Heidi McIndoo, MS, RD, LDN
We've known for years that there are certain foods like broccoli, nuts, fish and legumes which are super-packed with nutrients and antioxidants. As a part of a well-balanced, healthy eating plan, these superfoods have been shown to help battle everything from cancer to hair loss to dementia by lowering one's risk to a particular condition.
Nutritionists generally agree, however, that we're just scratching the surface of potential superfoods, and that Nature has provided many more which haven't yet been well-researched or mainstreamed. So, what's the next wave of wave of foods with super powers?
Because fruits in general are so high in antioxidants, it's no surprise that two of the newest superfoods are fruits.
Not just any cherries -- sour or tart cherries specifically. Tart cherries are one of the highest antioxidant containing foods around. Think of antioxidants as the wax you put on your car to protect it from the damage from water, salt, sun, and more. In your body, antioxidants protect your cells from the damage they are exposed to from UV sunlight, pollution, smoke, and more.
Several antioxidants have been identified by researchers. The ones most abundant cherries are called anthocyanins. In fact, cherries contain the highest amount of two specific anthocyanins that have been shown to help reduce inflammation. Why is this good?
Reduced inflammation can help to ameliorate the suffering associated with chronic pain from conditions such as osteoarthritis. And if you do a lot of strenuous exercise, the anti-inflammatory benefits of cherries have been shown to aid in muscle recovery after workouts. That means you'll recover your strength more quickly and that you'll have less of that day-after muscle soreness.
Studies have shown just 1 to 2 servings a day is all that's needed to reap these benefits. A serving is just 8 oz of tart cherry juice, 2 tablespoons of juice concentrate, 1 cup of frozen sour cherries, or 1/2 cup of dried. You'll notice there's not amount given for fresh. That's because it's extremely difficult to find. Simply treat the dried ones as you would raisins and eat as is, or add to oatmeal, or toss the frozen ones, or juice, or concentrate into a yummy smoothie for a quick breakfast or healthy snack.
A whole cup of these dark gems contains only 62 calories, a whopping 8 grams of fiber and half a day's worth of vitamin C. Those last two facts alone are enough to help this little berry lower your risk of certain cancers.
Heidi McIndoo, MS, RD, LDN
Heidi McIndoo, MS, RD, LDN is the author of "When to Eat What". A food and nutrition expert, writer and spokesperson, Heidi is former National Media Spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.