The Tasty Fruit That Could Protect Your Heart

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They have been around in the annals of healing food medicine for a while now, but here come more potential health tips in the area of cherries. Tart cherries, to be precise. According to brand new research, the fruit has a special combination of antioxidants that helps reduce risk factors for heart disease.

Known best for sitting atop cheesecake and inside jam, cherries may also be a powerful natural remedy. In three studies, U.S. researchers studied the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of tart cherries.

They found that drinking eight ounces of tart cherry juice daily for four weeks significantly reduced inflammation in 10 overweight or obese adults. Many adults also had lower levels of uric acid (linked to inflammation and gout) and triglycerides.

They found that a cherry diet (at one percent of diet as tart cherry powder) reduced C-reactive protein and other markers of inflammation by up to 36%. And it lowered total cholesterol by 26% over a five-month study on mice. This suggests that cherries may keep your blood vessels free of plaque that can contribute to serious heart complications. The mice eating the cherry diets had a 65% reduction in early death — likely due to improved cardiovascular health.

They found the cherries are powerful antioxidants. About one cup of freeze-dried tart cherries contain a diverse mix of antioxidant compounds and phytochemicals likely responsible for their health benefits, according to the researchers.

Previous research has found that cherry-enriched diets in animals lowered multiple risk factors for heart disease, including trimming the ever-dangerous belly fat. Researchers attribute the benefits to anti-inflammatory, antioxidant compounds in the red fruit called “anthocyanins,” also responsible for cherries’ bright red color. In addition to heart heath benefits, research also suggests cherries could affect inflammation related to muscle recovery post-workout and arthritis.

Tart cherries are available in dried, juice and frozen form. If you want to head down this road, try them out in oatmeal or salads, or blend a smoothie with cherry juice and low-fat yogurt.