Everything You Need to Know About the Many Healing Qualities of Tart Cherries
If you love cherries like I do, you are going to love this news.
I recently learned that tart cherries may be the most anti-inflammatory food on the planet.
This made me very happy.
When I was kid, I lived in Oregon for three years — one of the states that grows cherries. We had a huge cherry tree that would be bursting with cherries right in our yard!
The research does specify TART cherries, also known as sour (or pie) cherries, which are the fruit of the Prunus cerasus tree.
But that is okay with me too. I’ve always loved tart foods. In fact, I’d rather eat something tart, rather than overly sweet.
There are plenty of anti-inflammatory food lists citing the “five best,” or “10 best,” or whatever best. But tart cherries have a lot of research to back them up, according to the Cherry Marketing Institute (yes, cherries have their own institute!).
Cheery Research on the Many Benefits of Tart Cherries
Here are just some of the results from the 50-plus research findings about cherries.
In May 2012, the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) reported that “tart cherries may help reduce chronic inflammation.” The researchers suggest that tart cherries have the “highest anti-inflammatory content of any food” and can help people with diseases like osteoarthritis manage their disease.
In an earlier study published in 2010, OHSU found that people who drank tart cherry juice while training for long distance runs reported significantly less pain after exercise than those who didn’t.
Meanwhile, in 2009, researchers reported in the Journal of Nutrition that drinking tart cherry juice may decrease oxidative damage to body cells, thereby, acting as a deterrent against cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.
Even more important than antioxidant levels alone, the natural compounds in tart cherries may work synergistically to deliver powerful health benefits, according to research from the University of Michigan in 2009 and 2001. The researchers isolated individual cherry phytonutrients and tested the antioxidant power alone, or paired together. They found that the “whole” was greater than the sum of its parts.
In other words, specific compounds worked together to boost antioxidant power more than would be expected for any compound on its own.
In 2007, a pilot study at Baylor Research Institute found that a daily dose of tart cherries helped reduce osteoarthritis pain by more than 20 percent for the majority of men and women.
According to a 2006 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, tart cherries rank in 14 of the top 50 foods for the highest antioxidant content per serving size — surpassing well-known leaders such as red wine, prunes, dark chocolate, and orange juice.
Cherries’ — Potent Inflammation Fighters in a Cute Red Package
Of course, among all the health-giving qualities of cherries, my favorite is its ability to fight the damaging effects of inflammation.
A number of studies have specifically linked tart cherry consumption and cherry anthocyanins to decreased inflammation and inflammatory-related conditions.
One study from University of Michigan researchers revealed a cherry-enriched diet reduced inflammation markers in animals by up to 50 percent.
Another in 2011 found drinking eight ounces of tart cherry juice daily for four weeks significantly reduced important markers of inflammation in over¬weight and obese adults.
An extensive and growing body of research suggests that the powerful antioxidants in tart cherries — called anthocyanins — that give the super fruit its bright red color are also responsible for their anti-inflammatory properties and health benefits. They help block enzymes associated with inflammation.
A study published in 2001, reported that the antioxidant compounds in tart cherries have been specifically linked to high antioxidant capacity and reduced inflammation, at levels comparable to some well-known pain medications.
Tart cherries contain the highest concentrations of anthocyanins 1 and 2 than other fruits, including sweet cherries, blueberries, and elderberries.
Tart cherries are also sources of other phenolic compounds, such as gallic acid, p-coumaric acid, kaempferol, and quercetin, all of which are also potent antioxidants.
The Cherry Marketing Institute Promotes the Health Benefits of Cherries
The Cherry Marketing Institute helps to keep the good news about cherries in the news at www.choosecherries.com.
In the report, the Institute states:
“After years in the shadow of other fruit, tart cherries are emerging as a major Super Fruit. A substantial and growing body of scientific research has linked tart cherries to anti-inflammatory benefits, reduced pain from gout and arthritis, and an extensive list of heart health benefits. Recent studies even suggest tart cherries can help reduce post-exercise muscle and joint pain. Here are more healthy facts about tart cherries:
- Tart cherries are naturally fat-free, low in sodium, and provide a number of key vitamins and minerals, along with powerful phytonutrients.
- Tart cherries contain more antioxidants, including vitamin C, than their sweeter counterparts.
- Each serving of this stone fruit also abounds in beta-carotene. The body uses beta-carotene to make vitamin A and maintain a healthy immune system.
- The Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) is a measure of antioxidant strength. ORAC measures how many oxygen radicals a specific food can absorb and deactivate. The more oxygen radicals a food can absorb, the higher its ORAC score — all of the types of tart cherries scored high!
- Frozen cherries 2,724 per cup
- Dried cherries 6,120 per ½ cup
- Cherry juice 3,622 per 8 ounces
- Cherry juice concentrate 3,622 per 1 ounce
Add More Cherries to Your Diet — Deliciously
If you love cherries like I love cherries incorporating them into you diet is a no-brainer.
“Why not eat red when there’s so much science to support the anti-inflammatory benefits of this Super Fruit?” stated Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, CSSD, LDN, Director of Sports Nutrition at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center for Sports Medicine, who has incorporated tart cherries into the training menu of both her professional athletes and active clients as a natural and easy way to manage pain that also tastes great.
While tart cherries are mostly sold frozen, juiced, or dried, during the summer months you can often find them fresh at farmers’ markets. Varieties include Montmorency, Early Richmond, and Balaton. And be sure to choose organic!
Approximately 94 percent of cherries consumed in the U.S. are grown in Michigan, Utah, New York, Wisconsin, Washington, Oregon, and Pennsylvania.
There are so many ways to add tart cherries into your daily diet, for example:
- Toss them with some nuts for a quick and healthy trail mix
- Add them to your smoothies
- Mix them into pilafs, salads, and cereals
- Make jams, chutneys, salsas, etc.
- Splash them into beverages and salad dressings
Beyond that, you can also incorporate some great cherry recipes into your cooking schedule. How does Curry Cherry Chicken Salad sound? Or Steak with Cherry Mustard? Or Sautéed Cherry-Ginger Carrots?
Sound pretty lip-smacking don’t they?
Well, I’ve got some good news for you. I’ve prepared these recipes and many other cherry-based recipes to share with my members of my cookbook club.
And I’m giving 10 of these recipes away as a free gift to anyone who signs up for my blog and takes a short survey. As a bonus, you’ll also receive a complimentary discount on my next Inflammation Elimination Workshop.
To receive this free offer, just sign up for blog updates in the box on the top right.
Check out one of my cherry recipes here — Curry Cherry Chicken Salad.