Cherries are packed with powerful antioxidants. In fact, they have among the highest levels of antioxidants – containing about the same as blueberries.
The Antioxidant Power of Cherries
Antioxidant strength is measured in Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) units. ORAC measures how many oxygen radicals a specific food can absorb and deactivate. The more oxygen radicals a food absorbs, the higher its ORAC score. The higher the ORAC score, the better a food is at helping our bodies fight diseases like cancer and heart disease.
Nutritionists suggest that people consume 3,000 to 5,000 ORAC units a day to have an impact on their health. Just one ounce of cherry juice concentrate supplies 3,622 ORAC units, about an entire day's recommendation.
An Antioxidant Advantage
Cherries' unique compounds may work synergystically to deliver a powerful antioxidant punch, according to a new study from the University of Michigan researchers published in Food Chemistry. The researchers isolated individual cherry phytonutrients and tested the antioxidant power alone, or paired together. They found that the "whole" was greater than the sum of its parts - specific compounds worked together to boost antixoidant power more than would be expected for any compound on its own.
Click here to download The Phytonutrient Match-up, an at-a-glance look at how cherries' unique package of phytonutrients stack up to other Super Fruits, including "gold standards" like blueberries and pomegranates.
Reference: Kirakosyan A, Seymour EM, Noon KR, Llanes DEU, Kaufman PB, Warber SL, Bolling SF. Interactions of antioxidants isolated from tart cherry (Prunus cerasus) fruits. Food Chemistry. 2010. Epub ahead of print.
Antioxidant Levels of Cherries
- Cherry Juice Concentrate: 12,800 ORAC units
- Dried Cherries: 6,800 ORAC units
- Frozen Cherries: 2,033 ORAC units
- Canned Cherries: 1,700 ORAC units
The Power of Red -- Anthocyanins
Cherries contain powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins that provide the distinctive red color and may hold the key to the health benefits locked inside. These rich, red pigments that give cherries their color are a type of phytonutrient known as flavonoids, which have been linked to a variety of health benefits.
Studies suggest that these powerful pigments possess anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties. Of the 150 different flavonoids found in plants, anthocyanins appear to have the greatest antioxidant capacity. Cherries are one of the richest sources of anthocyanins, containing more than sweet cherries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries. Anthocyanins 1 and 2 are not found in blueberries. For more detail on the antioxidant power of cherries, click here.
For more information on antioxidants, visit the American Dietetic Association Web site at www.eatright.org, Mayo Clinic at www.mayoclinic.com or Cleveland Clinic at www.clevelandclinic.org.