Choose Cherries For Your Health
With the LA marathon around the corner, this week’s nutritionbite is dedicated to all of you runners out there who are looking to get a “nutritional edge” on fueling up for your runs and reducing exercise-related inflammation after them. Being a huge fan of cherries, I am happy to be working with the Red Recovery team (www.choosecherries.com) to spread the word on this powerful super fruit that is packed with antioxidants. Read on to learn how consuming cherries may help you better fuel for and recover from your workouts.
NUTRITIONAL FACTS AND FIGURES
All fruits are rich in antioxidants, but cherries are loaded in specific antioxidants, called anthocyanins, which give cherries their bright red color. Cherries have the highest levels of the antioxidants anthocyanins 1 and 2 (compared to any other fruit) which have been shown to relieve the pain associated with inflammation. Also, cherries are a great source of carbohydrates (as all fruits are) and are a great choice when fueling before and refueling after workouts.
Researchers from Oregon Health & Science University presented a study at the American College of Sports Medicine Conference in Seattle, Wash.1 showing that runners who drank cherry juice could help ease their post-workout pain. In the study of 60 healthy adults aged 18-50, those who drank 10.5 ounces cherry juice (CHERRish 100% Montmorency cherry juice) twice a day for seven days prior to and on the day of a long-distance relay had significantly less muscle pain following the race than those who drank another fruit juice beverage. Post-exercise pain can often indicate muscle damage or debilitating injuries.
While more research is needed to fully understand the effects of cherry juice, researchers say the early findings indicate cherries may work like common medications used by runners to alleviate post-exercise inflammation. To help relieve pain and inflammation after exercise, many runners rely on rest, ice, compression and elevation, as well as traditional NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Since taking any medication can have potential negative side effects, consuming natural anti-inflammatory alternatives, like cherries, for reducing muscle inflammation, is a great alternative.
How to incorporate cherries into your diet (and how much)
Cherries are available year-round as dried, frozen and juice… and are versatile enough to use in numerous snacks before and after your workouts. They offer the carbohydrates and antioxidants you need to fuel-up, refuel and decrease inflammation. While there is no clear guideline on how many cherries it takes to reap the benefits, experts suggest that 1-2 servings of cherries daily should do the trick. One serving of cherries is equal to ½ cup dried cherries, 1 cup frozen cherries, 8 ounces cherry juice or 2 tablespoons cherry juice concentrate. Here are some suggestions for incorporating cherries into your diet:
- Grab a single-serve bottle of 100% cherry juice or fill a water bottle with diluted cherry juice concentrate as you head out to the gym
- Take a handful of dried cherries as a grab-and-go snack, or a granola bar made with dried cherries
- Add dried cherries to a bowl of whole grain oatmeal or cold cereal
- Keep a bag of frozen cherries in the freezer and thaw them for a few minutes to combine with low fat vanilla yogurt and whole grain cereal for a tasty parfait.
- Make a “trail mix” of dried cherries, pretzels, nuts and cereal
- Create a smoothie: blend frozen cherries with cherry juice concentrate and low fat yogurt
Whether you have been training for a marathon or are simply a recreational runner, cherries can play a vital role pre-workout (for fuel) and post-workout (to aid recovery). For other great ideas on how to incorporate tart cherries into your daily diet and around your workouts, check out the recipes on www.choosecherries.com.
1 Kuehl KS, Chestnutt J, Elliot DL, Lilley C. Efficacy of tart cherry juice in reducing muscle pain after strenuous exercise. American College of Sports Medicine. 851. May, 2009.