Cardiovascular disease remains the No. 1 killer of both men and women in North America. Changes in diet and exercise can go a long way in helping to keep your heart healthy.
A good place to start is eating more fruits and vegetables, especially deeply hued produce that’s packed with beneficial compounds. Typically, the darker the color, the more phytonutrients inside.
Be sure to add ruby red Montmorency tart cherries to the mix. Studies on cardiovascular health are still emerging, yet preliminary studies have explored tart cherries and the effect on blood pressure and blood lipids, including total cholesterol, LDL or “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides.
A look at the science:
Blood pressure: A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover study of 15 men with early hypertension found that the participants who consumed tart cherry juice concentrate (60 mL, or the equivalent of 180 tart cherries) experienced a reduction in systolic blood pressure, but not microvascular reactivity or arterial stiffness.
Effects of Montmorency tart cherry (Prunus cerasus L.) consumption on vascular function in men with early hypertension.
A study of 27 men and women (ages 45-60 years) with moderately elevated blood pressure were randomly assigned to receive 60 mL of Montmorency tart cherry juice concentrate or a placebo beverage. Those consuming tart cherry juice experienced a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure over a 3-hour period after consumption. Cognitive function and mood were not affected.
Montmorency tart cherries (Prunus cerasus L.) modulate vascular function acutely, in the absence of improvement in cognitive performance.
Blood pressure and blood lipids: In a study of 19 women with diabetes, 6-week supplementation with 40 grams a day of tart cherry juice concentrate (720 mg/day anthocyanins) significantly decreased both systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure when compared with the pre-supplementation values. Total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol decreased significantly in 12 of the participants with elevated LDL levels.
Effects of sour cherry juice on blood glucose and some cardiovascular risk factors improvements in diabetic women: a pilot study.
A randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial conducted at the University of Delaware studied 17 men and women ages 65-80 years. The participants were randomly assigned to drink either 480 ml of Montmorency tart cherry juice or a placebo beverage for 12 weeks. At the end of the trial, the tart cherry juice group experienced significantly lower systolic blood pressure and LDL or “bad” cholesterol compared to the placebo group. The researchers suggest further investigation in a larger sample size and longer-term trials with better compliance.
Impact of tart cherry juice on systolic blood pressure and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in older adults: a randomized controlled trial.
Additional studies on Montmorency tart cherries and heart health:
Tart cherry consumption with or without prior exercise increases antioxidant capacity and decreases triglyceride levels following a high-fat meal.
Effects of tart cherry juice on biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress in older adults.
Effects of Montmorency tart cherry supplementation on cardio-metabolic
markers in metabolic syndrome participants: a pilot study.
For ideas on how to incorporate tart cherries into your diet, click here.