Health Benefits Of Tart Cherries
There are two main types of cherries, tart cherries and sweet cherries. Sweet cherries are generally more popular than tart cherries for the simple reason that they are sweeter to the taste. However, even though tart cherries have long been in the shadow of their sweet counterparts, recent studies have shown that the health benefits of tart cherries outweigh those of sweet cherries.
Before the discovery of the numerous health benefits of tart cherries, they were most commonly found in jams and fruit pies. Nowadays however, tart cherries are found in juices, concentrates, capsules and many other natural health products.
The majority of the health benefits of tart cherries are derived from the fact that these cherries are packed full of antioxidants. Studies have shown that tart cherries have one of the highest levels of antioxidants that can be found in fruit. The antioxidant levels in tart cherries are said to be higher than the levels in fruits like oranges and prunes which are well known to be very antioxidant rich. There are at least 17 compounds in tart cherries that have antioxidant properties.
One of the most important compounds is anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are phytonutrients that give the tart cherries their bright red color and have the highest level of antioxidant capacity. They are good for health as they reduce inflammation. Anthocyanins reduce inflammation by blocking the production of the enzymes that cause that inflammation. They also inhibit the growth of tumors.
The other compounds that are among the health benefits of tart cherries are melatonin, ellagic acid, quercetin, catechin, kaempferol, cyaniding, coumaric acid, perillyl alcohol, gallic acid and peonidin. Tart cherries are also low in sodium and are fat free.
The anti-inflammatory properties of tart cherries are why they are linked to being beneficial in conditions such as arthritis and gout, promotion of heart health and being useful in preventing muscle strain and oxidative stress in athletes. In gout and arthritis, studies have shown that drinking tart cherry juice regularly for a period of a week caused a reduction in uric acid levels, c-reactive protein and nitric oxide which all cause inflammation.
Tart cherries also play a role in cardiovascular health not only because of their anti-inflammatory properties but also because of the role they play in increasing HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol levels. HDL is good cholesterol. The anthocyanins also reduce LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein), bad cholesterol levels.
The health benefits of tart cherries can be derived from the tart cherries in any form whether frozen, dried, as a juice concentrate or as an ingredient in food recipes. However, it is always best to consume the fruit when fresh.
There is still ongoing research on the health benefits of tart cherries and it is entirely possible that the studies will uncover even more health benefits.