With a wide range of health benefits, cherries—and more specifically tart cherries—are an oft-overlooked superfood. But whether it’s insomnia, joint pain or belly fat you’re dealing with, cherries may be just what the doctor ordered. Here’s why.
1. Cherries battle belly fat. Researchers found that tart cherries have significant weight management benefits for animals, including reduced belly fat. In the study, rats that received whole tart cherry powder mixed into a high-fat diet didn’t gain as much weight or build up as much body fat as rats that didn’t receive cherries. Their blood also showed much lower levels of certain inflammation markers linked to heart disease and diabetes. And, in addition, they had significantly lower blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides than their cherry-deprived counterparts.
2. Cherries cut your chance of getting gout. If you have ever felt the agonizing pain of a gout attack (swollen toes and all) it quickly becomes something you don’t want to experience again. For gout sufferers, tart cherries may be another solution to add to their anti-gout arsenal. A 2012 study published in Arthritis & Rheumatism found that patients with gout who consumed cherries over a two-day period (yes, just two days!) showed a 35% lower risk of gout attacks compared to their fruit wary counterparts. In addition, the risk of gout flares was 75% lower when cherry intake was combined with the uric-acid reducing drug, allopurinol. And if you are wondering if you will have to start your own cherry farm, the participants consumed just ½ cup (or 10-12 cherries) up to three times per day.
3. Cherries combat post-workout soreness. Find yourself having trouble walking down the stairs (or even sitting down) after a hard workout? If you’re looking for a healthy way to fight post-exercise soreness, cherries fit the bill. Studies suggest a cup and a half of tart cherries or one cup of tart cherry juice can significantly reduce muscle inflammation and soreness (remember that a good workout actually causes muscle damage, resulting in inflammation). In one study a group of marathon runners drank tart cherry juice or a placebo drink twice daily for seven days prior to their race. The cherry juice group reported significantly less post-race muscle pain. Remember to have it immediately post workout (i.e. with your whey protein) when your muscles are primed to absorb excess insulin in the bloodstream.
4. Cherries provide natural osteoarthritis relief. If you can’t shake the pain and discomfort of swollen joints and you are frustrated with the side effects of the standard prescription of ice and NSAIDs you can choose to stock up on tart cherries either in juice, pill or fruit form. According to researchers with the Baylor Research Institute, tart cherries may be a promising pain-reliever for osteoarthritis. More 50% of the patients enrolled in a 2007 pilot study experienced a significant improvement in pain and function after taking the cherry pills for eight weeks. In another In a study of twenty women ages 40 to 70 with inflammatory osteoarthritis, researchers found that drinking tart cherry juice twice daily for three weeks led to significant reductions in important inflammation markers – especially for patients who had the highest inflammation levels at the start of the study, It certainly beats the side effects of many pain medications.
5. Cherries reduce stroke risk. Researchers from the University of Michigan Health System found that tart cherries provide cardiovascular benefits equal to some medications, and can improve the result even when taken with prescriptions. They believe that anthocyanins—the pigments that give the tart cherries its red color—may activate something called PPAR in bodily tissues, which in turn regulate fat and glucose levels and therby reduce risk factors for high cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes. Not a bad gig for such a small fruit!
6. Cherries help you get some sleep. Perhaps the most common complaint that I hear from new patients has to do with sleep. Whether it stems from unbalanced hormones, excess stress, a busy mind or unhealthy habits, a large portion of us are left tossing and turning each night in desperation—but cherry juice could help. In one study participants drank 30ml of Montmorency cherry juice 30 minutes after waking and 30 minutes before their evening meal, thereby boosting their exogenous melatonin intake by 85mcg/day. The results? There were significant increases in time in bed, total sleep time, and sleep efficiency total with cherry juice supplementation. So reach for some cherry juice instead of the Nyquil! I recommend drinking half to one cup an hour before bed.