Not only are cherries one of the most satisfying and delicious foods around, they are rated by the American Journal of Nutrition in the “Top 50 List” of foods with the most powerful nutritional content and health benefits.
It’s the deep red, blue and purple colors of the top berries that contain the plant chemicals delivering a potent punch against disease. Recent research studies have discovered the health benefits of cherries include muscle pain relief, reducing inflammation, remedying insomnia, protection of brain cells, and relief for knee arthritis.
Many of the scientific studies on cherries are done with tart cherries or Montmorency cherries – usually sold as juice, dried, frozen, and in powdered supplement capsules. For those seeking a food-based remedy for sleeplessness and insomnia, the tart Montmorency cherry is known to contain high levels of melatonin, the hormone made in the brain that regulates the sleep-wake cycle.
The European Journal of Nutrition presented a placebo-controlled study that proved drinking tart cherry juice increases melatonin and improves sleep quality. Drinking the juice resulted in longer sleep times, less daytime napping and greater overall sleep efficiency (the ratio of the time spent in bed to the time actually spent sleeping).
Cherries also give proven relief for people who would like to reduce muscle pain or soreness after exercise or a lot of physical activity. A study from a sports nutrition journal discovered that runners who drank tart cherry juice prior to and during a race, experienced much less pain afterwards. The high levels of anti-inflammatory properties in cherries provided a protective effect against muscle damage.
In the battle against belly fat, cherries can be a good weapon. In one animal study from the University of Michigan, scientists mixed whole tart cherry powder in with a high fat diet. The animals that ate the cherries had a lower body weight, lower cholesterol and significantly lower levels of the kind of inflammation that’s linked to heart disease and diabetes in humans.
Fat cells have been described as “chemically active” ones that can lower the strength of the immune system and lead to the onset of widespread inflammation. In a study where people drank eight ounces of tart cherry juice each day for a month, it was shown that inflammation was lowered in the body in many of the most significant blood markers of it.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It causes chronic joint pain, swelling, and reduced motion in joints. It can occur in any joint, but usually it affects hands, knees, hips or spine. In a recent study at the Baylor Research Institute, scientists gave tart cherry powder in capsules to people with knee osteoarthritis. At the end of the eight week study, over 50% of the people benefited with good increases in movement and significant reduction of pain.
For better brain health as one ages, a study from the journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry has proven that tart cherries protect brain cells from cell-damaging stress in a dose-dependent manner. In other words, when more cherries are eaten, there are more neuro-protective benefits for the brain. This shows a potential defense against conditions such as Alzheimer’s.
Cherries are certainly a delicious way to reduce pain and inflammation and help keep many parts of the body healthier and sleeping better.