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Tart Cherries And Health
Early spring is a time when the animals dig up bitter roots that help scrub the liver and the villi of the intestinal tract. Next come the fluorescent green sprouts, rich in chlorophyll, to color the landscape and fertilize the good microbes that live in the intestines. Then, in late spring, we harvest berries and cherries, both loaded with powerful antioxidants that are best known in Ayurveda as “lymph movers.”
Cherries are the last chance of the season to capitalize on these potent lymph-moving antioxidants. Harvested in the late spring, they double as the last berry of spring and the first fruit of summer. Now, while the benefits of sweet cherries are noteworthy, it’s the tart cherries that are truly the lymph’s best friend this time of year.
Remember, very sweet fruits, like sweet cherries, are a product of hybridization. We are genetically programmed to crave the sweet taste because the sweet taste is energy-rich and, traditionally, over-shooting the energy runway with sweets meant we would store some extra fat, which at one point in time was a good thing. Humans have spent 2 million years trying to figure out how to store some extra fat as a means of survival. Finally, we figured it out – to a fault!
Tart cherries – also known as sour cherries or pie cherries (Prunus avium L) – are significantly better for us than sweet cherries, but are not so readily available in the grocery stores.
- At your local farmer’s market
- Frozen (popular for baking)
Tart cherries are loaded with phenolic compounds, anthocyanins and other nutrients, in much greater quantities than sweet cherries. There is compelling research that supports the benefits of cherries. Studies suggest that, due to their superior phenolic and anthocyanin content, tart cherries may help reduce the risk of joint, muscle, weight, cardiovascular and blood sugar concerns, and issues relating to memory and cognitive function. (1)
Tart cherries support a comparable and side-effect-free response to muscle and joint discomfort when compared to NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), (4) as well as help support faster recovery times and better strength during and after exercise. (2) Tart cherries have the amazing ability to switch certain genes linked to health and longevity on or off. In one study, tart cherries delivered a whopping 65% reduction in early mortality. (3) Wow!
Eat up – it’s cherry season!
- Downey M. Life Extension 2013
- Journal International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2010 May 7;7-17
- FASEB J. April 2011;25. Supplement. 980.10
- Behavioral Brain Research. 2004 Aug 12;153(1):181-8