Friday, April 15, 2011

Tart Cherry Juice is Heart Smart and Sleep Savvy

The experts are saying that tart cherry juice is heart smart and sleep savvy…ok, maybe not in those exact words, but they have found that tart cherries have a unique combination of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits that help reduce the risk of heart disease let alone a natural alternative to a sleeping pill. According to research presented at the Experimental Biology meeting in Washington DC, freeze-dried tart cherries have an ORAC or Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity over 10,000 and contain a diverse range of phytochemicals. Correlation between the high antioxidant capacity of fruits and vegetables, and the positive impact of diets high in fruits and vegetables, is believed to play a role in the free-radical theory of aging. Eight ounces of tart cherry juice for 4 weeks can lower inflammation in overweight adults and show a lowering of triglyceride levels as well. Animals that consume tart cherry powder reduced levels of C-reactive protein and cholesterol with a 65% reduction in early death.

[caption id="attachment_1101" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Tart Cherry Juice is Heart Smart and Sleep Savvy"][/caption]

Researchers have reported the tasty, non-addictive tart cherry juice could be a natural cure for insomnia which is a major health problem affecting people that reduces their quality of life and leads to depression and hypertension. In order to evaluate the benefits scientists analyzed the sleep patterns of 15 elderly adults that couldn’t fall asleep easy, stay asleep during the night and that woke up to early, all signs of chronic insomnia. The pilot study conducted by a team of University of Pennsylvania, University of Rochester and VA Center of Canandaigua researchers gave adults 8 ounces of tart cherry juice in the morning and evening for 2 weeks and compared it with another group drinking a juice drink that contained no tart cherries. There was a significant reduction in insomnia with the group that drank the tart cherry juice verses the group that did not. All participants were asked to keep a sleep journal to record their sleep patterns. The researchers used the journal entries to assess sleep continuity, sleep onset, wake after sleep onset, total sleep time and sleep efficiency with the aid of the Insomnia Severity Index.

The Insomnia Severity Index has seven questions. The seven answers are added up to get a total score. When you have your total score, look at the 'Guidelines for Scoring/Interpretation'.

Rate each question 0 through 4

1. Difficulty falling asleep: None, Mild, Moderate, Severe and Very Severe
2. Difficulty staying asleep: None, Mild, Moderate, Severe and Very Severe
3. Problem waking up too early: None, Mild Moderate, Severe and Very Severe
4. How satisfied/dissatisfied are you with your current sleep pattern: Very Satisfied, Satisfied, Moderately Satisfied, Dissatisfied and Very Dissatisfied
5. How noticeable to others do you think your sleep problem is in terms of impairing the quality of your life: Not Noticeable, A Little, Somewhat, Much, Very Much
6. How worried/distressed are you about your current sleep problem: Not Worried, A Little, Somewhat, Much and Very Much
7. To what extent do you consider your sleep problem to interfere with your daily functioning (e.g. daytime fatigue, mood, ability to function at work/daily chores, concentration, memory, mood, etc.) currently: Not at All, A Little, Somewhat, Much or Very Much

Guidelines for Scoring/Interpretation:

Add the scores for all seven items (questions 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 +6 + 7) = _______ your total score

Total score categories:

0–7 = No clinically significant insomnia
8–14 = Sub-threshold insomnia
15–21 = Clinical insomnia (moderate severity)
22–28 = Clinical insomnia (severe)

It was noted that after they drank tart cherry juice the participants slept better, experienced less sleeplessness and enjoyed around 17 more minutes of sleep time. Experts theorize that the benefits in better sleep may be due to the tart cherries juice high content of melatonin, the hormone that regulates the body’s natural sleep/wake cycle. Not only is melatonin linked to sleep, but reports suggest that melatonin can be a powerful antioxidant that reduces age-related inflammation and fights free radicals in the body. Tart cherries are full of powerful anthocyanins the compounds responsible for their bright red color that aid muscle recovery and reduce risk factors that cause heart related conditions.

Besides heart health and insomnia tart cherry juice is a good remedy for relieving pain associated with arthritis, back pain, gout and muscle aches. The anthocyanins offer ten times the pain-relieving equivalent of an aspirin. These same anthocyanins are also found in blueberries and other purplish-red fruits and vegetables and they may also offer some protection from colon cancer and stroke. A recent study suggests that drinking 8-12 ounces of tart cherry juice taken before strenuous exercise and immediately afterward can alleviate muscle pain.

Gout is caused by increased levels of uric acid in the blood and tart cherry juice works by lowering these levels. A study at the University of California Davis showed that one serving of cherries daily significantly lowered blood uric acid levels by as much as 15 percent in women. The study used fresh tart cherries but tart cherry that are concentrated or dried would also have this affect.

The majority of people seem to benefit from consuming two tablespoons per day of tart cherry juice concentrate or one serving of dried or fresh cherries. Since all people respond differently to foods, experiment to see where you notice significant benefit. Results vary. Some people notice improvement in as little as a few days while others continue cherry juice for several weeks before they achieve the results they want.

Consumed as a food or concentrate, cherries have no known adverse effects taken in small doses. They do contain sorbitol, which may aggravate some symptoms for people who have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). However, maximum safety dosage studies haven’t been done so those who are pregnant or nursing should consult their physician.

Tart cherry juice can be found at health food stores and online in Tart Is Smart Tart Cherry Concentrate, 32-Ounce Bottle and capsules. Add a little tart cherry juice to your morning smoothie and keep it on hand for those times when you overdo your workout or extra yard work. The content provided in Tart Cherry Juice is Heart Smart and Sleep Savvy is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for your sleep problems and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional.

[caption id="attachment_1102" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Tart Cherry Crisp with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream"][/caption]







6 cups tart cherries
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
3 1/2 tablespoons tapioca, tapioca flour or corn starch
2 sticks cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 cups oats
1 1/2-2 cups flour
Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grab a square Pyrex or round deep dish glass pie plate. Grab a bowl. Into the bowl add the cherries, white sugar, extracts, lemon juice, tapioca or whatever you are using for thickening, and 1/2 a teaspoon cinnamon. Stir very, very well, so all of the cherries get coated. Take your time. This step is key to perfectly thickened fruit filling. Pour into the glass baking dish. Rinse the bowl and wipe dry with a paper towel. Add the cut up butter, flour, oats, brown sugarm remaining cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Mix with your hands until crumbly. If you need more flour then add some. If you think this mix is too dry add a little bit more butter. No biggie. When the crumbles are clumping, spread over the top of the cherry mixture. Do not press down. Just let it be. This is what makes the crisp a crisp. Otherwise it will be a cobbler. Not what we are going for.

Bake for 35-40 minutes until the middle is bubbling. You can use a thermometer to read the temperature in the middle of the pan. You should let it get to 180 degrees. The middle has to boil so the fruit thickens. When it is boiling and bubbling, take it out and let stand for a few minutes. Scoop some into a bowl, scoop up some ice cream and have at it!

Serves 6-8 fruit lovers.
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