I have been eating literally pounds of cherries in the past few weeks and because my skin looks more fabulous than usual I started did a little bit of research – and ran out to buy some more!
Cherry season is NOW and once you read the below you won’t want to miss out on the chance to eat as many as possible while you can. Aim for organic as always.
A member of the plum family, most commercial cherries are derived from just two species: the sweet – or wild cherry – known as Prunus Avium, and the sour cherry, known as Prunus Cerasus.
Cherries have been used as a medical aid since the 1950′s to treat gout sufferers, since their ability to reduce uric acid in the blood improves symptoms significantly. But as studies into this bright juicy berry advance, more and more is being discovered about how cherries can improve our health:
- Cherries are extremely high in anti-oxidants called anthocyanins, commonly found in brightly-coloured fruits, which are so important as part of a healthy diet and play a variety of roles, from lowering the risk of heart disease and cancer, to promoting healthy skin and brain cells. Cherries are rich in two important flavonoids, isoqueritrin and queritrin, which act as antioxidants and work to eliminate byproducts of oxidative stress, therefore slowing down the aging process.
- By helping reduce inflammation in the body, the anthocyanin and bioflavonoids in cherries also help eliminate migraine headaches. These compounds are known to have similar activity to aspirin and ibuprofen.
- Ease muscle soreness: Tart cherry juice may quell post-workout pain, says a 2010 Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition study. Runners who downed 24 ounces of tart cherry juice daily (about 480 calories) for seven days before a long-distance race, and again on race day, reported fewer aches afterward than runners who drank a placebo. Researchers believe that tart cherries’ antioxidants protect against attacks by exercise-induced free radicals, which can lead to painful inflammation. Cherries have anti-inflammatory properties, which work by inhibiting enzymes in the body that cause muscle pain; studies indicate that they can act as a painkiller to almost the same level of effectiveness as ibuprofen.
- Struggling to get a good night’s sleep? Sour cherries can help! They contain the antioxidant melatonin, which occurs naturally in the body to promote and regulate our sleep-patterns. Melatonin is also found to help the body’s natural sleep patterns. Since the body so rapidly absorbs melatonin, cherries can increase melatonin levels in the blood, therefore improving the way you sleep. Sweet cherries are loaded with potassium, a natural blood-pressure reducer. Potassium balances fluids in our bodies, essentially offsetting the blood-pressure-raising effects of sodium. So it’s no wonder studies have found that people who eat more potassium-rich foods, like sweet cherries, tend to have less hypertension. One cup of these ruby gems packs roughly the same amount of potassium as a small banana and also boasts some quercetin, an antioxidant that may help keep blood vessels relaxed and supple.
- Studies seem to show that sour cherries have the potential to limit the uptake of fat into the body, and control levels of cholesterol in the blood. The anthocyanins in tart cherries activate a molecule that helps rev up fat burning and decrease fat storage. However, watch out, as cherries are calorific! So this fat-limiting property is only effective if the rest of your diet is taken into consideration.
- Cherries contain high levels of vitamins A, C and E, and well as trace elements iron, magnesium and potassium. And since they are a significant source of fiber, they are great for digestion.
- Cancer fighting: Queritrin–a flavonoid–is rich in cherries, and has been found by researchers to be one of the most potent anticancer agents. When eating cherries, the queritrin is set free to fight off all the body’s cancerous cells. Cherries also contain ellagic acid, a naturally occurring plant phenolic known as an anti-carcinogenic/anti-mutagenic compound. Some researchers say that ellagic acid may be the most effective way to prevent cancer. Another compound found in cherries–perillyl alcohol (POH)–is extremely powerful in reducing the occurrence of all types of cancer. Researchers found that POH stops the growth of cancer cells by depriving them of the proteins they need to grow. It has worked on every kind of cancer that POH has been tested against. Plus, preliminary studies suggest the anthocyanin cyanidin may prevent genetic mutations that can lead to cancer and keep cancer cells from growing out of control. While tart cherries contain some anthocyanins, sweet cherries pack nearly three times as many (two-thirds are found in the skins). The riper the better: as cherries darken, they produce more antioxidants.
- Help Relieve Pain of Arthritis and Gout: Tart cherries contain two powerful compounds, anthocyanins and bioflavonoids. Both of these compounds slow down the enzymes Cyclo-oxyygenase-1 and -2, which help to relieve and prevent arthritis and gout in the body. Arthritis is caused by too much uric acid in the blood, which causes swelling, inflammation and tenderness. A growing body of research reveals that cherries—both sweet and tart—can help. In a USDA study, eating about 2 cups fresh sweet Bing cherries daily lowered uric acid levels by 15% and also reduced C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation. Another study showed that drinking 8 ounces of tart cherry juice a day reduces uric acid.
Any Side Effects?
Although cherries themselves are a really great addition to a healthy diet, be careful not to eat or chew the stones or cherry leaves, since they contain levels of prussic acid, found in cyanide.
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