics. This is of significance to athletes, who frequently experience discomfort and decreased muscle function from exercise induced muscle damage (EIMD). This muscle damage is a result of both the physical stress and secondary inflammation and oxidation from a tough training session. Tart cherries and their juice have proven effective in reducing the inflammation, oxidative damage, and symptoms of EIMD. This can mean faster recovery time from exercise, and even prevent decreases in strength and performance. Read more about fascinating studies that have illuminated the power of these little red fruits here.
Researchers believe that the compounds in tart cherries responsible for these awesome benefits are a group of phytochemicals called anthocyanins. These are red-blue pigments that give cherries and other foods like blueberries and eggplant their deep, rich colors. Anthocyanins have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that are beneficial to athletes (or any active individuals really) to help with muscle recovery. Consuming anthocyanin-rich foods has also been tied to decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer development, as well as preventing age-related cognitive decline. Whether it’s the anthocyanins or other compounds in these fruits and vegetables, it is for certain that enjoying them regularly can be a key in good health.
Back to the cherries. So notice how I said that sour cherries have been getting all the attention and praise, well what about more common sweet cherries? These are usually easier to find at the store, either fresh when in season, or frozen all year round. Looking into this question, it seems that research has not (from what I can find) specifically compared the effectiveness of sour vs. sweet cherries in reducing inflammation, oxidation, and symptoms of EIMD.
We do know that different cultivars/kinds of cherries can vary in their anthocyanin content, a good example being that yellow cherries contain less anthocyanins not surprisingly due to their lack of red pigmentation. (Even with that said, yellow cherries still contain lots of other beneficial compounds that can prevent inflammation.) However, overall both sweet and sour cherries varieties are excellent sources of anthocyanins with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory super powers. A study comparing anthocyanin content and capacity to decrease inflammation and oxidation of several kinds of cherries concluded that either sweet or sour cherries should provide the same benefits in the body.
So, now that we know sweet cherries are likely still a great choice to help recover from exercise (and just to support general health and disease prevention), let’s make something delicious with them! These parfaits take it to the next level with the fruit component in the form of fresh cherry “sorbet”. But, you know how bananas make “nice cream”/ice cream? Well, while that stuff is alright, giving frozen cherries the same blend treatment results in a more authentic healthy dessert alternative I think. Simply blending frozen cherries until smooth creates an instant honest sorbet, but with not a single grain of added sugar! Just fruit!
How else can we make the classic parfait better? Usually the fruit and yogurt are divided with crunchy layers of granola, but here that plain stuff is swapped out for undeniably yummier layers of chocolate granola and roasted pistachios. Cherries, chocolate, and pistachios are a pretty time-honored combination (hello, classic spumoni) and continue that delicious tradition in these parfaits.
You can feel good enjoying one of these parfaits as a balanced snack, post workout recovery meal, nutrient dense dessert, or even enjoy one big parfait as a meal! They are super refreshing, quite satisfying, and simply so, so good. Functional fuel at its best!
Cherry Sorbet Parfait
Makes 1-2 servings
1 cup (140g) frozen (sweet) cherries
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup (230g) Greek yogurt
½ cup (55g) chocolate granola
3 tbs. (30g) roasted pistachios
In a food processor, blend the frozen cherries and vanilla until smooth and sorbet-like. This should only take about a minute.
In glasses (or even in a mug or bowl) layer the cherry sorbet with the Greek yogurt, granola, and pistachios. Make 1 bigger parfait or 2 smaller ones with this recipe. Enjoy right away!
Notes: Just in case, make sure you are using pitted cherries. You can use non- or low-fat or whole milk, plain or flavored Greek yogurt depending on your preferences. I used plain non-fat Greek yogurt. You can easily double or triple this recipe as needed to serve more people.