Are you having trouble getting in the recommended number of fruits and vegetables each day? Do you need a little incentive to get you to choose fruit over candy to appease your sweet tooth? If so, you may be as interested as we were in some recent findings from a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) study on the health benefits of sweet cherries.
The term “superfruit” has become increasingly popular in the last few years and in many cases, it is nothing more than a marketing ploy. It’s not that fruit isn’t good for you; it is absolutely a key component to a healthy diet. With all the hype about “superfruit this” and “superfruit that,” many consumers, like you, struggle to understand what makes one fruit super and another simply good. Luckily, research teams like the one involved in this study are trying to answer that question, and definitively determine which fruits have seemingly super powers and why.
Are Sweet Cherries Super?
In the case of sweet cherries, the research team wanted to understand if consuming these delicious fruits offered any benefits beyond checking off one of your recommended daily servings. In 2006, the team conducted the initial study which showed that when people ate sweet cherries, they experienced a marked decrease in the number of inflammatory biomarkers found in their blood. If you know anything about chronic disease, you already know why this decrease matters. For everyone else, here is a quick look at why lowering the number of inflammatory biomarkers is a big deal.
Dr Kent Erickson from UC Davis Medical School in California, who was on the research team, explained that other research has shown the link between certain inflammation biomarkers and an increased risk of developing some devastating chronic diseases. People who elevated levels of biomarkers may be more likely to be diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even cancer. With this understanding, the team sought to determine if eating sweet cherries had a demonstrable effect on the number of these specific biomarkers related to inflammation. The idea being, that if you can decrease the number of biomarkers in the blood, you may be on your way to preventing the condition all together.
In the original 2006 study, there were 18 participants between the ages of 45 and 61 who had an increased level of C-reactive proteins, the inflammation biomarkers being studied. The initial 2006 results showed that consuming sweet cherries lead to a reduction of 3 inflammation biomarkers. Then, in 2010, the team went back and performed a more comprehensive and sophisticated analysis of the original data and conducted more testing on frozen samples that remained from the 2006 study. This additional analysis enabled them to look at a larger range of biomarkers than was possible in the original study. The new analysis revealed that consuming cherries actually impacts the levels of 9 inflammatory biomarkers in the blood instead of only the 3 originally identified.
This is great news for those with inflammatory conditions like arthritis as including sweet cherries in their diet may help their symptoms in addition to helping lower the risk of developing other chronic diseases.
What Is Super About Sweet Cherries?
With the new research in hand, we wanted to see what other benefits eating sweet cherries can offer our bodies. We turned to the National Cherry Growers and Industry Foundation to learn more. In addition to helping lower the number of inflammatory biomarkers in our blood, sweet cherries also offer some fabulous health benefits including:
- Cancer Fighter – Sweet cherries are packed with a bunch of cancer-fighting compounds including carotenoids and anthrocyanins. These antioxidants may help round up and neutralize the free radicals that can turn into cancer.
- Cardiovascular Health – Red wine, which contains similar anthrocyanins, has been shown to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by preventing cell damage and inhibiting inflammation. There is reason to believe, based on available research, that sweet cherries offer the same health benefits.
- Diabetes Prevention – Although the research on this topic is not resounding, some findings indicate that there may also be a link between consuming the anthrocyanins contained in sweet cherries and a reduced risk of insulin resistance and intolerance to glucose. By helping the body produce insulin, sweet cherries may help prevent this disease.
- Packed with Potassium – In addition to providing a solid serving of dietary fiber, sweet cherries are also a great source of potassium which is crucial in maintaining a healthy blood pressure and preventing things like strokes.
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