Health Benefits of Cherries and Tart Cherry Juice
Can cherries and drinking tart cherry juice really benefit your health? There is so much information available on nutrition and healthy living these days, and such a myriad of supplements and health foods that you can buy, that it is no wonder that we sometimes get confused and wonder what are the best supplements and healthiest foods on which to spend our hard-earned cash. Cherries and tart cherry juice are one food that is proving to be a super-food and certainly deserves to be included in your diet. This luscious, red fruit is widely grown throughout the world and they are fleshy stone fruits produced by several of the plants of the genus Prunus. They have been eaten in Europe since Antiquity, and nowadays they are a popular fruit that is also used to makes jams, purees, and can be included in many different recipes. They are famous for their bright red colour, and it is the anthocyanins that give cherries this vivid red colouring that are also responsible for many of the health benefits offered by eating them and by drinking tart cherry juice.
So What Are Anthocyanins?
Anthocyanins are flavonoid pigments which give many fruits and vegetables, such as cherries, raspberries, blueberries, purple cabbage and beet, their colour. Anthocyanins are also powerful antioxidants, which play a strong protective role in maintaining the health of our bodies. What antioxidants do is target harmful molecules in the body called free radicals, and therefore can help prevent serious conditions such as cancer, strokes, heart disease, and ageing. Free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms that move around the body causing damage to healthy cells by taking one of their electrons. Antioxidants such as anthocyanins move around the body neutralising the dangerous free radicals and helping to prevent the cell damage that can lead to health problems and disease. Anthocyanins also act as powerful anti-inflammatories, which is why eating cherries or drinking tart cherry juice can help to soothe the pain of arthritis.
So What Cherries Offer the Best Health Benefits?
Although sweet cherry varieties and black cherries contain anthocyanins and are also great sources of Vitamin C, iron, folate, fibre and magnesium, it is the Montmorency or tart cherry that offers the greatest health benefits if included in your diet. As they are known as tart cherries, they are generally not eaten as a fruit, but are often made into a potent cherry juice concentrate. This concentrate can then be diluted with water and drunk or added to your fruit smoothies for a powerful health punch. Montmorency cherries provide a much higher level of anthocyanins than the sweet or black varieties, thus giving you much more protection against those dangerous free radicals in your bodies. Dr Robert Verkerk conducted a research project where he compared the levels of antioxidant in various foods, known as the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC), and found that diluted cherry juice concentrate level was 8,260, compared with around 1790 for a lot of other fruit and vegetables.
Montmorency or tart cherries are also one of the few natural food sources that provide the hormone Melatonin. Melatonin is produced in the pineal gland in the brain and is responsible for maintaining our sleeping and waking cycles. Having regular good quality sleep is vital to our recovery processes, and is also very important for maintaining our immune systems and regulating our blood sugar levels. Tart cherries also contain phenolic compounds which are important as they help to protect our bodies against neurodegeneration, which is the progressive loss of nerve cells and neurological function.
Conditions Improved by Drinking Cherry Juice
Gout: gout is a very painful and debilitating condition and is caused by a build up of uric acid in your joints. Drinking cherry juice can help with maintaining healthy uric acid levels in your body and thus helping to prevent you from suffering from gout.
Arthritis: drinking cherry juice can also help to relieve the intense pain that can be caused in people’s joints by arthritis, as the anthocyanins found in cherries act as powerful anti-inflammatories.
Recovery After Sport: including cherries in your diet helps to promote healthy joints and helps to reduce muscle soreness after playing sport or exercising. Drinking cherry juice just before and immediately after strenuous exercise helps to assuage the pain of sore muscles
Insomnia: Montmorency cherries are a natural source of melatonin which is a hormone that helps to regulate our patterns of sleep.
Heart Disease – the antioxidants in cherry juice help to eliminate the free radicals that can cause oxidative damage to your heart cells, so helping to protect your heart and arteries from damage
Weakened Immune System - having a healthy immune system is vital as it protects us from being infected by bacteria, viruses, and parasites. The cells of our immune systems can be easily be damaged by free radicals in the body, which eventually lowers the immune system response, leaving you much more vulnerable to disease and infections. The high levels of antioxidants found in tart cherry juice concentrate aid in minimising damage from free radicals and therefore help keep our immune systems strong and resilient.
Can Drinking Cherry Juice Help You To Sleep?
Apparently drinking a glass of cherry juice is as good as having a glass of warm milk or counting sheep when it comes to helping you go to sleep. A recent study undertaken at the University of Texas has revealed that Montmorency cherries contain a very high level of a substance called melatonin.So why is melatonin so important when it comes to banishing insomnia?Well the brain produces melatonin when we are asleep, but this melatonin production is lowered by the amount of light that we are exposed to when we are sleeping. Not producing enough melatonin overnight can contribute to developing conditions such as depression, diabetes and even cancer and is also implicated in gaining weight. So drinking that glass of tart cherry juice just before you go to sleep can help to boost melatonin production in your brain, and you can also help yourself further by ensuring that any room you sleep in is as dark as possible.
How Much Cherry Juice Do You Need to Drink?
So how many do you need to eat or how much cherry juice do you need to drink to obtain the maximum health benefits? If you choose to drink the juice concentrate, ideally you would want to drink two tablespoons a day, either diluted with water or added to your fruit smoothie. If you want to eat sweet or black cherries, one portion of fresh or dried fruit will provide you with a good level of nutrients and antioxidants. If you would like to gain the health benefits but do not like the taste, you can also buy cherry fruit extract supplements from health food shops or online.
Eating cherries, whether fresh or dried, or drinking diluted cherry juice concentrate are not known to have any adverse side effects when consumed in reasonable amounts. However, if you are taking any prescribed medication, are pregnant or nursing, or are concerned in any way, you should consult your medical professional before starting to drink cherry juice or taking cherry fruit extract tablets
Where To Find Cherry Juice Concentrate and Cherry Fruit Extract Supplements?
Cherries are widely available in supermarkets, markets and greengrocers. Cherry juice concentrate and cherry fruit supplements can be bought in health food shops. There is also a wide range of the juice and supplements available online.
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Disclaimer: Please be aware that any information given in this article should in no way be used to replace advice given to you by your medical practitioner. Anybody suffering from a medical condition, pregnant, nursing or is at all concerned should always consult their doctor before changing their diet or starting to take any form of dietary supplement or natural remedy. Also be aware that while drinking cherry juice or taking cherry fruit extract supplements is generally regarded as being good for you, there are no guarantees that your health will improve.