by Alissa Segersten, Contributing Author
It’s summer! Time to break out the ice cream maker and whip up some dairy-free ice cream. Plus, it’s cherry season right now.
Don’t have an ice cream maker? Watch a video that explains three easy methods to make ice cream without a machine.
Photo courtesy of Alissa Segersten.
Every summer, my family enjoys the messy task of pitting dozens of pounds of cherries for the freezer. Having a good cherry pitter that can handle the task of many cherries is key! Your children can remove the stems and help use the pitter. It’s quite satisfying watching all of those pits fall into the container, while the pitted cherries shoot out into a bowl! I just pour the pitted cherries into large containers for freezing.
Use your frozen cherries for cherry ice cream, cherry smoothies, or cherry-oat crisp. With all of the health benefits sweet cherries have, doesn’t it make sense to eat a bowlful a day while they are in season, and freeze some to enjoy throughout the year?
This coconut milk-based ice cream is a perfect way to indulge in both antioxidant-rich cherries and dark chocolate. Serve it as a sweet treat after dinner or a healthy mid-afternoon snack.
Be sure to use full fat coconut milk in this recipe. The hemp seeds give it some extra creaminess, healthy fats, and amino acids. You can easily omit the chocolate, if desired. You can also replace the cherries with blueberries, strawberries, or diced mango. All variations are delicious!
Chilling the coconut milk beforehand helps to solidify the cream into ice cream during churning. This nutritious dairy-free ice cream is full of beneficial fats found in the coconut milk and hemp seeds. It’s quite simple to make your own ice cream, and once you do, you’ll likely never go back to the store-bought stuff!
- 2 cans full fat coconut milk, chilled
- 6 to 8 tablespoons raw honey or coconut nectar
- ¼ cup hemp seeds
- 1 teaspoon vanilla powder
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- 1½ cups chopped frozen cherries
- ¼ to ½ cup finely chopped dark chocolate bar, dark chocolate chips, or raw cacao nibs
- Place the chilled coconut milk, honey, hemp seeds, vanilla, and almond extract into a high-powered blender and blend until smooth.
- Pour into your ice cream maker.* Add the chopped frozen cherries and chocolate chunks, chips, or cacao nibs. Process according to the directions that came with your ice cream maker. I usually let mine churn for 20 to 25 minutes and then transfer to a container for storing in the freezer.
- Freeze for 2 to 3 hours or until ready to serve. Serve each bowl with fresh cherries if desired.
*Don’t have an ice cream maker? Watch a video that explains three easy methods to make ice cream without a machine.
Eat the Rainbow
Eat the Rainbow: Starting with Red Cherries
By Alissa Segersten, Contributing Author
These jewels of the summer produce season offer a bevy of health benefits, as well as being irresistibly delicious.
Health Benefits of Sweet Cherries
Cherries are very high in antioxidants
Cherries are considered to have a high ORAC value (oxygen radical absorption capacity). What does this mean for you? Our bodies produce free radicals every day, and some people produce more than others. For example, when you are hypersensitive to a particular food or food group and you continue to eat that food, your body produces more free radicals than usual. Free radicals steal electrons from your cells, causing damage to cell membranes, proteins, and DNA. Having a lot of antioxidants in your body from the food you eat allows the free radicals to use electrons from the antioxidants, instead of your cells. The key is to lower the amount of free radicals your body produces, and increase the amount of antioxidants you consume. Eating a bowl of fresh (or frozen) cherries each day is a great way to do this!
Cherries reduce inflammation
Studies have shown that dark sweet cherries can reduce markers of inflammation such as CRP (C-reactive protein), as well as pro-inflammatory cytokines (immune system messengers) such as TNF-a. What does this mean for you? TNF-a creates a more inflammatory environment in your body, meaning you might feel more pain and aches all over when higher levels of TNF-a are circulating in your body. It is also produced in larger amounts when you have an autoimmune condition like rheumatoid arthritis. Research shows that a cherry-enriched diet reduced inflammation markers in animals by up to 50 percent! Certain plant chemicals called anthocyanins found in dark red and purple plant foods, especially dark sweet cherries, are responsible for inhibiting TNF-a production.
Cherries have been shown to reduce gout attacks
Research shows that the consumption of cherries can be an effective and natural anti-gout therapy. Daily consumption of 10–12 cherries has been shown to significantly reduce inflammation and gout attacks in gout patients.
Cherries protect against cognitive decline
Reducing oxidative stress is a key ingredient for decreasing cognitive decline. Cherries reduce oxidative stress in spades. The phenolic compounds in cherries play a key role in protecting the brain’s neuronal cells from cell-damaging oxidative stress. One study found that 12 weeks of sweet Bing cherry juice consumption (200mL per day) was able to improve cognitive performance in adults with mild to moderate dementia.
Cherries protect against cardiovascular disease
The anthocyanins in dark cherries help by inhibiting lipid peroxidation, meaning that cherries can help prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol—oxidized cholesterol is a key factor in the development of cardiovascular disease. The phenolic compounds in cherries have also been shown to lower blood pressure.
Blando, F., & Oomah, B. (2019). Sweet and sour cherries: Origin, distribution, nutritional composition and health benefits. Trends In Food Science & Technology
Kent, K., Charlton, K., Roodenrys, S., Batterham, M., Potter, J., & Traynor, V. et al. (2017). Consumption of anthocyanin-rich cherry juice for 12 weeks improves memory and cognition in older adults with mild-to-moderate dementia. European Journal Of Nutrition
Kim, D., Heo, H., Kim, Y., Yang, H., & Lee, C. (2005). Sweet and Sour Cherry Phenolics and Their Protective Effects on Neuronal Cells. Journal Of Agricultural And Food Chemistry
Kelley, D., Adkins, Y., Reddy, A., Woodhouse, L., Mackey, B., & Erickson, K. (2013). Sweet Bing Cherries Lower Circulating Concentrations of Markers for Chronic Inflammatory Diseases in Healthy Humans. The Journal Of Nutrition
About the Author
Alissa Segersten holds a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition from Bastyr University. She is the founder of Whole Life Nutrition and Nourishing Meals, the mother of five children, a whole-foods cooking instructor, professional recipe developer, and cookbook author. She is passionate about helping others find a diet that will truly nourish them, and offers elimination diet recipes, healthy gluten-free recipes, and paleo and vegan recipes, as well as tips for feeding your family a nourishing, whole-foods diet.