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The Wonders of Cherries

Dole Dark Sweet CherriesSince I posted my Chocolate Cherry Bliss Smoothie recipe, I have gotten questions from readers and clients about why I love that smoothie so much.

Everyone seems to get that I love it because it is absolutely delicious (I am currently obsessed with it, drink it nearly every day and always before training). I also love it because cherries are one of the world’s most underrated fruits.

Cherries are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants as well as anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer compounds. They contain powerful compounds, like the flavonoid quercetin (also high in apples and onions), ellagic acid (also in raspberries) and perillyl alcohol. I did my senior year capstone project on the health benefits of berries, and while cherries are not exactly berries (some sources say they are, some say no), we included them anyway because they kick so much ass.

Quercetin has anti-cancer properties, and is strongly anti-inflammatory as it influences cellular mechanisms. There are a lot of in vitro studies showing the powerful anti-inflammatory  and anti-cancer properties, and some anti-tumor properties as well. While in vitro studies certainly do not make quercetin out to be a magic bullet, it is another piece of ammo in the fight against cancer.

Ellagic acid also has anti-cancer properties and can prevent unwanted changes to our DNA (anti-mutagenic). It has been shown to inhibit tumor growth, and may also have anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. The studies on ellagic acid were in vitro, and in animal studies, and even a few human studies showing its health benefits as well. This is good stuff.

Perillyl alcohol has also been shown to inhibit tumor growth. In studies done on animals it has inhibited tumors in pancreatic, stomach, colon, skin and liver cancer. It causes apoptosis of the cancer cells, where the cancer cells commit cell suicide. Pretty sweet.

Another awesome benefit of cherries is its enormous amounts of anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are pigments that give cherries (and other berries) their bright red color. Cherries and raspberries have the highest amounts of anthocyanins. These anthocyanins are natural COX-2 inhibitors, and in one study were found to be comparable to ibuprofen and naproxen in their ability to suppress COX-2 activity. Some interesting stuff for those of you with arthritis or joint pain.

Cherries are also high in vitamin C, potassium and fiber, along with tasting like they were sent from heaven. It also always important to remember that real food, like cherries, are always more than the sum of their parts. Their nutrients work in synergistic ways to make us healthier, that go beyond what we measure on single-nutrient studies.

For more info like this, please check out Dr. Bowden’s amazing book, The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. It just might change the way you eat.

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