(Family Features) - Why eat red? The pigments that provide the bright red or purple color in fruits and vegetables like tart cherries, raspberries, blackberries, tomatoes and eggplant are called anthocyanins, powerful, disease-fighting antioxidants that may help reduce risk factors for certain diseases and conditions.
Tart cherries are one of today's red hot "Super Fruits." Here are some reasons to eat red and choose cherries:
Protecting your heart. With more than 80 million Americans living with some form of heart disease, the heart-healthy qualities of eating red have more relevance than ever. A recent study* revealed that a cherry-enriched diet in animals led to lowered total blood cholesterol levels and reduced triglycerides-both major risk factors for heart disease.
Relieving arthritis pain. Because of their high levels of antioxidants, cherries may help reduce inflammation and aid in the prevention, management or treatment of arthritis and gout.
Helping improve sleep. Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant known for regulating the body's sleep cycle. Cherries are one of the few foods with high levels of melatonin.
"We've always known fruits and vegetables were 'healthy,' but now we're beginning to better understand precisely why," said Dr. Steven F. Bolling, a cardiac surgeon at the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center, and head of the U-M Cardioprotection Research Laboratory. "Researchers are uncovering the unique potential for plant compounds, like those in cherries, to affect multiple heart health factors."
Tart cherries are available year-round as dried, frozen and juice. Here are some red hot tips to enjoy these "Super Fruits":
Make it a Red Hot Morning - Use blueberries, cranberries or dried cherries on cereal, oatmeal, or pancakes. Or create your own yogurt parfait with lowfat yogurt and mixed berries.
Drink RED - Grab a single-serve bottle of 100 percent cherry, cranberry or pomegranate juice, or fill a water bottle with diluted juice concentrate before heading to the gym. Research suggests cherry juice may help reduce exercise-related joint pain.
Enjoy Super Fruits On-the-Go - Create an antioxidant-rich trail mix using dried cherries, raisins, nuts and seeds. Add dark chocolate bits for an extra indulgence (and antioxidant boost). Pack it in your purse or briefcase for a mid-day or post-workout snack.
For more cherry recipes, visit www.choosecherries.com.
* Cherry-enriched diets reduce metabolic syndrome and oxidative stress in lean Dahl-SS rats. Experimental Biology 2007 225.8, Seymour EM, Singer AAM, Bennink MR, Bolling SF. Presented in minisymposium 225, Dietary Bioactive Compounds: Chronic Disease Risk Reduction.