If you’re like me, you’re ready for spring-time already! Even though we have another couple of months of winter, we can start planning how we’re going to enjoy the fruits of spring. And when it comes to fighting cancer, I mean literal “fruits”…
I’m talking about cherries and their incredible natural health benefits, including the ability to block cancer from forming with remarkable antioxidant compounds…
There’s plenty to get excited about when it comes to cherries. They’re a great source of fiber, potassium, and vitamin C. And tart cherries in particular carry a hefty amount of vitamin A.
You may be more familiar with tart cherries as “pie cherries.” They’re not sweet like dark cherries, and most people don’t eat them raw — but they’re preferred for baking pastries, and for boosting your health.
Unrivaled antioxidant power
Cherries are known to have a variety of antioxidant phytochemicals (i.e., plant chemicals) that contribute to their rich coloring. Most interesting to herbalists and natural healers are their high levels of antioxidant anthocyanins — responsible for the dark red color of the fruit and the bulk of its antioxidant activity.
Hydroxycinnamic acid and perillyl alcohol (POH) are two phytochemicals that also contribute to antioxidant power. Both sweet and tart cherries have impressive antioxidant levels, but tart cherries trump sweet cherries.
Why is this such a big deal? Because high antioxidant levels give you a critical advantage when it comes to fighting cancer. They efficiently replace free radicals before they can cause any damage to your body.
Another element, a flavonoid called quercitrin, is one more reason cherries can serve as potent, anticancer weapons. On top of that, cherries have high levels of ellagic acid, which is both an anti-carcinogenic and an anti-mutagenic compound.
Perillyl alcohol, which I mentioned before, is yet another powerful way to stave off cancer. Researchers have found that POH deprives cancer cells of the proteins they need to grow.
Thanks to these many health benefits, cherries have been proven by researchers to lower your risk for colorectal cancer. They’re also believed to lower your risk for mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, lung, and stomach cancers.
And in general, cherries promote good health that keeps your body working at optimum efficiency, making it more likely you’ll keep cancer at bay.
The long list of other health
benefits from cherries…
Of course, cherries promote good health beyond just cancer prevention.
If consumed daily, the compounds in cherries can have a powerful impact on joint inflammation.
Tart cherries specifically contain compounds – those anthocyanins I mentioned earlier — that slow down the enzymes Cyclooxygenase-1 and -2 thereby both relieving and preventing arthritis (you may be more familiar with these enzymes as COX-1 and COX-2).
The rich dose of anthocyanins not only reduces arthritic inflammation but also helps eliminate migraine headaches the same way. You could say that tart cherries are similar to NSAIDs, but instead of being made in a laboratory, they’re picked from a tree, so they have no harmful side effects.
Stops free radical damage, improves sleep
Remember the quercitrin I mentioned earlier? That, paired with the flavonoid isoquercitrin, helps clear the body of any byproducts that come with oxidative stress. In turn, this slows down the aging process.
Cherries also come loaded with melatonin, which helps people achieve a regular sleep pattern.
In fact, a study done in the U.K. shows that people who drink two one-ounce servings a day of tart cherry juice raise their melatonin levels and sleep on average for 39 minutes longer than do non-cherry juice drinkers.
Melatonin also gets credit for slowing the aging process and is believed to play a role in fighting cancer and other diseases.
How to get these health benefits
Cherry juice and dried cherries (both sweetened and unsweetened) contain levels of antioxidants and anthocyanins that are nearly as high as fresh cherries. Antioxidant levels in frozen cherries are slightly lower, and canned cherry levels are lower still – though they remain significant.
The most convenient way to get the health benefits of cherries is by drinking a cherry juice concentrate. Eating the real fruit is ideal as well, but you end up consuming more sugar that way – and the fresh fruit isn’t available year-round. I will point out that tart cherries have a lower sugar level. In addition, you can buy food supplements made of tart cherry concentrates. There are even anthocyanin supplements extracted from tart cherries available for sale.
Also, worth trying are aronia berries, which have an even higher concentration of anthocyanins. They come from a family of shrubs known as chokeberries and are often mistakenly called chokecherries. Aronia berries are loaded with high levels of polyphenolic pigment, which is where you’ll find their anthocyanins.
Chokeberries make attractive ornamental plants. The fruits can be black or red and are often smaller than the traditional cherry. Aronia berries can be plucked off the bush and eaten, but may also be made into juice, wine. jam, salsa, syrup, and other edible treats.
Research is underway on the positive effect aronia berries have on breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and cervical cancer.
- “Are cherries the new wonder fruit?” By Bob Trott for Diet and Fitness on NBC News.com. http://www.nbcnews.com/id/6124646/ns/health-health_library/t/are-cherries-
- “Aronia.” Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aronia
- “Is it chokeberry or chokecherry?” By Aronia in America. http://aroniainamerica.blogspot.com/2011/03/is-it-chokeberry-or-chokecherry.html
- “Foods that fight cancer: Cherries.” From the American Institute for Cancer Research. http://www.aicr.org/foods-that-fight-cancer/cherries.html
- “Red Tart Cherries Work Wonders for One Mesothelioma Patient.” By Tim Povtak for Asbestos.com. http://www.asbestos.com/blog/2011/10/19/red-tart-cherries-work-wonders-for-one-
- “Tart cherry anthocyanins inhibit tumor development in Apc(Min) mice and reduce proliferation of human colon cancer cells.” By Kang, S.Y., et al. Cancer Lett. 2003 May 8;194(1):13-9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12706854
- “Tart Cherries & Cancer.” By Peter Mitchel for LiveStrong.com. http://www.livestrong.com/article/484519-tart-cherries-cancer/