Posts Tagged ‘Tart Cherries’

As seen on!

Salmon-Cherry-and-Arugula-Salad-thumbnailAs seen today on WebMD
Spring is in the air and hopefully for many of us, that spurs the desire to move more. Unfortunately, more movement can spell more pain, especially for joints that haven’t moved in a while or are subjected to abuse. Although millions of Americans use prescription and non-prescription drugs daily in an effort to control inflammation and pain however, studies are ongoing to see if what we eat can help with pain relief. Here are some foods that look promising:

Cherries are packed with anthocyanins which have similar pain-reducing effects as anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin. A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that tart cherry juice before long distance running can reduce post-run muscle pain. Several studies support the pain relieving effects in joints, too!

Ginger is loaded with powerful antioxidants such as shogaols, zingerones and gingerols which are all effective anti-inflammatories. In the science Journal of Pain, a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study found that subjects who either ate about ½ teaspoon of raw or cooked ginger for 11 days prior to muscle injury from exercise saw pain reduced within 24 hours compared to the control group. In another related study, ginger was not effective for reducing pain when it was taken 24-48 hours after an injury. The study’s authors emphasized the importance of consuming ginger daily for maximum pain relief.

Hot Peppers
cause pain to the tongue and any other mucous membrane. But surprisingly, it is effective for halting pain in other areas of the body. Hot peppers are extremely rich in vitamin C which helps repair wounded tissue that causes pain. They are also abundant in the type of phytochemicals which reduce pain-causing inflammation such as flavonoids and capsaicinoids, including capsaicin, which has become part of salves and ointments for aching joints and muscles. A randomized double blinded study of 30 patients with chronic dyspepsia (upset stomach) found that those who ingested about ½ teaspoon of red pepper (2.5 g) daily for 5 weeks had 60% reduction in reports of stomach pain, fullness and nausea compared to the placebo group who experienced a 30% reduction of complaints. Long-term ingestion of hot chilis was found to improve dyspepsia and GERD symptoms in small randomized, controlled studies.

is one of the best fish sources of omega-3s and also a source of vitamin D. These nutrients help with aches and prevent arthritis and joint soreness. Omega-3s help to reduce the production of inflammatory cytokines and enzymes that cause painful joints, muscles and nerve endings. Clinical studies have shown that intake of omega-3 fats found in foods like salmon result in reduction in pain associated with arthritis, dysmenorrhea (painful menstrual cramps), inflammatory bowel disease, and neuropathy (nerve pain).

Turmeric is loaded with the pain and inflammation-fighting plant nutrient called curcumin. Several animal and human studies have demonstrated effectiveness of Turmeric as an effective pain reliever. A double-blind placebo controlled study found that turmeric was effective for relieving post surgical pain and fatigue.

Turmeric, fresh grated ginger, diced hot peppers and tart cherry preserves, all mixed together, makes a wonderful glaze for salmon. Add a little ground pepper and salt to taste. Dust off the grill and try it as your season opener entrée to a pain-free spring and summer. Any other ideas for combining these ingredients or any other foods that you have found helpful in controlling pain would be most welcomed!


Photo and recipe courtesy of

By David Grotto, RDN, LDN
I’m thrilled to be working with this year in promoting the nutrition and health benefits of tart cherries. Many of my patients who I recommend tart cherries to were not aware that there is a difference between tart and sweet cherries. So I thought I would write a post to recap the difference and highlight the nutrition and health benefits of tart cherries.

Cherry interesting…
This isn’t your average drupe (fruit that contains a pit). All cherry varieties are proud members of the rose family. They either fall into one of two categories: sweet or tart. Examples of sweet cherries are the ever popular Bing and Ranier. The Montmorency cherry is one of the most popular tart varieties and is the one most often used in making cherry pie. The bulk of cherry research has been done on the tart cherry and in fact, there are now over 50 studies on the health benefits of tart cherries.

Nutrition: A one-cup serving of cherries is a good source of fiber and vitamins A and C. Cherries contain a host of other nutrients such as boron and quercetin which can help build strong bones and may play a role in maintaining heart health. Amygdalin and perillyl alcohol are two plant nutrients that function as cancer-fighting antioxidants that may have antitumor activity. Melatonin is a hormone found both in the human body and in tart cherries that can help regulate sleep. Tart cherries are one of the richest fruits in a group of plant antioxidants called anthocyanins which also may help promote sleep and put a serious hurt on pain. Tart cherries also contain many phenolic compounds, such as gallic acid, p-coumaric acid, kaempferol, and quercetin, all of which are potent antioxidants. Speaking of antioxidants, tart cherries rank 14th in the top 50 foods for providing highest antioxidant content per serving size.

Heart (and every other part) Health: It is believed that the plant nutrients that give cherries their bright red color, anthocyanins, are responsible for extinguishing the flames of inflammation but not of desire. In fact, cherries may help stimulate nitric oxide production in arteries allowing more blood flow to all the right places (wink, wink).
Arthritis Pain: There’s a good chunk of scientific literature that supports cherries role in helping to relieve painful inflammatory conditions such as gouty arthritis. Anthocyanins, in tart cherries, help suppress cox-2 enzymes that are responsible for causing pain and inflammation. In a study of women who ate two servings (280 grams) of tart cherries after an overnight fast, there was a 15 percent reduction in uric acid levels and the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein, which are both associated with gouty arthritis.
Sleep: Three separate studies have looked at the melatonin content of tart cherries and have established that cherries as one of the top melatonin containing foods that may prove beneficial in improving sleep quality and duration.
Bad breath: Many phytonutrients in cherries help remove the odor of methyl mercaptan, the colorless gas released in decaying food particles in the mouth and from garlic. Yum!
Exercise recovery: The anthocyanins in tart cherries are known to decrease muscle soreness. In fact, red tart cherry juice has been shown to reduce muscle damage and soreness caused by intense strength workouts and running. Cherries have been found to have similar pain-reducing effects as anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin. A recent study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that consuming tart cherry juice before long distance running can reduce post-run muscle pain.

Here’s a great recipe that pulls all of the nutrition and health benefits of tart cherries into a delicious meal. You must try this – it’s the “cherry bomb”!

Warm Salmon, Cherry, Arugula Salad
Serves 4. 
Prep time: 20 minutes 
Cook time: 15 minutes 


2 tablespoons red wine vinegar 

1 teaspoon ground turmeric 

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided 

Salt and pepper 

6 cups loosely packed arugula (about 3 ounces) 

1/2 small head radicchio, cored and shredded 

4 salmon fillets, about 3/4-inch thick 

3 shallots, sliced 

1/2 large jalapeno (halved lengthwise), seeded and thinly sliced 

1 1/2 cups thawed frozen tart cherries 

1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger 

1/4 cup tart cherry juice


In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, turmeric, and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the arugula and radicchio and toss. Add salt and pepper to taste and divide mixture among serving plates. Set aside. 

Season the salmon with salt and pepper. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the salmon and cook until barely opaque throughout, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Arrange the salmon on top of the salads. 

Return the skillet to medium heat, add the shallots and chile, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cherries and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through. Add the cherry juice, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook, scraping up any browned bits in the skillet, until the juice is almost entirely evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Spoon the cherry mixture over the salmon and serve. 

Martin KR, Wooden A. Tart cherry juice induces differential dose-dependent
effects on apoptosis, but not cellular proliferation, in mcf-7 human breast
cancer cells. J Med Food. 2012 Nov;15(11):945-54.

Jacob RA, Spinozzi GM, Simon VA, Kelly DS, Prior RL, Hess-Pierce B, Kader AA. Consumption of cherries lowers plasma urate in healthy women. J Nutr 2003;133:1826-1829

Howatson G, Bell PG, Tallent J, Middleton B, McHugh MP, Ellis J. Effect of
tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep
quality. Eur J Nutr. 2012 Dec;51(8):909-16.

Kuehl KS, Perrier ET, Elliot DL, Chesnutt JC. Efficacy of tart cherry juice in
reducing muscle pain during running: a randomized controlled trial. J Int Soc
Sports Nutr. 2010 May 7;7:17.

I had a wonderful weekend and hope you did, too! By the way, happy National Nutrition Month! For great information on good nutrition, be sure to visit the American Dietetic Association website.


I will be presenting at the Dorothy Lane School of Cooking in Dayton, Ohio, tomorrow and Wednesday. My co-presenters and recipe contributors, Chef Carrie Walters, who is the corporate chef at Dorothy Lane Markets, and Chef Elizabeth Wiley, who is the chef\owner of The Meadowlark restaurant in Dayton, will be cooking up a storm with me!

On Saturday, I presented at Serene Teaz in Elmhurst, Illinois and also signed books. It was so cool to hear how my first book was helping so many people. Many in attendance were looking forward to reading my new book, 101 Optimal Life Foods, because they were dealing with many of the same health challenges that most of my patients contend with daily: fatigue, digestive disorders, poor circulation and lots of chronic pain. The good news is that adding in the right foods while also keeping an eye on limiting “offending” foods can certainly help. My ninety-year old (almost) father was in attendance, too!



Arthritis Story:

Many in attendance loved the story about my father who called me in the middle of the night to take him to the hospital a few years back. Long story short, turns out that dad had a considerable amount of arthritis in his spine at the time. He wasn’t overly thrilled about treating it with more medications than what he was already on. So he said to me, “Son, is there anything I can do diet-wise that might help?” I told him that my patients seemed to do well by adding in  foods like tart cherries, which are rich in anti-inflammatory nutrients like ellagic acid, which has been shown to reduce arthritis pain. He remembered this as something I recommended for him years ago when he was plagued with gout (a form of arthritis). He loved cherries so this was an easy “fix” for him.

Though I’m all about the “add-in, NOT take away” approach, I also suggested that he might want to try avoiding nightshade vegetables which include tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and eggplant. He looked at me like I was a madman. “Did you forget that we are Italian?” I knew this wasn’t going to go over well. I told him that some of my patients responded well to avoiding nightshades. Nightshade vegetables belong to a family of plants that thrive during the night\shade called Solanaceae. But truth be told, the scientific literature to date has not made a firm connection between nightshades and arthritis pain aggravation. And in my clinical experience, it was hit and miss results, at best.

My father tried adding in tart cherry juice and avoiding the nightshade vegetables. In less than a week, it was virtually pain-free! He was an obvious responder to my recommendations. He was thrilled!

Fast forward about a month later, I noticed that he was wincing in pain when he moved certain ways. I asked him if he was still on the “program”. He replied rather sheepishly, “Uh…no…”. I asked him why he wasn’t sticking to my program when he was having such good results. He did tell me that he was faithful with his tart cherry juice consumption and did feel better because of it but also stated that I had “cut him to the quick” with the avoidance of nightshades. To him, life was more “optimal” when they included his fave vegetables…the pain was worth it.