Cherries can have a great effect on your immune system in a positive way. While high-sugar, cherry-based foods like cherry pie, jams, fruit leathers or candies are mostly sugars and can actually depress your immune system, tart cherries like the Montmorency cherry has less sugar when consumed or used as a concentrate.
So what is it in these cherries that is so good for your immune system? Well, it’s a several things. It’s the naturally occurring melatonin, vitamin C, zinc and even more important is the high amount of a flavonoid called proanthocyanidin.
Melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone known for governing sleep and circadian “clock” rhythms in the body, has shown to exhibit an anti-stress and immune-protective function in the body. Our immune system protects our body from disease, but it also is responsible for controlling inflammation in the body. Inflammation is useful for maintaining healthy function in the body, but when there too much inflammation, it can cause disease such as arthritis. Just stimulating the immune system could cause more unwanted inflammation, but modulating it can ensure that your immune system is working the way you want it to.
Vitamin C has long been known to support the immune system. In order to be maximally effective, vitamin C should be used in combination with zinc. The two nutrients are mutually complimentary and tart cherries contain both of these nutrients.
Proanthocyanidins. How can something derived from the pigment coloring of fruits possibly help your overall health and immune system? It turns out that most of your immune system lives in your gut and for good reason. Most of the foreign objects that enter your body do so through your mouth. There are sensors all over your esophagus and intestines, whose main job is to alert your immune system when something bad gets in you like food poisoning or a virus. These sensors cause the immune system to take defensive action to protect your body.
The problem arises when the sensors become overactive and cause the immune system to be constantly reacting. This is the basis for many inflammation-related disease conditions. The proanthocyanidins found in fruits like cherries and blueberries calm down and regulate the sensors in the gut.
So next time you are feeling “off,” take a tip from Mother Nature and sip on some cherry!