With a wide range of health benefits, cherries, and more specifically, tart cherries, are an often overlooked superfood. But whether it’s belly fat, joint pain or insomnia you’re dealing with, cherries may be just what the doctor ordered. Here’s why.
Cherries battle belly fat. Tart cherries are rich in the plant chemical anthocyanin. Not only does this chemical give the cherries their bright color, but it also helps you burn 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.
Cherries cut your chance of getting gout. 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 the participants only consumed just ½ cup (or 10-12 cherries) up to three times per day.
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 anthocyanin – the pigment that gives the tart cherries its red color – may activate PPAR genes in bodily tissues, which in turn regulate fat and glucose levels and thereby reduce risk factors for high cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes.
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.
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. Moreover, it beats the side effects of many pain medications.
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 are the right thing to choose. 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.
Cherries help you get some sleep. Whether your insomnia stems from unbalanced hormones, excess stress, a busy mind or unhealthy habits, you are still left tossing and turning each night in desperation. But cherry juice can help because they are a good source of melatonin, the hormone which regulates sleep and wake cycles. In one study participants drank 30ml of 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 sleeping pills! The recommended dose is half to one cup an hour before bed.
Note: there is a higher level of melatonin in tart cherries compared to sweet cherries.