Sweet cherries, tart cherries, Rainier cherries and Bing cherries are all so deliciously fresh this time of year. Small and flavorful, cherries offer a host of health benefits from providing pain relief to easing the symptoms of jet lag.

• Phyto benefits: Ranked as one of the top ten fruits in oxygen radical absorbance capacity, cherries are filled with powerful antioxidants. Like apples, they are excellent sources of quercetin, which has been linked to reducing the risk of coronary heart disease and possibly lung cancer.

• Sleep-enhancing: Imagine how relaxed you feel after a big piece of grandma’s cherry pie. It’s not the stuffed belly making you sleepy – it’s the melatonin. Cherries are rich in sleep-enhancing melatonin. This all-natural nightcap may also help travelers ease the symptoms of jet lag.

• Got gout? Gout hurts. It’s a painful form of arthritis associated with high uric acid levels. Current diet treatments tend to limit foods high in purines. Newer research is now focusing on adding foods rich in anthocyanins – it’s the pigment that gives tart cherries the bright red color – to further reduce uric acid levels and ease pain and inflammation associated with some types of arthritis. In fact, 20 cherries may offer as much pain relief as a single aspirin.

• Bone health: Cherries are an excellent source of boron. This lesser-known mineral is thought to increase the body’s absorption of bone-building calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.

Summer Cherries Jubilee Sauce

Serve sauce warm or chilled on a summer day

All you need

½ cup sugar

1 tbsp cornstarch

¼ cup water

¼ cup orange juice

3 cups pitted fresh sweet cherries

1 tsp freshly grated orange peel

1 tsp vanilla

All you do: Combine sugar and cornstarch in small saucepan. Blend in water and orange juice. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and smooth. Add cherries, orange peel and vanilla; bring to boil; reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes. Serve over ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Nutrition facts: for cherry sauce: 180 calories, 42g carbs, 4g protein, 0g fat, 1g fiber, 45 mg sodium.

Tracey Shaffer, RD, LD, is a Hy-Vee dietitian at the Blue Springs location. The information provided should not be construed as professional medical advice. Email her at tshaffer@hy-vee.com.