Can cherries help fight inflammation?
by Nick Rose, M.S., PCC Nutrition Educator
This article was originally published in July 2013
Like all of summertime’s delicious fruits, cherries are a rich source of fiber, potassium and vitamins A and C. But new research confirms cherries also are a standout among the most potent anti-inflammatory foods.
Like all antioxidant-rich, colorful fruits and vegetables, cherries can help us manage chronic inflammation, a risk factor for heart disease, joint pain and other maladies. Deep red cherries (including Bing and Lapin at PCC) include more than a dozen unique beneficial nutrients and get their deep red hue from powerful antioxidants such as anthocyanins and flavanols that block the production of inflammatory proteins.
Cherries and inflammation
One study found that simply enjoying 2 cups each day of sweet bing cherries for 2 weeks reduced the primary blood marker of inflammation (CRP) by 10 percent, while 4 weeks of daily cherry consumption reduced CRP levels by 25 percent. That may sound like a lot of cherries, but reducing your CRP levels will significantly reduce your risk for many inflammation-related health conditions.
Newer research shows promise for cherries to alleviate symptoms (mainly pain) associated with inflammation-related conditions such as arthritis, gout, and even muscle and joint pain following exercise. The benefits are consistent for fresh cherries, dried cherries and even cherry juice. Several studies have shown cherries and products derived from cherries to be as effective in reducing inflammation as over-the-counter, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs!
An interesting aspect of recent cherry research is that most studies use fresh or dried cherries or pure tart cherry juice. Nutrition researchers typically rely on a pill-form (supplement) to test the effects of an isolated food compound rather than using the actual food. Using supplements allows researchers to study nutrients in amounts not commonly consumed from foods, but makes the research less relevant to those of us looking to use food as medicine. While most cherry research focused on tart cherries, also called pie cherries, newer research confirms similar health benefits from the sweet, fresh cherries including the popular Bing variety.
Cherries can help with sleep
Need one more reason to load up on fresh cherries this summer? Cherries also may help you sleep. Some studies have found drinking tart cherry juice as effective as other natural sleep remedies such as valerian and melatonin.
How many cherries to obtain health benefits?
The amazing health benefits of cherries can be obtained with only 1 to 2 cups per day of fresh, dried, or juiced cherries. Frozen cherries also are beneficial, but contain significantly less of the antioxidants responsible for the amazing health benefits of this seasonal summer superfruit.
3 to try
Enjoy the benefits and vibrant flavor of cherries year-round.
PCC Dried Bing Cherries
Toss into trail mix, add to a grain salad or enjoy on their own.
Earthbound Farm Sweet Dark Cherries
Add to your next smoothie or thaw and top desserts.
R.W. Knudsen Organic Just Tart Cherry Juice
Combine with sparkling water for an energizing spritzer.