Super Sources of Antioxidants: Cherries

Research has shown that cherries contain an enormous amount of antioxidants, giving them their common nickname – the homegrown “Super Fruit.” Plant phytochemicals, known as anthocyanins, are present in both sweet and tart cherries and are what causes all their far-ranging health benefits. The skin of cherries contains most of the antioxidants that are essential for their benefits; just one liter of cherry juice contains as much as 688 milligrams of anthocyanins.

How Many Cherries Should You Eat?

Small cherries pack a big nutritional punch. In addition to the powerful anthocyanins, cherries contain other prized nutrients like beta-carotene, potassium, iron, folate, vitamins A and C and fiber. In one recent study, cherries ranked 14th among the top 50 foods containing the highest amount of antioxidant per serving. Word is not out yet as to how many cherries it takes per day to reap their rewards, though studies have shown that 1 to 2 servings per day is sufficient (but the FDA has not approved that figure). One serving per day of cherries includes one half cup dried, one-cup juice, one cup frozen or two tablespoons juice concentrate.

Many Benefits of Cherries

Tart cherries have long been associated with pain management for arthritis, as well as lowering risk for cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Studies have shown that the consumption of just 20 fresh tart cherries can be more effective at killing pain than a regular strength aspirin.Though tart cherries are beneficial for pain management; all cherries contain the powerful antioxidants that cherries are known for.

Additional emerging evidence has found that cherries contain melatonin, another powerful element that has been linked to restoring sleep patterns in the body. Other evidence supports claims that cherries prevent or restore memory loss, protect against neurodegenerative disease, as well as protect against heart disease. In addition to the beneficial anthocyanins, cherries also include other antioxidants like egallic acid, p-coumaric acid, quercetin and kaempferol.

One study performed at the University of Michigan found that a diet rich in cherries lowers triglycerides and cholesterol, while raising good cholesterol and raising antioxidant capacity. Marketed as “America’s Super Fruit,” cherries have been shown to help reduce body fat by as much as 15 percent, particularly the harmful belly fat linked to an increased risk of heart disease.

What to Look For

The darker the cherry, the more anthocyanin it contains. This powerful antioxidant belongs to the group of compounds known as flavonoids and possess the greatest therapeutic power. Some tart cherry varieties include the Montmorency and the Balaton produced in Michigan, while Bing cherries grown in the Northwest are a great sweet variety loaded with antioxidants.

Cherries come in three different types, which include tart, wild and sweet and are used in a variety of ways, including jams, juice, pies, cakes, jellies and ice cream as well as freshly eaten. When shopping for cherries, always look for fresh, unblemished fruit, frozen or canned juice for the most health benefits.

Whether you prefer sweet or tart varieties, cherries provide a great health advantage and should be included as part of any balanced diet.

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