Studies & Research

The Montmorency Tart Cherry: Today’s New Superfruit

Researchers continue to explore the benefits of “superfruits,” a unique group of nutrient-rich fruits that contain natural compounds shown to have potential disease-fighting properties. Few fruits fall into this category, and emerging science shows that tart cherries (technically known as Prunus cerasus) are among them. Tart cherries, commonly found in dried, frozen and juice forms, are rich in antioxidants and contain potent phytonutrients including anthocyanins—plant pigments that have been linked to a variety of health benefits— and melatonin, a potent antioxidant that helps improve the body’s circadian rhythms and natural sleep patterns.

Anthocyanins, which give tart cherries their deep, rich color, belong to a large group of phenolic compounds called flavonoids. Of the 150 different flavonoids found in plants, anthocyanins appear to have the greatest antioxidant capacity. Montmorency cherries, in particular, have the highest anti-oxidant levels (ORAC rating†)on the market, and they’re loaded with three disease-fighting chemicals—perillyl alcohol (POH), limonene and ellagic acid. Numerous studies indicate that POH may help prevent the formation and progression of certain cancers, while the phenolic compounds found in cherries may also lower inflammatory processes associated with heart disease.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that tart cherries ranked 14 out of the top 50 foods for highest antioxidant content per serving size, which is good news as researchers continue to be prove that diets rich in antioxidants lower a person’s risk for disease, stimulate the immune system, protect brain neurons from damage and possibly even slow the aging process.

According to one University of Michigan research study, eating just 1 1/2 servings of tart cherries could considerably increase antioxidant activity in the body. In the study, healthy adults who ate a cup and a half of frozen cherries immediately had higher levels of antioxidants in their bodies; specifically, five separate anthocyanins. The same researchers also found that adding tart cherries to your diet may help to reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome.

As part of a well-rounded diet, cherries are an excellent source of beta-carotene (vitamin A)—containing 19 times the beta-carotene of blueberries and strawberries. Cherries are also rich in vitamins C and E, and provide potassium, magnesium, iron and folate. Research suggests tart cherries may reduce inflammation and ease the pain of arthritis and gout, and also may offer protection against heart disease and certain cancers, reduce the risk of diabetes and insulin resistance syndrome, and aid in the treatment and possible prevention of memory loss.

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