Early in July, cherries were in abundance at Whole Foods. At one point they were having a sale for $1.99/pound, so I bought a TON! We love to snack on cherries, but I wanted to do something different with them. While scouring the interwebs for a good recipe, I came across this interesting article about how “Researchers Say Tart Cherries Have ‘the Highest Anti-Inflammatory Content of Any Food.’” As a runner with what seems like chronic inflammation in some part of my body at all times, I’m always looking for new ways to ease the pain. My 7 pounds of cherries and I were intrigued, so I did some digging.
Recent research from the Oregon Health & Science University support this claim. Over the course of 3 weeks, a group 20 women suffering from inflammatory osteoarthritis drank tart cherry juice twice a day. This led to a “significant reduction in important inflammation markers.” Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and occurs with the cartilage at the end of bone joints gets worn down from basic “wear and tear.” It is very common in athletes because they are generally putting more stress on their joints during frequent exercise. (1) If you are a runner, think of how all of that constant pounding on the pavement is affecting your legs joints! I know I feel it daily.
Other studies that have specifically focused on athletes result in showing these same anti-inflammatory benefits. The first focused on college aged men at the University of Vermont who drank 12 ounces of cherry juice or a placebo twice a day for 8 days. Halfway through the study, they performed a strenuous weight training workout and those who drank the cherry juice had only a 4% strength loss compared to a 22% loss in those who had the placebo. Pain was also significantly less in those who drank the juice. (2)
I was mostly interested in the studies that focused on runners. There was one that looked at marathoners specifically who drank cherry juice before, during and after a marathon and experienced a reduction in inflammation and a faster rate of recovery compared to those who had non-cherry beverages. (2) Another similar study, also out of the Oregon Health and Sciences University, showed that those who followed the same juice regimen for long distance races had “significantly less muscle pain following the race.” (3)
Given my love of cherries, I am totally psyched to hear this news. I was even more psyched to see that sports dietitian Leslie Bonci has created The Red Recovery Routine to help athletes minimize pain. This routine has 3 key steps that take place pre-workout, during exercise, and post-exercise. 1. Reduce Inflammation. 2. Stay Hydrated. 3. Fuel With Proper Foods. There are also numerous suggestions on how to incorporate cherries into your everyday diet (yes, they are available year-round in some form – dried, frozen, juice, etc…).
Recently, I’ve been having a lot of pain in my lower legs during my runs and I’m going to give this routine a try for a few weeks to see if there is an improvement. I’ve already replaced the pomegranate juice in my morning smoothies with cherry juice, but I will obviously be drinking a lot more juice and finding creative ways to eat this tasty fruit.
Will you give cherries a try?
For more information on cherries and their superfood ways, visit www.choosecherries.com. Cheers to a tasty and less painful run!