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The Healing Effects of Cherries

The Benefits of Cherries

Health Benefits of Cherries

Cherries like many other fruits are packed with antioxidants that fight free radicals in the body and may help prevent cancer and heart disease, as well as slow the aging process. Perhaps you’ve heard about the controversy between the FDA and the cherry industry and wondered what the fuss was about. Are cherries not as healthy to eat as you thought they were? Should you stop eating cherries? The answer is no.

The controversy is over certain health claims made by the cherry industry and those who sell products containing or made from cherries such as pills, capsules, and juice—and not the health benefits of cherries. While numerous scientific studies have demonstrated the health benefits of cherries, the FDA says that makers of products containing cherries cannot claim that their products prevent, treat, or cure a specific disease such as gout or cancer. The FDA says that these types of claims imply that cherries are “drugs” that cure a disease—without the backing of controlled double-blind clinical trials.

For the general population however, the bottom line is that there’s no reason not to eat cherries. There are two types of cherries, sweet and tart or sour cherries. The most popular type of sweet cherry is the Bing cherry, which is sold fresh in the grocery store. Tart or sour cherries are canned and used in pies, dried into fruit snacks, and made into juice concentrate. Like most other fruits, cherries are fat-free, low in calories and sodium, and high in certain minerals and vitamins such as potassium, Vitamin C, and B-complex vitamins.

Most of the scientific research has centered on the health benefits of tart cherries. Sweet and tart cherries contain pigments called anthocyanins, antioxidants that give cherries their dark red color. Tart cherries are among the top fruits as far as antioxidant levels go. Tart cherry juice and dried tart cherries are even higher in antioxidants than blueberries and more powerful than Vitamin E. Anthocyanins have powerful anti-inflammatory properties and according to the American Chemical Society, eating 20 tart cherries (or drinking the equivalent in juice concentrate) a day could provide the same pain relief that aspirin or ibuprofen do.

Researchers in Texas recently discovered that tart cherries contain high levels of melatonin; an antioxidant and substance produced naturally by the body that is thought to help slow the aging process as well as fight jetlag and regulate sleep. Eating tart cherries, particularly Montmorency tart cherries, can actually increase the levels of melatonin in the body.

Although many of the studies concerning cherries are preliminary and require additional research, the health benefits of eating cherries, both tart and sweet, and drinking cherry juice concentrate are indeed many. Cherries are a potential source of treatment for diabetes achieved by lowering blood sugar levels, may help prevent colon cancer, significantly reduce pain due to muscle damage, provide relief from the pain of gout and arthritis, and lower LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, a contributing factor in heart disease and strokes.

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Akilah M. El, N.D. is a Naturopathic Doctor and board-certified Master Herbalist with a private practice in Atlanta Georgia and Berlin Germany. Join Dr Akilah El on Facebook and Twitter

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5 Foods That’ll Make You Look Younger

The key to glowing skin lies in your stomach.

1. Sweet Potatoes

Beta-carotene, which makes these tubers orange, balances your skin’s pH, helps combat dryness, and promotes cell turnover, all resulting in smoother skin.

2. Wild Salmon

The pigment that makes the fish pink, astaxanthin, is a powerful foe of free radicals, rogue molecules that damage cell membranes and DNA and cause skin to age. A study found that eating one serving every five days can prevent actinic keratoses—ugly rough patches that are precancerous.

3. Tomatoes

The fruit’s red pigment, lycopene, is a potent antioxidant that shields skin from sun damage—like sunscreen, but from the inside out. To best absorb lycopene, eat tomatoes with olive oil.

4. Citrus Fruits

Vitamin C is essential to building collagen, a vital component of young-looking skin, which starts breaking down in your twenties. Citrus also contains bioflavonoids, which protect skin from UV rays and help prevent cell death.

5. Leafy Greens

Spinach, kale, and other greens contain lutein, which protects skin from sun-induced inflammation and wrinkles.

Stay Away From White Foods

Need another reason to avoid white bread, pasta, rice, and other refined grain products? They’re quickly broken down into the ultimate white food: sugar. Once in the bloodstream, sugar bonds with protein and creates advanced glycation end products (aptly abbreviated AGEs), which cause collagen to become inflamed and stiff, leading to wrinkles.

Why Food Is Always Better Than a Pill

“There are so many factors in food that haven’t been studied. It’s very likely that these unknowns work synergistically for a bigger benefit than what you can find in a supplement.”
—Nicholas Perricone, dermatologist

According to dermatologist Leslie Baumann, red wine contains skin-friendly grape-seed extract and resveratrol, two powerful antioxidants. Hops in beer, it turns out, may also offer antioxidant benefits.