Cherries: fun to eat & good for health

July 09, 2012

The long awaited cherry season has arrived in many states! Find out why cherries are a must have in your diet.

The long awaited cherry season has arrived in many states and is soon to come in others! And not only can we rejoice about their sweet and tart flavor, and the fun of eating them, but about the many health benefits cherries possess as well!

Cherries are a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, and boron, a mineral essential to bone health, and are a good source of iron and fiber. Cherries true health benefits come from their phytonutrients which act as anti-inflammatory nutrients, antioxidants, and more.

The flavonoid and carotenoid phytonutrients in cherries have strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. A growing body of scientific research indicates that inflammation contributes to heart disease, arthritis, and obesity. A study conducted at UC Davis found that regular consumption of cherries (for approximately a month) produced a decrease in markers of inflammation in blood. Observation included a 25 percent reduction in C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

Could cherries even help in workout recovery? In a presentation at the American College of Sports Medicine Conference, researchers found that drinking tart cherry juice helped reduce pain after exercise for long distance runners. The findings were published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition; researchers noted that the natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ability of tart cherries, consumed before and during strenuous exercise may have a protective effect to reduce muscle pain.

And there is more! A study conducted at Michigan State University found that the anthocyanins that pigment cherries could also help relieve pain, possibly even more effectively than aspirin. Researchers found that anthocyanins acted as antioxidants in the body that could prevent oxidative damage. They also found that the anthocyanins inhibited enzymes, similar to the way anti-inflammatory drugs seek to reduce pain. The study appeared in the Journal of Natural Products. Lead researcher Muralee G. Nair, Ph.D. noted, “it is as good as ibuprofen and some of the non-steriodal anti-inflammatory drugs.” Nair went on to say that lab results indicate that consuming 20 tart cherries could provide anti-inflammatory benefits.

We have also heard a lot about polyphenols, an essential group of nutrients providing antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer health benefits. Risk of cardiovascular disease, aging and neurological diseases, and some cancers can all be reduced through a diet rich in polyphenols. Cherries and other dark red colored fruits are exceptional sources of polyphenols (as well as red wine).

What about painful gout? Another UC Davis study found that consuming cherries reduced blood levels of uric acid in healthy women- excess uric acid causes gout and the use of cherries to prevent gout is well established in Western folk medicine.

Now that it’s cherry season, get out there an grab a bag!  When it’s not cherry season you can enjoy the benefit of cherries with cherry juice (unsweetened, read labels) or frozen organic pitted cherries, which make a great snack or dessert.