MONTMORENCY CHERRY NUTRITION
About Montmorency cherries
Montmorency cherries are a variety of tart cherry called “Prunus Cerasus”. They are part of the light red amarelle cultivar of sour cherries, in contrast to the dark red Morello cultivar.
They grow mainly in the United States (over 70%), but can also be found in Canada and France.
Traditionally used in cooking, Montmorency cherries have recently gained greater notoriety as a highly nutritious food, sometimes referred to as a “superfood”.
In other words, it is a nutrient-rich fruit that contains beneficial compounds that are absent (or found in significantly lower levels) in the vast majority of other fruits of a similar type.
Cherries and health throughout history.
For centuries, the cherry plant (including the bark and root, as well as the fruit), has been used in the traditional remedies of indigenous peoples.
Native Americans, for example, used cherries to support pain relief – the Cherokees used an infusion of sour cherry bark to soothe laryngitis, while the Ojibwa used the crushed root for stomach pain.
Potential health benefits in the modern age.
Modern research has started to catch up with historic recognition in terms of the possible health applications of Montmorency cherries.
Now widely accepted as a powerhouse source of nutrients, the body of evidence in support of their potential health benefits continues to grow through ongoing study. For example:
Concentrated antioxidant levels: Antioxidants are beneficial chemicals that can help to prevent or slow cell damage caused by harmful molecules, called free radicals, that occur in the body.
Natural antioxidants (the form most easily recognised and used by the body) are found in fruits and vegetables, marine plants and certain seafoods (such as Antarctic krill) that eat marine plants. There are thousands of antioxidant compounds in nature, but the most common dietary sources of nutrients with antioxidant activity are vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and lycopene.
Montmorency cherries are an unusually rich source of antioxidants, which is one of the main reasons they have been awarded the “superfruit” title.
They have very high ORAC (oxygen radical absorption capacity) values and you would have to eat more than 20 average portions of other fruit and vegetables to get the same amount of antioxidants as you would from just one portion of Montmorency cherries.
In particular, they are one of the few natural food sources of:
- the potent antioxidant, melatonin (involved in the body’s sleep cycles)
- and Super Oxide Dismutase, beneficial compounds that act as “super scavengers” of harmful free radicals, but which tend to be deficient in most people.
Nutritionists suggest that, to achieve a level of antioxidant capacity in the blood associated with good health, a person needs to consume 3,000 to 5,000 ORAC units per day. Montmorency cherry concentrate (i.e. in supplement form), has been shown to supply as much as 5,000 – 8,000 ORAC units per single serving, depending on the quality of the concentrate – which equates to an entire day’s recommended intake!
High levels of phytonutrients: As well as antioxidants, Montmorency cherries also contain potent phytonutrients – natural beneficial chemicals found in plant foods.
These include anthocyanins (natural pigments that are members of the flavonoid group of phytochemicals and give the cherries their bright red colour), as well as other phenolic and flavonoid compounds such as chlorogenic acid, ellagic acid and quercetin.
Studies have shown that anthocyanins (aside from having their significant own antioxidant activity) can also support health and well-being by working alongside other phytochemicals to make a wide range of biological processes more effective.
For example, hormonal balance, immune system function, anti-inflammatory activity, tissue / cell integrity and recovery, liver function, digestive health, blood sugar levels, joint health, vision, cognitive function and many more.
[Link to study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1082894/]
What’s more, anthocyanins are more effective than vitamin C, and 4 times more potent as an antioxidant than even vitamin E.
Finally, a powerful health food that tastes great!