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We all know that exercise is vital to our health.

Why, then, is it so difficult to avoid a sedentary lifestyle? The frenzied pace and work-centered culture of modern life certainly play a role—it’s difficult to prioritize exercise with so many other pressing societal obligations.

But scientists believe the story doesn’t end there. A new study suggests that our tendency toward inactivity is an innately wired part of our brain chemistry.

The researchers behind the study certainly weren’t trying to prove that we’re lazy. They simply wanted to understand why, despite the sincere desire to remain active and fit, so many of us live a predominantly sedentary lifestyle. They hope that an understanding of our neurology can better equip us to overcome ingrained inclinations.

A systematic review by this research team provided “behavioral and neural evidence” that the average person genuinely wants to remain physically active. Our “automatic behaviors” suggest that we instinctively consider physical activity a reward, and even that our attention is more easily captured by the idea of exercise than by the idea of being sedentary.[1] For example, the researchers found that people reflexively direct their attention toward images of physical activity and away from images of sitting and inactivity.

When the researchers found that hardly any of the review’s participants were able to follow through with their exercise goals, though, they devised the more recent study to determine the neurological underpinnings that might be inhibiting progress.

They suspected that some involuntary, biological mechanism might be hampering progress—and they found plenty of data to support their hypothesis.

How (and why) the brain thwarts our intentions to exercise

Here’s how researchers designed their experimental setup. They recruited healthy, young men and women, all of whom expressed a desire to exercise and a limited ability to act on their intentions. These participants used avatars to interact with a complex computer simulation, which presented them with stick figures engaged in various physical activities and sedentary behaviors. The participants were told to navigate their avatar toward “active” stick-figures and away from “sedentary” stick-figures, and then vice versa.

This testing method implements what are known as “approach-avoidance” tasks. By noting the response times for each task, the researchers were able to gain insight into participants’ conscious feelings and inclinations. And by simultaneously recording participants’ brain activity with a multi-electrode fitted cap, the researchers could determine whether the brain’s biological, reflexive inclinations were in alignment with the person’s conscious feelings.

Almost without exception, the study participants preferred to navigate toward the active stick-figures (i.e. they performed the task more quickly). Just as researchers suspected, though, the brain had a contrary inclination—electrical brain activity revealed that giving attention to the active stick-figures actually took more energy and resources than giving attention to the sedentary ones. This conflict between conscious and unconscious inclinations was most pronounced in areas of the brain that govern inhibition, in which the researchers observed far greater electrical stimulation (and thus a greater amount of energy expended) when participants moved toward active stick-figures.[2]

Experts have noted that this data makes evolutionary sense. In the early days of our species, food was a precious commodity, and less physical exertion translated to fewer necessary calories. But needless to say, this instinctive urge to conserve energy is a dated one, particularly for those of us fortunate enough to have access to all the food we need.

Fight the urge to avoid exercise (it’s worth it)

It’s a good thing we’re consciously attracted to overcoming our evolutionary inclination toward inactivity—because a sedentary lifestyle can be detrimental to our health.

As we covered in previous articles, sitting is the new smoking. It dramatically hampers metabolism, raises cholesterol, promotes insulin resistance, raises your risk of cancer, and is terrible for your back.

Inactivity is also famously associated with cardiovascular issues—and the problem has to do with far more than just aerobic fitness. One fascinating study revealed that a sedentary lifestyle may negatively impact the differentiation of neural stem cells, which can lead not only to heart failure, but also neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and spinal muscular atrophy.[3]

Here’s the good news: because we are consciously attracted to exercise, it’s fairly easy to create a virtuous cycle of frequent physical activity.

Overcoming the initial disinclination to be active is the hardest part, but people who stick to an exercise routine for just a couple of months find that they’re increasingly drawn to continuing it—the electrical impulses impelling us toward inactivity are overshadowed by endorphins, hormone cascades, and the general feeling of well-being that comes with getting in great shape.

There’s never a bad time to establish an exercise routine, so find an activity that you enjoy and get started!


References

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29556981

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30056055

[3] https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnins.2018.00336/full

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For most of the world, meat provides a significant percentage of dietary protein. And for Americans, there’s few meat-based dishes more iconic than a good-old hamburger.

Much to the chagrin of burger lovers, though, red meat has become the subject of increasing criticism. As early as the late 1970s and early 1980s, a string of studies demonstrated the health risks of red meat consumption—but many of studies were criticized for being biased and improperly designed.

To clarify the issue, Harvard researchers set out to conduct a comprehensive, impeccably designed study. It followed 37,000 men and 83,000 women over the course of multiple decades. The results were published in 2012 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, and they leave little room for debate about the risks of eating red meat.

24,000 participants died during the study, 5,900 from cardiovascular disease and 9,500 from cancer. The researchers calculated that an additional serving of unprocessed red meat increased total mortality risk by 13%, and that a serving of processed meat increased the risk by 20%. They estimated that consuming even one less serving of red meat per day (and replacing it with healthful foods) can lower mortality risk by up to 19%.[1]

Meanwhile, alternative media sources (including the well-known documentary Cowspiracy) have helped reveal the environmentally disastrous effects of the meat industry. Beef production contributes hugely to greenhouse gas emissions, such that a vegetarian’s carbon footprint is less than half that of a meat eater’s.

But let’s face it: it’s not very likely that the majority of Americans will give up red meat, despite these well-documented risks. So companies like Impossible Burger have set out to find a middle road.

A veggie burger that satisfies meat lovers?

Impossible Burger’s quest was to create a plant-based burger that gives the same mouth-watering experience, but without harm to your body or the environment. They even have a catchy slogan to sum up their mission: “Eat a Burger. Save the World.”

And when they say their burger offers the same experience as chowing down on a conventional burger, they mean it. They set out to make the Impossible Burger nearly indistinguishable from its meat-based analog, and many people (even hardcore veggie burger skeptics) believe they’ve succeeded. It even “bleeds” like a real burger, thanks to a soy-derived version of a protein called heme (more on this ingredient in a bit).

Fast food and “better burger” chains around the country are starting to offer the Impossible Burger, and the company is building considerable momentum.

This may all sound like a positive step toward attenuating the risks of red meat consumption. Unfortunately, though, some major issues need to be addressed before the Impossible Burger can even remotely be considered a safe and healthful alternative.

The dark side of the Impossible Burger

Remember that “bleeding” soy protein mentioned above? It’s known as leghemoglobin, and it turns out it’s genetically modified, despite widespread characterizations of the Impossible Burger as “organic” and “non-GMO.”

When the company first sought approval for their product, the FDA suggested that the safety of leghemoglobin had not been adequately demonstrated in humans, especially since nearly 25% of the substance is comprised of 46 “non-target proteins” (which “co-purify” with leghemoglobin during the process of extracting it from Pichia pastoris yeast cells). The FDA expressed concern that these untested proteins could cause unforeseen allergic or antigenic effects.[2]

Nevertheless, the Impossible Burger was granted GRAS status (Generally Regarded As Safe) by the FDA in July, 2018—a status that exempts it from human safety studies. While the company did provide well-reasoned responses in the document cited above, their product’s approval may have just as much to do with their $400 million of funding from pro-GMO investors like Bill Gates.

So what does this mean for our dietary choices?

It’s important to remember that none of these criticisms change the fact that red meat does carry serious risks, both for your health and the environment.

The grave limitations of the Impossible Burger have now come to light, but on a fundamental level, the project is still well-conceived. It is still essential for us to temper our relationship with red meat, if we wish to promote personal and planetary health.

If you’re worried about the safety of the Impossible Burger (and you have good reason to be, until comprehensive human safety studies are conducted), there are still plenty of other options for saving the world—they just might not involve as many burgers.

Try going completely plant-based. Veggie burgers meticulously made with truly organic, non-GMO, healthful ingredients might not taste exactly like beef hamburgers, but they can be incredibly delicious…and they don’t carry any of the risks of beef burgers or Impossible Burgers.

Try reducing your meat consumption. Every bit helps. Recall from the study above that even replacing one serving of meat per day can have a significant impact on your health.

If you decide to continue eating meat, be selective. Conventionally raised, non-organic beef carries dramatically more health risks, so eat organic, grass-finished beef whenever possible (this means that the cows have been fed only grass throughout their entire lifetime). Verifying the sourcing of meat can be much more difficult when eating at restaurants, but it’s worth the effort. More and more establishments are recognizing the importance of offering optimal quality meat (and plant-based options), so with a bit of legwork, you can ensure that your repertoire of favorite eateries offers choices that are healthful and environmentally sustainable.


References

[1] https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/risk-red-meat

[2] https://1bps6437gg8c169i0y1drtgz-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/072717_Impossible_Burger_FOIA_documents.pdf

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Even for people in their 70s, exercise can lower risk of cardiovascular disease!

 

It is very important to remain physically active as we age. Everyone knows that an active lifestyle is decidedly healthier than a sedentary one. Any credible doctor will advocate proper exercise, particularly for the sake of safeguarding cardiovascular health.

Despite this universal agreement about the virtue of exercise, researchers are still endeavoring to understand how and why an active lifestyle is so critical for overall well-being and longevity, and specifically why the heart depends so heavily upon it. Unsurprisingly, granular study data has confirmed that a sedentary lifestyle can be disastrous for your heart (as well as nearly every other aspect of your health.

Since heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, we’d do well to heed our doctors’ exercise recommendations, and to dig deeper into what researchers have uncovered.

Use it or lose it

We all know that avoiding exercise is not in our best interest.

In past articles, we’ve talked about the strong connection between exercise and brain health, how exercise dramatically reduces the risk of stroke, how frequent exercise aids detoxification of heavy metals, radioactive materials, and other toxins, how exercise helps combat depression by increasing levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and how sitting for an extended period of time just might be as unhealthy as smoking.

Living in our work-obsessed society can make it incredibly difficult to prioritize exercise. When faced with the frightening risks of a sedentary lifestyle, though, taking action becomes a bit easier. If you’re in need of this kind of inspiration, look no further than the cardiovascular risks associated with avoiding exercise.

A study published in Frontiers in Neuroscience details a frightening cascade of serious health issues that can ensue when mice are prevented from using their hind legs for a mere 28 days[1]—and their findings are helping us understand why heart failure (and other cardiovascular issues) seem to be so closely associated with a sedentary lifestyle.

The researched reported that, when the mice were deprived of leg exercise for 28 days, they experienced a 70% decrease in neural stem cells that would normally differentiate into nerve cells (compared to normal, exercising mice).[2] This is a significant finding even independent of its implications for cardiovascular health, as it demonstrates how lack of exercise can “contribute to the negative manifestations” of brain metabolism dysfunction and neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and spinal muscular atrophy.[3]

The researchers discuss how this decreased neurogenesis can cause heart failure. When stem cells levels decrease, the quantity and quality of nerve tissue also atrophies over time. Eventually, even the nerves that move the heart’s muscles will be affected, thus increasing the risk of heart failure (which explains why heart failure is so common in the neurological diseases mentioned above).

Another study added to these findings by noting that low levels of exercise also lead to mitochondrial dysfunction (which in turn leads to the neurological atrophy described above).[4]

We’ve written before about the fundamental importance of your body’s mitochondria—they’re the “powerhouses” of your cells that make energy production and implementation possible. Mitochondrial dysfunction can not only lead to chronic fatigue, but also may signal the development of serious chronic diseases, including heart disease.

Exercise Helps Your Heart

Regular exercise is an important way to lower your risk of heart disease. Exercising for 30 minutes or more on most days can help you lose weight, improve your cholesterol, and even lower your blood pressure by as many as five to seven points.

A sedentary lifestyle, where your job and your leisure activities involve little or no physical activity, doubles your risk of dying from heart disease. This is similar to the increased risk you’d have if you smoked, had high cholesterol, or had high blood pressure.

The Good News

It’s easier than you might think to improve your health with exercise. You don’t have to jog for an hour a day. In fact, some studies have shown greater health benefits from light to moderate exercise simply because people are more likely to stick with it.

Your heart health improves with just 30 minutes of exercise on most days. Two 15-minute segments of exercise or three 10-minute segments still count as 30 minutes. Just make sure the activity is vigorous enough to raise your heart rate. Try the talk/sing test: If you can’t talk while you exercise, you’re working too hard. If you can sing, you need to work harder.

What Happens With Exercise

Just as exercise strengthens other muscles in your body, it helps your heart muscle become more efficient and better able to pump blood throughout your body. This means that the heart pushes out more blood with each beat, allowing it to beat slower and keep your blood pressure under control.

When you exercise regularly, your body’s tissue (including the heart) does a better job of pulling oxygen from your blood. This allows your heart to work better under stress and keeps you from getting winded during high-intensity activities.

Physical activity also allows better blood flow in the small blood vessels around your heart. Clogs in these arteries can lead to heart attacks. There’s also evidence that exercise helps your body make more branches and connections between these blood vessels, so there are other routes for your blood to travel if the usual path is blocked by narrow arteries or fatty deposits.

Exercise also increases your levels of HDL cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol that lowers heart disease risk by flushing the artery-clogging LDL or “bad” cholesterol out of your system.

Along with lowering your risk for heart disease, exercise:

  • Keeps your weight down.
  • Improves your mood.
  • Lowers your risk for some types of cancer.
  • Improves your balance.
  • Reduces your risk of osteoporosis by increasing your bone mass.
  • Gives you more energy.
  • Helps you sleep better.

 


References

[1] https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnins.2018.00336/full

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23750936

Image source

 

The importance of optimizing the microbiome simply can’t be overestimated. As gastrointestinal microbiologists continue to explore the uncharted territory of the body’s beneficial bacteria, it’s becoming clear that we simply can’t live without these symbiotic microbes. Now researchers have begun to hone in on how supporting these bacteria with probiotics can help prevent many of our society’s most prevalent chronic diseases.

Scientists have known for some time that the beneficial bacteria in your gut aid digestion and nutrient absorption, regulate appetite and metabolism, and boost immune function. To put it bluntly, this means that gut dysbiosis (i.e. an imbalance between beneficial and harmful bacteria in the gut) can make us fat and sick.

Our understanding of the microbiome is still in its infancy. It was hard to recognize microbiome imbalance when we lacked a basic understanding of its function and baseline state. Rigorous study has provided scientists with a much better picture, though—and this improved comprehension has allowed for widespread agreement about the characteristics of healthy and unhealthy gut flora colonies.

Once they knew what to look for, researchers started asking an important question: could gut dysbiosis be linked with chronic disease?

The incidence of many serious and prevalent chronic diseases has risen dramatically in the past few decades, and the cause of this escalating health crisis is widely debated.

Researchers hope that a deeper understanding of the microbiome will help us prevent (and even reverse) a wide variety of chronic diseases, including autoimmune conditions, mental health disorders, heart disease, metabolic disorders, and cancer.

Can probiotics help solve our health crisis?

Probiotic supplementation has increased in popularity, and for good reason. Here are some of the chronic illnesses that probiotics can help us avoid and overcome, according to researchers.

Gastrointestinal conditions. As the gut is the epicenter of the microbiome, it stands to reason that probiotics offer powerful support for a wide range of stomach issues. One comprehensive medical review reports that “perturbation of bacteria microflora of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract” can contribute to the development of GI ailments and disorders like diarrhea (especially when antibiotic-induced diarrhea), colitis, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), pouchitis, and small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).

The researchers report that probiotic supplementation is a safe, effective, and time-tested treatment for these conditions.[1]

Auto-immune conditions. The gut microbiome accounts for a large percentage of the body’s immune defense capacity—up to 80%, by some estimates. Thus, gut dysbiosis is a clear precondition of immune dysfunction. Studies have detailed how gut dysbiosis underlies allergies, immunosuppression associated with viral infection, negative vaccination reaction,[2] type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and systemic lupus,[3] and have demonstrated that probiotics can be an effective preventative against and treatment for these conditions. As an added bonus, probiotic supplementation can even help protect the skin against the effects of aging and light damage.[4]

Skin conditions such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis can all be traced back to issues with inflammatory response and immune function. Therefore, by restoring bacterial balance, reducing gastrointestinal inflammation, and modulating immune response, probiotics can play a critical role in the treatment of skin conditions.

Mental health disorders. Research has revealed a profound connection between the gut microbiome and the brain—an association now referred to as the “gut-brain axis.” Consequently, gut dysbiosis has been strongly linked with depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, autism, and other mental health disorders, according to medical reviews.[5] Probiotic use has therefore been linked to improved symptoms of depression and other mental health issues.[6]

Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States—so you can imagine the excitement with which researchers reported that healthy microflora ratios achieved via regular probiotic supplementation can help prevent heart damage, heart failure, and other age-related cardiovascular issues.[7]

Metabolic disorders. Obesity and type 2 diabetes afflict an enormous percentage of the American population. While poor diet and sedentary lifestyle are certainly the biggest causative factors, researchers have been pleased to find that probiotics can help modulate metabolism, aid weight loss, ameliorate diabetic symptoms, and improve insulin sensitivity.[8]

Cancer. A growing body of medical literature suggests that gut dysbiosis (and the state of chronic inflammation associated with it) is strongly linked with the development of cancer. Studies have demonstrated that probiotics are beneficial in the prevention and treatment of cancer, not only due to their capacity to heal gut dysbiosis and systemic inflammation, but also due to direct anti-metastatic properties (i.e. the property of preventing cancer colony metastasis).[9]

The right way to use probiotics

The evidence above shows just how powerful probiotics can be—but you shouldn’t rely on them as a replacement for a balanced, healthy, nutrient-dense diet. No probiotic supplementation can overcome the damage caused by a diet of processed foods and indiscriminate use of antibiotics, unless you shift your habits in a healthier direction.

As long as you keep this principle in mind, however, probiotics can be an effective tool for rebuilding and protecting your microbiome.

Stick with probiotic products that implement well-tested bacterial strains, such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus (L. rhamnosus). Only use products that use a formulation method that verifiably optimizes absorption—the vast majority of probiotics simply die in the acidic conditions of the stomach before they can even be utilized by the body.

Our Favorite Probiotic: Rhamnosus.

Rhamnosus is one of the good guys. First isolated in the 1980’s, it’s now one of the most WIDELY USED and STUDIED probiotic strains, and has well-documented effects on health and well-being.

Just some of the potential benefits noted in the research include:

  1. Improved Gut Health. Including significant improvements in leaky gut, diarrhea, IBS and more.

  2. Stronger Immune Function. Fighting infections faster & improving the efficacy of conventional treatments.

  3. Enhanced Cognition. Potentially reducing anxiety and mitigating conditions such as ADHD.

  4. Healthy Child Development. Enhancing prenatal gut flora and even cutting the risk of colds.

  5. Easier Weight Loss. Reducing insulin sensitivity and potentially speeding up fat loss.

And that’s not all…

PuraTHRIVE has taken the L. Rhamnosus Strain Probiotic to the next level.

PuraTHRIVE combined the immense gut-supporting power of L.Rhamnosus strain probiotics with a unique RCME technology ProBifferin delivery method – using Lactoferrin to bond with the probiotic and RCME technology.

What does that mean?

The short story – it means it was designed with absorption in mind – helping you get the highest concentration of beneficial bacteria for your money.

Harness the power of L. Rhamnosus to restore your gut health, and improve your overall health

 


References

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3002586/

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4006993/

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28556916

[4][4] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352647515000155

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5641835/

[6] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170523124119.htm

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5392220/

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5491138/

[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5581548/

Image source

We tend to think that the more delicious a food is, the less likely it is to be healthful and nourishing. While this idea holds true for sugar-laden processed and packaged foods, it’s good to remember that there are notable exceptions. For example, strawberries offer perfect proof that delicious foods (even sweet ones) can also offer incredible health benefits.

Researchers have now officially classified strawberries as a functional food, thanks to their “preventive and therapeutic health benefits.”[1]

Functional foods (also known as nutriceuticals) are those which exhibit acute and quantifiable therapeutic properties beyond basic nutrition. Unlike the term “superfood,” which is as much a marketing gimmick as it is a verifiable label, the term “functional food” has been more widely adopted within the medical research community.

While many researchers would still like to see more stringently defined standards and data applied to functional foods, the term does carry weight—and it’s still noteworthy that strawberries have earned this distinction among researchers.

Let’s take a look at some of the specific reasons why strawberries are more than just a sweet summer treat.

High nutrient density. Strawberries are packed with beneficial nutrients, including antioxidants (strawberries have higher ORAC activity than raspberries or blackberries),[2] healthful flavonoids such as quercetin, catechin, epicatechin, kaempferol, and ellagic acid, essential vitamins like vitamin C, B vitamins, vitamin E, potassium, folate, and carotenoids, remarkable healing compounds called anthocyanins (which are responsible for their red color), and phytosterols.

Anti-inflammatory properties. The antioxidants and phenolic compounds in strawberries have powerful anti-inflammatory potential. Sure enough, one long-term study demonstrated that women who consume two or more servings of strawberries per week have significantly lower C-reactive protein (CRP), a primary marker for inflammation (as well as the many conditions to which chronic inflammation can lead).[3]

Cardiovascular support. Inflammation and elevated CRP are strongly associated with cardiovascular issues, so it makes sense that strawberries would offer excellent support for the heart. One study found that just three servings of strawberries per week reduced the risk of heart attack in women by up to 33%,[4] and another demonstrated that strawberry consumption was associated with a significant reduction in deaths from cardiovascular disease.[5]

Improvement of other cardiovascular conditions and risk factors. The anthocyanins, polyphenols, and other beneficial compounds in strawberries have also been shown to improve common comorbidities of cardiovascular disease. For example, when reviewing data from the heart attack risk study cited above, researchers found that higher intake of strawberry anthocyanins led to an 8% reduction in hypertension.[6]

Regular consumption of strawberries also lowers LDL (“bad” cholesterol)[7] and raises HDL (“good” cholesterol),[8] reduces oxidized cholesterol by increasing the body’s antioxidant capacity,[9] and improves glucose response.[10]

Brain support. Strawberries are even being hailed as a neuroprotective food. Researchers at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University found that strawberry extracts improved and even reserved signs of age-related neuronal degeneration,[11] and showed that animals eating a diet including 2% strawberries were protected against neuronal damage (as tested by exposure to radiation).[12] These findings have excited many researchers into exploring the role strawberries can play in reversing neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Chemopreventive properties. Last but most certainly not least, studies suggest that strawberries display anti-cancer properties (they’re but one of many functional foods that are being explored as natural anti-cancer agents). One prospective cohort study showed that higher consumption of strawberries (especially when combined with other fresh fruits and vegetables) was associated with a significant reduction in cancer mortality,[13] and other studies even suggest that strawberries can directly slow the growth of esophageal cancer.[14]

How to get the most out of strawberries (all year round)

Whether fresh, frozen, dried, or made into jams and juices, it’s hard to go wrong with strawberries, as long as they’re organic. While all these forms have been shown to be beneficial, a deeper look reveals that processing can alter levels of beneficial nutrients.

Processing strawberries into jams and juices appears to affect their nutritional profile to the greatest degree, reducing levels of ascorbic acid (vitamin C), polyphenols, and total antioxidant capacity.[15] It’s also worth noting that if refined sugar is added, the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capacities of strawberries are further counteracted.

Canning strawberries is slightly better (especially if no sugar is added), but still has been shown to decrease levels of anthocyanins and phenolic compounds.[16]

Frozen strawberries exhibit significantly higher levels of ascorbic acid and polyphenols than dried strawberries,[17] and sometimes even higher than fresh strawberries.

While fresh strawberries are always a wise choice, they’re nearly always more expensive, and aren’t always in season. Luckily, most experts agree that frozen strawberries are a perfectly suitable substitute for year-round use.

Just remember that you must buy organic strawberries (whether fresh or frozen) to receive the benefits described above. Conventionally grown strawberries are sprayed with copious amounts of toxic pesticides—in fact, they’re the number one crop to avoid in the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen.

 


References

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24345049

[2] https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf9908345

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17906180

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23319811

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17344514

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21106916

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20797478

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18258621

[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9868186

[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19930765

[11] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9742171

[12] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15725409

[13] https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article-abstract/41/1/32/4691514

[14] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110406085056.htm

[15] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15998127

[16] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17995868

[17] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12590461

Image source

Conventional dentistry suffers from some worrying flaws.

We’ve written in past articles about the health issues associated with common dental practices (though they should really be called malpractices). Both the FDA and ADA refuse to acknowledge any present dangers, and in many cases have even gone to great lengths to silence criticism—so you may not even be aware of how risky your dental visits can be.

For starters, even the routine use of fluoride during cleanings is questionable. Despite the debate over the safety of fluoride, the case is clear: over 100 studies demonstrate that fluoride is harmful to the brain. It has been shown to be an endocrine disruptor, and according to the EPA, it is “a chemical having substantial evidence of developmental neurotoxicity.”[1]

And the further we delve into dentistry, the worse things get.

For example, dental amalgams (fillings) often contain mercury, a disastrously toxic heavy metal linked with a wide array of serious health problems. In 2011, the World Health Organization acknowledged the issue by publishing a report called “Future Use of Materials for Dental Restoration,” with the stated purpose of exploring avenues for reducing or eliminating the use of mercury-based amalgams.[2]

Root canals are another common dental procedure—yet despite the widespread belief that they are a harmless procedure, an increasing body of evidence suggests that they carry grave risks.

Cadavers in the mouth

Root canals and their risks have been a topic of discussion for over 100 years—but it’s only recently coming back into public awareness after decades of suppression and willful ignorance. Most conventional dentists will still give you a funny look if you ask them if root canals carry systemic health risks.

This is a controversial topic, and admittedly, very few well-funded studies have been carried out to examine causal links between root canals and chronic health issues. But the evidence is worrisome, to say the least—have a look and make your own decision about whether root canals are a “harmless” practice.

Let’s start by stating a somewhat disturbing truth that’s often overlooked or downplayed: root canals are the only common medical procedure in which a dead part of the body is left attached.

If infection or decay reaches a critical level in a limb, that body part is removed, so as to prevent the infection from spreading throughout the body. But for some reason, we’ve convinced ourselves that the same logic doesn’t hold for a dead and decaying tooth.

For this reason, German physician and engineer Reinhard Voll referred to root canals as “cadavers in the mouth.” Dr. Voll called attention to the commonsense risks of root canals in the 1940’s—over thirty years since Dr. Weston Price sounded the original alarm.

Dr. Price was a prominent dentist and researcher who eventually headed the research branch of the American Dental Association. As early as 1908, he teamed up with the Mayo Clinic to research the health implications of bacterial buildup in root canals—and the results terrified him.

According to conventional dentistry, current methods for cleaning and filling the dead tooth during the root canal procedure are more than adequate for preventing the growth of bacteria. The perseverance of this belief is preposterous, given that Dr. Price disproved it over 100 years ago.

He cleaned 1,000 extracted teeth in precisely the manner implemented by dentists performing root canals (and by the way, these methods have barely changed today). He then sterilized the tooth canals with over forty different chemicals, nearly all of which were far stronger and more toxic than those suitable for human use. Nevertheless, after just 48 hours, he cultured the canals and found bacterial growth in 990 out of 1000 teeth.[3]

Modern day dentists try to clear out bacteria from root canals with strong courses of antibiotics—a practice that is both ineffective and irresponsible, as it breeds antibiotic-resistant bacteria and dysregulates the microbiome.

Even more disturbingly, Dr. Price theorized that this root canal bacterial growth is a risk factor for the development of heart disease and other serious chronic health issues. To test this hypothesis, he extracted root canal teeth from individuals who suffered from certain diseases and ailments.

By inserting fragments of these root canal teeth under the skin of rabbits, he was able to transfer the human patient’s disease to the rabbit. He was able to transfer heart disease 100% of the time (i.e. if the root canal patient had had a heart attack, the rabbit with the implanted tooth would have a heart attack l00% of the time within two weeks), and up to 88% of the time with other diseases.[4]

As mentioned above, the ADA or any modern representative of conventional dentistry still continues to deny any link between root canals and chronic disease. However, a number of modern studies have demonstrated the proliferation of pathogenic bacteria in root canals,[5] while others have linked these specific bacterial strains to brain damage,[6] nervous system disorders,[7] septic infection,[8] and atherosclerosis.[9]

How to approach root canals

You should always do your due diligence and make your own decisions (after talking with your doctor or dentist) in matters of health and wellness. That being said, given the evidence cited above, the following recommendations seem advisable.

If you’ve never had a root canal and are told that you need one in the future, consider having the tooth extracted instead.

If you’ve already had one of more root canals, but aren’t exhibiting any symptoms that would lead you to worry about infection, have the tooth closely monitored anyway. Find a biological dentist who will be sympathetic to the project of identifying root canal infections and removing the tooth if necessary.

If you are suffering from any serious or chronic illness, and you have had a root canal, find a biological dentist immediately, and consider having the tooth extracted.

 


References

[1] http://fluoridealert.org/researchers/nrc/findings/

[2] http://www.who.int/oral_health/publications/dental_material_2011.pdf

[3] https://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/dentistry/root-canal-dangers/

[4] Ibid.

[5] http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0049576

[6] http://jcm.asm.org/content/45/2/645.full

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC165296/

[8] http://www.jstor.org/stable/4459495?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

[9] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110104101344.htm

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The mitochondria in the cells throughout our bodies are responsible for creating 90% of the energy needed to sustain life and support organ function. When mitochondria malfunction, organs start to fail – people get chronically sick, and even die.

Chronic fatigue and disease are an all-too-common feature of aging in the modern world. Almost half of all adults in the United States suffer from a chronic disease, and a quarter or all adults live with two or more simultaneously.[1]

Chronic diseases are the leading causes of both death and disability, and even non-fatal conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome (also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis) can seriously compromise quality of life.

These diseases take many forms, but there are common threads that run through all of them. Western medicine is notorious for treating incidental symptoms rather than underlying causes, but the tide is beginning to turn. Conventional, integrative, and alternative practitioners alike are now in agreement that addressing fundamental risk factors is the key to preventing and treating chronic disease.

We’ve written about a few of these fundamental risk factors in the past: chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, and endocrine dysfunction, to name a few. Another factor that’s often overlooked is mitochondrial dysfunction.  

Mitochondria are the “powerhouses” of your body’s cells—they’re responsible for breaking down nutrients, bringing them into the cell, and creating usable energy

If you think back to junior high science class, you may remember that mitochondria are the “powerhouses” of your body’s cells—they’re responsible for breaking down nutrients, bringing them into the cell, and creating usable energy. Needless to say, imbalance manifests rather quickly when these tiny structures aren’t able to do their job properly.

Scientists now believe that the number of cell mitochondria dwindles naturally as a byproduct of aging. In fact, research has shown that adults over the age of 70 have 50% more mitochondrial damage in their brain cells than middle-aged adults.[2] This damage, combined with the resulting oxidative stress, is a primary risk factor for the development of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of neurodegeneration.

And dwindling mitochondria effects far more than just the brain. According to researchers, mitochondrial dysfunction is “characterized by a loss of efficiency in the electron transport chain and reductions in the synthesis of high-energy molecules.”[3] This means that the body simply can’t process and transport the energy it needs for optimal health and performance.

This is why fatigue is such a central aspect of chronic disease and general ill health—the body’s ability to produce sufficient usable energy has been compromised, and the little energy that is available is diverted to fighting whatever chronic disease is ailing the body.

Fatigue, then, is a primary symptomatic marker for the risk factors of chronic disease. In testing this hypothesis, researchers confirmed that mitochondrial dysfunction is a primary characteristic of many chronic diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease (as mentioned above), Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Friedreich’s ataxia, atherosclerosis and other heart and vascular conditions, type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus erythematosus, autism spectrum disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar and other mood disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, fibromyalgia, skeletal/muscular hypertrophy and atrophy, chronic infections, and of course chronic fatigue syndrome.[4]

As scary as this lists sounds, it’s good news that a single factor underlies all of these debilitating conditions—because it means we can work to prevent all of them in one fell swoop just by optimizing mitochondrial function.

Research has demonstrated that mitochondria can be repaired and protected against future damage. Here’s how you can get started.

The mitochondria-healing lifestyle

Researchers admit that unraveling chronic disease and aging is a bewilderingly complex project. There are still many unresolved questions, but we do know that “the mitochondrion retains a critical role at the center of a complex web of processes leading to cellular and organismal aging.”[5]

We also know that the following lifestyle practices can have positive effects on mitochondrial health.

Exercise more often. In case you need another reason to take more time for exercise, here it is: staying active can significantly improve the health of your cell mitochondria, prevent chronic disease, and slow the aging process. We already knew that frequent exercise boosts the immune system, sharpens cognition, balances sleep cycles, and extends lifestyle—now researchers believe that mitochondrial function might be at the heart of these benefits.

One study demonstrated that high-intensity interval training (with biking, walking, or running) is particularly beneficial for repairing and optimizing mitochondria.[6]

Try these mitochondria-supporting supplements. The conventional research world has become uncharacteristically open to supplementation as a means to heal mitochondrial dysfunction (perhaps because there are no competing pharmaceuticals that target this underlying cause of disease). Here’s what they’ve discovered.

  • Alpha lipoic acid is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, as well as a co-factor for the processes that take place inside mitochondria.
  • Glutathione is the body’s best tool for balancing oxidative stress levels (which unburdens mitochondria and allows them to heal). For best results, use a highly bioavailable form of glutathione like this one from KORfactor.
  • CoQ10 is “a key cofactor and component of the mitochondrial electron transport chain,” and thus supplementing with it is one of the most direct ways in which you can provide mitochondria with the fuel they need for optimal function.[7]

These lifestyle practices, coupled with proper diet and sleep habits, will help minimize stress and inflammation in the body, boost detoxification, and keep your mitochondria strong and vital well into old age.

 


References

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/overview/index.htm

[2] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673689921454

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4566449/

[4] Ibid.

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4580208/

[6] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170307155214.htm

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4566449/

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Triglyceride is a fancy name for fat (they’re also referred to as lipids).

All the lipid-based foods we consume contain varying types of triglycerides, which enter the bloodstream after being broken down. These triglycerides are then burned as an energy source (a process called lipolysis), and whatever is left over is stored in fat cells, and sometimes in the liver.

Fat storage is an ingenious mechanism that was immensely important for our distant ancestors, because stored energy allows the body to go without food for long periods of time. Unfortunately, though, we eat much more and exercise much less than our ancestors.

The result is hypertriglyceridemia (high triglycerides); the conditions affects 25% of the American population, and nearly three million cases are diagnosed every year.[1]

Elevated levels of triglycerides (over 200 mg/dL) can lead to serious and life-threatening health issues

Elevated levels of triglycerides (over 200 mg/dL) can lead to serious and life-threatening health issues, including pancreatitis, as well as increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart disease (due to hardening of the arteries).[2]

You’re especially at risk for hypertriglyceridemia if you’re overweight or obese, have diabetes and aren’t properly managing the condition, consume alcohol regularly, or eat a high-calorie diet.

Regardless, though, taking measures to prevent or correct the condition is always a wise choice. Here are some simple lifestyle steps you can take to lower your triglycerides.

The triglyceride-healing lifestyle

If triglycerides in the bloodstream come from the food we consume, lowering them should be as simple as eating less fat, right? This was what scientists believed for a long while, but now we know that the truth is more complicated.

Eat the right kinds of fat. As we’ve discussed in other articles, there are “good” fats and “bad fats.” Monounsaturated fats, such as those found in olive oil and avocados, are exceptionally healthful—studies have actually demonstrated that daily consumption of good fats can lead to a dramatic decline in triglycerides.[3] Studies on consumption of high-quality polyunsaturated fats have yielded similar results.[4]

Stay away form hydrogenated fats. While “good” fats are paradoxically helpful for triglyceride levels, hydrogenated fats (trans fats) are decidedly not helpful. Studies have demonstrated that these fats—commonly found in fried foods, snack foods, and baked goods—can raise triglyceride levels, trigger inflammation, and increase “bad” LDL cholesterol levels.[5]

Then there are some fats about which no one can seem to agree, like coconut oil. While some studies suggest that the saturated fats in coconut oil can raise triglycerides, others clearly demonstrate that it can dramatically aid weight loss, a major factor in lowering triglycerides.

As always, moderation is key—don’t overdo it with any kind of fat, but remember that the healthful fats mentioned above a perfectly helpful and necessary part of a balanced diet.

Moderate carb and sugar consumption. This brings us to the other components of a balanced diet. When the connection between fat consumption and elevated triglycerides was first publicized, many people rallied under the banner of the old-school Food Pyramid (lots of carbs, fewer fats). But research has shown a high-carb diet is not the way to lower triglycerides.

The reason for this is simple: just like fats, the carbohydrates and sugars that your body doesn’t use for energy are also converted to triglycerides and stored in adipose tissue. In some cases, carbohydrate metabolism (glycolysis) is even more likely to lead to excess triglyceride storage than fat metabolism. Studies have shown that low-carb diets consistently lead to greater drops in triglyceride levels.[6]

Studies have shown that low-carb diets consistently lead to greater drops in triglyceride levels

If you’re worried about cutting carbs out of your diet, here’s a tip: start by cutting out sugar, rather than healthful carbs like veggies, fruits, and whole grains.

High-fiber carbs are actually acutely beneficial for lowering triglycerides: one study demonstrated that a low-fiber diet caused triglycerides to increase by 45% in just six days,[7] and others have shown high-fiber foods like rice bran[8] and tree nuts[9] actively help lower triglycerides.

Keep these healthful foods in your diet, and ditch packaged products with added sugar, replace sugary beverages with water, and minimize the use of sugar in your own cooking—research clearly shows that doing so can help lower your triglycerides.[10]

Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight. Fitness is the coup de grace for high triglycerides—the importance of combining exercise with proper diet simply can’t be overstated.

Researchers have found that regular exercise can benefit HDL levels (the “good cholesterol”), which has an inverse relationship with triglycerides—so when HDL goes up, triglycerides tend to go down.[11]

Additionally, regular exercise aids weight loss, which is primarily important for lowering triglycerides. Losing even 5-10% of your body weight can drop your triglyceride levels by 40 mg/dL.[12] And the longer you stick with your exercise regimen, the greater improvement you’ll see.[13]

The science of triglycerides may be complex, but the triglyceride-healing lifestyle doesn’t have to be. Here’s what it boils down to: eat a balanced diet of high-fiber fruits, veggies, nuts, legumes, and whole grains, healthy fats, and plenty of water; don’t consume more calories than you need; and establish an exercise regimen and stick with it.

 


References

[1] http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/triglycerides/art-20048186

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2822144/

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23642776

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2808028/

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2374566

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16685042

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/453063

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11893482

[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26561616

[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12761365

[11] http://atvb.ahajournals.org/content/21/7/1226

[12] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3120182/

[13] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2407251

Image source

Ginger is valued for many reasons—as a delicious, pungent spice, a tasty tea ingredient, sometimes even as a natural home remedy—but rarely as a bonafide medicine. This beautiful, golden root of ancient and widespread origin has been used for over 5,000 years in the healing systems of India and China, and yet it has been largely ignored by modern medicine.

As interest in functional foods as alternative medicines has grown, however, researchers have finally turned their attention toward the therapeutic properties of ginger. Unsurprisingly, they have confirmed the veracity of nearly every one of its ancient applications—and many experts believe that there are more still to discover. To date, studies suggest that ginger could be helpful for over 170 different medical conditions.[1]

Let’s briefly review what medical research literature says about ginger as medicine. Even this small sampling should make it clear that ginger should be a staple in every household.

Antioxidant activity. One of the first things that researchers noticed when they dug into the bioactive components of ginger was its powerful antioxidant properties. The bioactive compounds in ginger are called gingerols, thirty-one of which have been discovered, and all of which effectively combat oxidative stress.

A large body of research demonstrates that ginger passes all antioxidant tests with flying colors. It has been shown to reduce age-related oxidative stress markers,[2] to suppress the damaging peroxidation of fats,[3] to reduce the production of superoxide (a powerful kind of damaging free radical),[4] to protect levels of glutathione (the body’s “master antioxidant”),[5] to guard against alcohol-induced liver toxicity,[6] and even to reduce a special variety of oxidative stress associated with leukemia and other serious health conditions.[7]

Anti-inflammatory activity. Ginger also fights inflammation, another one of the root causes of disease (along with oxidative stress). This property has made it a popular home remedy for arthritis and other painful conditions. When researchers put it to the test in a controlled setting, they found that ginger did exhibit potent analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects (especially a compound called [6]-gingerol),[8] and that it can be effectively used to manage both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.[9]

The mechanisms through which ginger quells inflammation are much less straightforward than some other remedies (certainly more than NSAIDs and similar painkillers)—it works through a complex web of both inhibitory and excitatory processes that modulate inflammatory response and relieve pain without any of the side effects of OTC medications and prescription drugs.

Nausea relief and stomach support. This is perhaps the folk use for which ginger is best known—at some point, you’ve probably been offered ginger tea for a sour stomach. Once again, modern research has vindicated this well-established use, demonstrating that it effectively calms the nausea and vomiting associated with stomach illness, pregnancy, chemotherapy treatment, and postoperative distress.[10] It also effective for alleviating gas,[11] preventing seasickness,[12] and even treating stomach ulcers.[13]

Natural cancer treatment. As we’ve covered at length in another article, ginger is an incredible natural cancer fighter. It’s been shown to be a whopping 10,000 times more effective than chemotherapy at targeting cancer stem cells (CSCs), the mother cells that control the proliferation of cancer cell colonies—and it works without any side effects. While it’s unlikely that ginger will completely replace chemotherapy and other toxic cancer treatment modalities anytime soon, ginger is being used in clinical settings to attenuate the toxicity, nausea, and other negative side effects associated with chemotherapy.[14]

Disease protection and prevention. The more researchers dig into ginger, the more disease-fighting properties they uncover. Research has demonstrated that ginger can offer powerful protection for your heart (thanks to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiplatelet, hypotensive, and hypolipidemic properties).[15]

And that’s just the beginning. A steady flow of research has shown that ginger can help prevent or even treat high cholesterol,[16] asthma and allergic diseases,[17] type 2 diabetes,[18] Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia,[19] and inflammatory bowel conditions like ulcerative colitis.[20]

How to make the most of ginger

Some of the studies cited above simply used raw ginger powder to achieve the reported results, so this approach certainly has proven merit (and it’s nearly always the least expensive).

Simply brewing tea with ginger powder (or even mixing the powder into room temperature water) can provide relief from nausea, headaches, and other everyday maladies. Raw ginger root also adds a nice kick to smoothies and cooked dishes, so for an extra antioxidant and anti-inflammatory boost, throw some in whenever you think of it.

If you want to implement ginger as an acute therapeutic agent for the prevention and treatment of disease, though, it’s best to work with concentrated full-spectrum extracts and oils (especially those that have been optimally formulated for high bioavailability).

This product is our favorite, especially if you’re seeking out ginger for any kind of pain relief—it’s a powerful complex of liposomal ginger oil, curcumin (the famed healing component in turmeric), and vegan DHA (which also work wonders for many of the conditions discussed above).

 


References

[1] http://www.greenmedinfo.com/substance/ginger

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11755028

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1588934

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8394839

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1588934

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18182172

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11790448

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15588672

[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1494322

[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10793599

[11] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18403946

[12] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9815340

[13] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8069973

[14] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3361530/

[15] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18037515

[16] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10801908

[17] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18432287

[18] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18361751

[19] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25811848

[20] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18571884

Image source


Summer is cherry season!

These delicious little fruits have long been associated with hot and sunny days, not only because of their cool, refreshing tartness, but also because they have an incredibly short growing season.

While they can be grown for a few months out of the year in sub-tropical regions, they’re really only “in season” for a few weeks in most parts of the United Stated. You may be inclined to think of cherries more as a summer treat than a superfood, but increasing evidence demonstrates that cherries offer serious health benefits—so stock up while you can!

Just one caveat, though: there’s a big difference between tart cherries and sweet cherries. Most of the fresh varieties you’ll see in stores, such as Bing, are sweet (sometimes they’re even labeled as “sweet cherries.”) These are okay in moderation, but do contain much more sugar than their tart cousins.

For real benefits (we’ll get to them in just a bit), choose tart cherries. Luckily, tart varieties are more often found in dried, frozen, or juice form, so they’re available more or less all year round. If you manage to find fresh tart cherries, you can also store them for year-round enjoyment. In this case, wash your cherries right before eating them (not prior to storage), as washing will decrease their shelf life.

Here’s some evidence that tart cherries offer more than just summer nostalgia.

Tart Cherries: superfood AND functional food

People have lots of opinions about what comprises a “superfood,” but there’s a few points about which everyone can agree. Superfoods must be nutrient-dense—that is, they must provide an above average level of critical nutrients per serving, compared to common foods. Ideally, superfoods should also be functional foods, meaning that they should have the capacity to address acute health concerns.

Tart cherries pass this unofficial superfood test with flying colors. In case you need some more proof, take a look at what research has revealed about them.

Exceptional nutrient density. Tart cherries are packed with a cornucopia of beneficial nutrients. Here’s a sampling: vitamin C (a powerful and underestimated antioxidant that boosts the immune system and scavenges free radicals), beta carotene (a precursor to vitamin A that is immensely important for vision), quercetin and other anthocyanins (antioxidants that provide immune support and lowered cancer risk, among many other benefits), potassium, manganese, and copper (critical minerals in which many people are deficient), vitamin K (an important factor in calcium maintenance), cyanidin (another antioxidant with unique, cancer-preventing properties),[1] and ellagic acid (which, according to researchers, “prevents the binding of carcinogens to DNA and strengthens connective tissue.”)[2]

And you can get a significant percentage of your RDI (recommended daily intake) of all these nutrients from a single eight-ounce glass of tart cherry juice.

Tart cherries work remarkably well at preventing and soothing arthritis and gout

Potent anti-inflammatory action. Tart cherries also work wonders for inflammatory conditions, thanks to their rich anthocyanin and bioflavonoid content. These compounds inhibit enzymes called cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), which are largely responsible for triggering the inflammatory response associated with pain and stiffness.

COX inhibition is one of the mechanisms by which NSAIDs like ibuprofen and acetaminophen cool inflammation too, but their use comes with many potential side effects. Tart cherries work remarkably well at preventing and soothing arthritis[3] and gout,[4] all without the ulcers, gastrointestinal stress, and other side effects of OTC painkillers.

Melatonin and Sleep support. Cherries contain high levels of melatonin, an endogenous antioxidant that powerfully supports the brain, regulates circadian rhythms, and lets the body know when it’s bedtime.

Melatonin deficiency is rampant, because its production can be disrupted by the blue light emitted by most electronic devices, as well as by environmental toxin overload. Luckily, researchers have found that drinking a serving of tart cherry juice in the evening increases exogenous levels of melatonin, and thus improves sleep duration and quality.[5]  

Natural endurance. An increasing number of sports medicine experts are touting tart cherry juice as a powerful elixir for endurance and enhanced recovery. One study found that Montmorency tart cherry concentrate improved athletic performance, and decreased post-exercise inflammation and soreness.[6] Subsequent studies have found that long-distance runners who drink tart cherry juice before marathons experience less muscle damage, and therefore experience less pain and faster recovery.[7]

Reduced disease risk. The list above is only a sampling of the potential benefits tart cherries have to offer. While disease etiology can be difficult to trace when viewed on an individual basis, the fact remains that inflammation, oxidative stress, and nutrient deficiency are primary risk factors for nearly all diseases.

By targeting these key factors and supporting the body holistically, tart cherries reduce the risk of developing a wide range of diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, dementia and general cognitive decline, and even cancer.

Get some tart cherry juice today!


References

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10075763

[2] https://www.cancertutor.com/ellagicacid/

[3] http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/246114.php

[4] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/art.34677/abstract

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22038497

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27455316

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20459662

Image source