We search the four corners of the world to find the next superfood: açai, goji berries, quinoa, etc. Everyday someone comes up with the next miraculous food, found in some remote places that promises to bring health. And by doing so we forget to look in our homegrown gardens, that are instead jam packed with superfoods. Such as cherries: a homegrown powerfood.
About 95% percent of cherries consumed in the U.S. are grown here, with most coming from Michigan, Wisconsin, Utah, Washington, Oregon, Pennsylvania and New York.
This homegrown advantage, coupled with potential health benefits, make cherries "America's Super Fruit."
Cherries come in dried, frozen and juice forms so they're readily available to enjoy all year long but as right now is cherries’ season why not get some fresh ones?
Let’s discover the amazing health benefits of this fruit!
Cherries are packed with powerful antioxidants. In particular, anthocyanins – the natural antioxidants that give cherries their red color.
According to a University of Michigan research eating just one and a half servings of tart cherries could significantly boost antioxidant activity in the body.
The study documented for the first time that the antioxidants in tart cherries do make it into the human bloodstream and is coupled with increased antioxidant activity that could have a positive impact on our overall health.
The unique combination of powerful antioxidants contained in cherries may also help reduce risk factors for heart disease.
In two different studies, researchers from University of Arizona and Brunswick labs studied the antioxidant levels and anti-inflammatory benefits of tart cherries. They found out that:
1) Drinking eight ounces of tart cherry juice daily for four weeks significantly reduced important markers of inflammation in a study of 10 overweight or obese adults. Many of the adults also had lower levels of uric acid (linked to inflammation and gout) and triglycerides (linked to heart disease).
2) A cherry diet (at 1% of diet as tart cherry powder) reduced C reactive protein and other markers of inflammation by up to 36% and lowered levels of total cholesterol by 26% in a 5months mouse study. The researchers suggest that there's an atherosclerosis benefit connected to both lowering cholesterol, and an anti-inflammatory effect, specifically in the blood vessels coming from the heart. Importantly, the mice eating the cherry diets had a 65% reduction in early death, likely due to improved cardiovascular health.
Reduce metabolic syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of traits that can greatly increase your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes; it's a serious condition that significantly affects public health.
Lifestyle changes have been shown to lower the odds of developing metabolic syndrome, and there is tremendous interest in studying the impact of particular foods that are rich in antioxidants, such as cherries.
Metabolic syndrome (also called insulin resistance syndrome) has become increasingly common in the United States, especially among adults in their mid-30s.
In another University of Michigan study, researchers, using cherry powder derived from tart cherries find out that the cherry-enriched diets significantly lowered total cholesterol levels, triglycerides, insulin and fasting glucose levels after 90 days. All of these measures are factors that are linked to metabolic syndrome.
May help with diabetes
Consumption of cherries could also have a significant impact on insulin levels in humans according to a study conducted at Michigan State University in East Lansing.
Researchers tested several types of anthocyanins extracted from these cherries against mouse pancreatic-beta cells, which normally produce insulin, in the presence of high concentrations of glucose.
Insulin is the protein produced by the pancreas that helps regulate blood sugar (glucose) levels. Compared to cells that were not exposed to anthocyanins, exposed cells were associated with a 50% increase in insulin levels, the researchers say. The mechanism of action by which these anthocyanins boost insulin production is not yet known though.
Tart cherries may help reduce chronic inflammation, especially for the millions of Americans suffering from debilitating joint pain and arthritis, according to new research from Oregon Health & Science University.
In fact, the researchers suggest tart cherries have the "highest anti-inflammatory content of any food" and can help people with osteoarthritis manage their disease.
The researchers found that drinking tart cherry juice twice daily for three weeks led to significant reductions in important inflammation markers.
"With millions of Americans looking for ways to naturally manage pain, it's promising that tart cherries can help, without the possible side effects often associated with arthritis medications," said Kerry Kuehl, M.D, Dr.PH., M.S., Oregon Health & Science University, principal study investigator. "I'm intrigued by the potential for a real food to offer such a powerful anti-inflammatory benefit – especially for active adults."
The inflammation benefits could be particularly important for athletes, according to Kuehl's previous research. In a past study he found that people who drank tart cherry juice while training for a long distance run reported significantly less pain after exercise than those who didn't.
Help with insomnia
A team of University of Pennsylvania, University of Rochester and VA Center of Canandaigua researchers conducted a pilot study on the sleep habits of 15 older adults. The adults drank 8 ounces of tart cherry juice beverage in the morning and evening for 2 weeks, and a comparable matched juice drink, with no tart cherry juice, for another 2 week period. There were significant reductions in reported insomnia severity and the adults saved about 17 minutes of wake time after going to sleep, on average, when drinking cherry juice daily, compared to when they were drinking the juice drink.
The researchers suspect tart cherries' natural benefits could be due in part to their relatively high content of melatonin; a natural antioxidant in cherries with established ability to help moderate the body's sleep-wake cycle.
Produced naturally by the body in small amounts, melatonin plays a role in inducing sleepiness at night and wakefulness during the day.
Help with muscle recovery
Finally, tart cherries could help athletes reduce muscle damage to recover faster from a tough workout, according to new research published in the American College of Sports Medicine's journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
Researchers at the Sports and Exercise Science Research Center at London South Bank University in the UK gave 10 trained athletes 1 ounce of an antioxidant-packed tart cherry juice concentrate twice daily for 7 days prior to and two days after an intense round of strength training.
The athletes recovery after the cherry juice concentrate was significantly faster compared to when they drank juice without the same phytonutrient content of cherry juice.
After drinking cherry juice, athletes returned to 90% of normal muscle force at 24 hours, compared to only 85% of normal at the same time point without cherry juice, a significant difference that could affect an athlete's next bout of performance.
Researchers suggest that the powerful antioxidant compounds in cherry juice likely decreased oxidative damage to the athletes' muscles (the damage that normally occurs when muscles are worked to their max) allowing the muscles to recover more quickly.
I don’t think there’s really anything more to add to this. Cherries are an amazing American homegrown superfruit. Until recently I was not aware of their powerful anti-inflammatory effect which is so important for an athlete like myself.
That is why I started consuming more cherries (frozen, in organic jams and fresh) and I intend to continue to do so for the time being. I really hope that I’ve convinced you on the goodness of cherries!
The Iron You