Walk into the produce section of any supermarket from June to August and bright red cherries greet you. On a recent visit, three people were discussing how sweet cherries were going to cure their arthritis and joint pains. Such was the announcement on a recent news program citing a poorly designed USDA research study funded by the California Cherry Advisory Board.
Oh how I wish sweet cherries could be that healthy! They do provide vitamin C, potassium and fiber. The red color in both sweet and tart cherries provides anthocyanins, which have been associated with inflammation reduction.
Montmorency cherries produced in the Traverse City area of Michigan are the most studied tart cherries in North America. You can buy a tart cherry concentrate from Stanton Orchards and do your own research on whether it reduces gout pains, but don't give up your medication.
Tart cherries have six phenolic acids, called polyphenols, which are known for reducing chronic pain. They include chlorogenic acid, also found in coffee beans. A major coffeehouse is currently researching chlorogenic acid and ellagic acid for nutritional benefits. According to the Red Report from the Cherry Marketing Institute in Lansing, Mich., 50 scientific studies have shown nutritional benefits for tart cherries.
Sweet cherries have fewer nutrients than tart cherries, but both have a significant impact on melatonin, which helps you sleep. My favorite way to use sweet cherries is in a bedtime snack of Chocolate Cherry Bread Pudding.
Betty Wedman-St Louis is a licensed nutritionist and environmental health specialist in Pinellas County who has written numerous books on health and nutrition. Visit her website at betty-wedman-stlouis.com.