Eat red for a healthy heart

May 14, 2009 by  

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cherryWhen can we eat cherries, mom?”, asked my two pre-schoolers. “In the summer,” I replied. My kids are not the only ones looking forward to the cherry season. I am quite partial to this red seasonal fruit myself. Besides being yummy-tasting, cherries are one of the super red fruits that seem to be highly beneficial to our health. The red color is mainly due to antioxidants called anthocyanins in the fruit. According to researchers at the University of Michigan, a cup and half (equivalent to one and a half servings) of tart cherries can significantly increase your antioxidant levels. And they need not be fresh cherries which are not available the whole year round. Frozen cherries will do.

In the study, researchers analyzed the level of five types of anthocyanins in the blood and urine of the study participants after they ate the cherries either one and a half or three cups of cherries. The study results showed that antioxidant levels significantly increased even with just a small portion of the fruit and that this increased activity can last for up to 12 hours after eating cherries. In turn, this boost in antioxidant activity can provide protection against chronic illnesses, especially cardiovascular disease.

According to lead researcher Dr. Sara L. Warber of the University of Michigan Integrative Medicine

“This study documents for the first time that the antioxidants in tart cherries do make it into the human bloodstream and is coupled with increased antioxidant activity that could have a positive impact. And, while more research is needed, what’s really great is that a reasonable amount of cherries could potentially deliver benefits, like reducing risk factors for heart disease and inflammation.”

Aside from their cardioprotective properties, cherries can

  • have anti-inflammatory effects
  • lower blood cholesterol levels and reduce triglycerides

Because of these properties, cherry-enriched diets can be beneficial to people with arthritis, gout, type 2 diabetes, and vascular disorders.

Dr. Warber concludes:

“It’s encouraging when research like ours finds that great-tasting fruit can lead to real-life benefits, continuing to underscore the importance of whole foods in the diet.”

Another U of Michigan study last year also showed that cherries can help in weight reduction and getting rid of abdominal fat

According to lead author and cardiac surgeon Dr. Steven F. Bolling

“We know excess body fat increases the risk for heart disease. This research gives us one more support point suggesting that diet changes, such as including cherries, could potentially lower heart disease risk.”

Cherries, which are a member of the rose family, are available fresh in the summer months. However, you can also buy them frozen or dried or in the form of juice during off season.

For more information about cherries, its nutritional properties, and cherry recipes, check out

Photo credit: stock.xchng

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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