Cheers to cherry juice

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach

By Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach

There has been a great deal of buzz lately surrounding the notion of an official “anti-inflammatory meal plan”.  Although I am not intimately familiar with all of the science behind this, my understanding is that the plan strives to avoid processed foods, sugar, dairy and gluten.  If you think that sounds like no fun at all, trust me…I’ve grown accustomed to it.

There is some good news on the horizon, however, for those of us interested in natural healing through proper nutrition.  Tart cherry juice has recently become a focal point in this particular arena.  Since I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia 26 years ago, and since I’ll admit to often abusing my body in the gym, inflammation is a very real issue.  I have been on the anti-inflammation plan for a while now, and have recently incorporated a shot or two of tart cherry juice each day. 

Tart cherries are packed with unique anthocyanins and other compounds that naturally mediate the body’s inflammatory process. These naturally occurring substances deliver anti-inflammatory relief very similar to ibuprofen and naproxen, typical over-the-counter non-steriodal anti-inflammatory drugs—but without the side effects. 

These products account for nearly 60 percent of non-prescription pain reliever sales in the USA alone, regardless of their potentially deadly side effects: gastric bleeding, heart attack, and kidney failure. In recognizing this, natural agents that could prove more beneficial and safer have gained increased attention. 

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The compounds found in cherries affect numerous pathways that may potentially confer protection against other conditions associated with inflammation—cancer, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and Alzheimer’s disease.  The scientific vernacular is abundant, but here is an overview:

  • Inhibitenzymes that help make inflammatory prostaglandins
  • Switch off pivotal genes found to be involved in cancer and inflammation, and switch on apoptosis, the programmed death of potentially pre-cancerous cells.
  • Target cholesterol and triglycerides and improve some high-risk metabolic phenotypes
  • Aid in controlling blood glucose levels and interfere with glucose synthesis and release

One of nature’s most potent classes of flavonoids is anthocyanins. These powerhouses are responsible for the beautiful, deep colors we see in some berries, fruits, and vegetables. Tart cherries fall into this category, but go a step further, by providing high levels of certain anthocyanins not present in many other high-octane fruits and berries.  In additions, scientists have discovered that tart cherries contain much higher amounts of total phenolics than even their nutritious cousin, the sweet cherries.  This delicious juice has been ranked 14th among the top 50 foods in terms of highest antioxidant content per serving—surpassing even red wine and dark chocolate. 

There currently are many tart cherry juice concentrate products available on the market, and they can be found in regular supermarkets.  The one I chose recommends 1 shot (2 Tablespoons) per day.  I add it to a protein shake or cranberry juice. This concentrated amount of juice is equivalent to more cherries than anyone would care to eat at a single serving (plus, no pits to spit).  If you feel like treating your body with a healthier alternative to fighting and easing inflammation, get a bottle and take a swig! Do be careful, however; this stuff stains!

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