Did you know that there’s an easy and sweet way to build your bones this summer? A small, alkalizing fruit in its prime this time of the year can help you improve your bone health and your overall health. It’s also a delicious Foundation Food and one of the richest sources of antioxidants. Today you’ll discover the bone-building benefits of…
Cherries: a Treat and a Treatment
The Osteoporosis Reversal Program provides an extensive list of Foundation Foods that are bountiful sources of nutrients foundational to bone health. And cherries are definitely on the list!
Cherries come in two main varieties, sweet and tart/sour. Common sweet cherry varieties are Bing and Rainier, and sour cherries, recognizable for their light red color, are commonly available in Montmorency or Morello varieties. All types of cherries are bone-healthy and delicious.
Cherries provide a key bone-building mineral: silicon. In addition, they contain a good number of Foundation Supplements, which are described in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program as “core vitamins and minerals that offer the most bone-building benefits” (more on this later).
And here’s more good news about cherries: they are not on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list.
Antioxidants are substances that counteract the effects of oxygen in the body. I’ll explain.
While oxygen is necessary for life, it also can cause damage to your bones by way of the oxidation process, the same process by which rust forms on iron. In the Osteoporosis Reversal Program there’s an entire chapter devoted to this topic where you’ll find the best ways to counteract oxidative damage to your bones.
In a nutshell, this is what happens: as your cells use oxygen in everyday respiration, some of the cells end up creating free radicals as a byproduct. Free radicals are molecules with a “free” electron – electrons are normally in pairs, and when one of the electrons is missing, the remaining electron is “free.” It wants to attach itself to something to balance out the missing electron, so it robs an electron from other molecules, thus damaging cells – including bone cells – and creating more free radicals. You can easily see how this becomes cyclic.
Oxidative damage is harmful to bones, so to prevent these free radicals from wreaking havoc on your bone health, you need to consume…
Cherries are chock-full of these free-radical fighters – a 2010 study identified 13 of them1! Specifically, the antioxidants found in cherries are polyphenols, two in particular: anthocyanins and superoxide dismutase (SOD). Polyphenols are responsible for the bright colors of foods like blueberries, cranberries, and cherries. They also contribute to taste and tartness, and are concentrated mainly in the fruit’s skin.
Interestingly, recent studies have shown that the multiple polyphenols in cherries work together to produce a greater antioxidant effect than a single polyphenol working in isolation.
Just What’s in a Cherry?
It’s amazing how many nutrients are packed into this round, red fruit. It contains no fewer than 5 Foundation Supplements, additional nutrients like the antioxidants described above, and even a substance that promotes regular sleep patterns.
Here are some of the nutrients found in cherries:
- Beta-carotene, the skin-healthy carotenoid that’s also good for your bones, is present in cherries.
- Vitamin C* is both an antioxidant and a vitamin, and plays a key role in the production of collagen, the protein matrix that holds bone together. In addition, Vitamin C is necessary for the synthesis of Vitamin D, another vital bone-building vitamin.
- Potassium is an important mineral and electrolyte that, among other things, helps transmit water into and out of cells (an important function in bone remodeling).
- Manganese* is required for the synthesis of cartilage and bone, and interestingly, manganese is an activator of the above-mentioned superoxide dismutase (SOD).
- Copper* is an important trace mineral for your bones. Copper is actually found in every tissue in your body, and like manganese, it is involved with SOD…in fact, it is part of this key antioxidant.
- Silicon* mentioned earlier, is an important bone-builder. Sometimes called silica, it directly affects the growth of both connective tissue and bone, and is crucial for bone density mineralization. In fact, silicon is essential for the assimilation of calcium into your bones.
In addition, cherries contain…
Melatonin, a Sleep-Regulating Substance
A recent study found that the juice from tart cherries relieved insomnia: “When compared to placebo, the study beverage produced significant reductions in insomnia severity (minutes awake after sleep onset)2,” the study concludes. This is due to the melatonin content in cherries, which affects the body’s circadian rhythms. Melatonin is present in the body in small quantities, so you don’t need to eat a great deal of cherries to benefit from their sleep-regulating effects.
Tart Cherries Help Relieve Inflammation
Like NSAIDs, tart cherries slow down the enzymes Cyclo-oxyygenase-1 and 2. So for a natural way to control inflammation caused by arthritis and other conditions but without the undesirable side effects of NSAIDs, eat delicious crunchy cherries instead!
Selecting and Storing Fresh Cherries
When choosing cherries, look for firm, smooth skin and a deep red color that is appropriate for the variety. The stem should still be attached. When you get your cherries home, wash them and remove the stems. They are best eaten raw.
If you aren’t going to consume them all at once, store them in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
It’s Easy to Make a Bone-Healthy Beverage With Cherries!
While many cherry recipes call for baking (like cherry pie or cobbler), you can also enjoy them in a refreshing beverage, perfect for a hot summer day.
Chamomile adds its own potent antioxidant called luteolin. Fresh ginger is a powerful anti-inflammatory—chronic inflammation damages your bones, and studies have even shown that inflammation can lead to osteoporosis.3
Here’s how to make this delicious, bone-building drink:
1 cup pitted cherries, preferably very ripe
1 small piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
4 cups water
3 or 4 chamomile tea bags
Stevia (to taste) or honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice (adjust to taste)
4 lemon slices (optional)
1. Combine cherries, ginger slices and stevia or a little honey in a glass bowl and press with a wooden spoon or any suitable kitchen utensil to help release the juices.
2. Pour 2 cups of water over the cherry mixture, cover the bowl, and refrigerate overnight.
3. Boil 2 cups of water and pour over tea bags in a pitcher. Let tea bags steep for 2 minutes (you can adjust this to desired strength).
4. Strain the cherry-ginger water into the pitcher with the chamomile tea, squeezing out as much liquid as possible. Serve with lemon slices and lemon juice, hot or cold.
1 Ferretti, Gianna, et al. “Cherry Antioxidants: From Farm to Table.” Molecules 2010, 15, 6993-7005; doi:10.3390/molecules15106993.
2 Pigeon, Wilfred R., et al. “Effects of a Tart Cherry Juice Beverage on the Sleep of Older Adults with Insomnia: A Pilot Study.” Journal of Medicinal Food. 2010 June; 12(3); 579-583. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2009.0096
3 McLean, RR. “Proinflammatory cytokines and osteoporosis.” Current Osteoporosis Reports. 2009 Dec.; (7)4: 134-9. Web. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19968917