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Spring and summer are the seasons of mouth-watering cherries and berries. These fresh, sweet-tasting snacks not only delight the palate; they come with a gift of taming chronic, systemic inflammation.
Eating anti-inflammatory foods (and avoiding foods that cause inflammation, such as refined grains, sugar, and hydrogenated fats) can help keep inflammation in check and reduce disease risk. Such is the case with berries and cherries! Both offer nutrients that crown them with a health halo of inflammation-calming characteristics.
Taming the Flame
To understand why certain foods are anti-inflammatory, it’s important to first understand the basic concept of inflammation. There are two types of inflammation: acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is a localized reaction of tissue to injury, whether caused by a bacteria infection, trauma, chemicals, heat, or other phenomenon that cause irritation. This type of inflammation is often localized to the area of injury and is very important for the initial healing process.
However, when the inflammatory response doesn’t switch off, or if it becomes systemic—which can be caused by ongoing exposure to irritants such as inflammatory foods—inflammation becomes a problem. Long-term inflammation often lurks silently, below the threshold of perceptible symptoms, and is a common risk factor for a broad range of health conditions, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes. As Marsha McCulloh MS, RD, writes in Environmental Nutrition, “inflammation is the fire that fuels many chronic diseases.”
Berries offer a heavy nutritional bite packed with inflammation-quelling antioxidants. Over the past 10 years, research has revealed the health benefits of berries, including their impact on chronic diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and age-related cognitive regression. Most berry research focuses on traditional North American berries: blackberries, black raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, red raspberries, and strawberries, according to Sharon Palmer from Environmental Nutrition.
"Berry compounds work on multiple mechanisms in the body. They are hitting the pro-inflammatory processes and the central pathways linked with diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer's disease," states Navindra Seeram, assistant professor in the Bioactive Botanical Research Laboratory at the University of Rhode Island.
Blueberries can also help reduce neuron damage caused by oxidation and inflammation, because blueberries’ various chemical compounds have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, according to Ron Mervis, PhD, of the Center for Aging and Brain Repair at the University of South Florida College of Medicine. About half a cup of blueberries daily is a beneficial serving size. So, whiz them into smoothies, add them in your cereal, or toss in salads.
Cherries provide a delicious treat with many health benefits. Filled with antioxidants, essential vitamins, and additional nutrients, cherries burst with good stuff. Consuming about 45 (280 g) sweet Bing cherries can significantly decrease circulating concentrations of inflammatory biomarkers in the blood.
Anthocyanins, pigments found in both cherries and berries, are powerful antioxidants that work like magic-makers in the body. The darker the fruit, the more anthocyanins it contains, and the better it is for you. Anthocyanins are crammed with anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-cancer properties.
Cherries and berries are extremely healthy and gift you with some powerful anti-inflammatory benefits. Another thing that’s for certain, they’re delicious! Add berries or cherries (or both) to you daily diet. Begin today by trying this simple smoothie that is “berry” good for you.
Tame-the-Flame Berry-Cherry Smoothie
- 2 cups fresh blueberries
- 1 cup fresh strawberries
- 1 cup red raspberries, fresh or frozen
- 1 cup sweet cherries, frozen
- 1 cup coconut water
Combine all ingredients in the blender and process until smooth.
Please note: Strawberries and cherries fall on The Dirty Dozen list for highest pesticide residue. Buy organic when possible.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.