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Tart Cherry Juice Concentrate
Highest Anti-oxidant Scores of all Fruits and Vegetables
Brunswick Laboratories, Wareham, MA, recently conducted extensive nutraceutical evaluations and ORAC testing on four Montmorency tart cherry products. Dr. Boxin Ou, principal research scientist at Brunswick Laboratories and one of the leading scientists in the U.S. on phytochemicals in plant foods, filed these scientific notes on the evaluations.
Tart cherry juice concentrate is highest in ORAC units
Tart cherry juice concentrate has the highest ORAC values of tested fruits and vegetables. Three separate tests were conducted on the tart cherry products; each product registered a high ORAC value. Per 100 grams:
Other fruits that have been tested range from 700 to 5,700 ORAC units per 100 grams.
- Tart cherry juice concentrate has 12,800 ORAC units,
- Dried tart cherries have 6,800 ORAC units,
- Frozen tart cherries have 2,033 ORAC units,
- Canned water-pack tart cherries have 1,700 ORAC units.
The ORAC (oxygen radical absorption capacity) test accurately quantifies the antioxidant capacities of foods by taking into account the fact that most natural products are a complex mix of phytochemicals of which many are antioxidants. Brunswick Labs is a leader in ORAC testing and has set the standard for the food industry. Nutritionists suggest that people should eat 3,000 to 5,000 ORAC units per day to have an impact on health.
Tart cherries contain super oxide dismutase (SOD)
During the testing of tart cherry products, Brunswick Labs discovered for the first time that tart cherries contain a class of compounds that act like super oxide dismutase (SOD), which is a powerful enzyme and cellular antioxidant. It acts as a super scavenger of superoxide anions by ferreting out and destroying them throughout the body. The human body is often lacking SOD, thus the burden of defense often relies on intake of exogenous dietary antioxidants. Very few natural foods contain SOD.
In addition, tart cherries were found to contain significant levels of antioxidant activities against peroxyl radicals, peroxylnitrite, hydroxyl radicals (known as NORAC and HORAC). Just like the superoxide anions, these human-cell killing species are known to be involved in the pathogenesis of aging and neurodegenerative diseases. Brunswick Labs only recently developed assays to measure NORAC and HORAC. Few food products have been measured for NORAC and HORAC.
Cherries and anthocyanins
Anthocyanins are naturally occurring compounds that impart color in fruit, vegetables and plants. Derived from two Greek words meaning plant and blue, anthocyanins are the pigments that make cherries red and are thought to play a major role in the high antioxidant activity levels observed in tart cherries.
Proanthocyanins and the French Paradox
Proanthocyanins are a group of flavonoids, also called condensed tannins, and are known powerful free radical scavengers and antioxidants. In fact, they are the most powerful chain breaking antioxidants known so far. There is a substantial quantity of proanthocyanins (condensed tannins) in tart cherries. People who follow a Mediterranean style diet, which contains catechins, anthocyanins and proanthocyanins are noted for their general good health and longevity. Their diets and general health are sometimes referred to as the "French Paradox" because they consume large amounts of saturated fats and yet exhibit low rates of heart disease. Researchers are starting to discover the positive relationship between the Mediterranean diet and flavonoids, such as proanthocyanins.
Antioxidant Capacity of Selected Fruits1
ORAC values for the top twelve fruits:
1. Tart cherry juice concentrate 12,800
2. Dried tart cherries 6,800
3. Prunes 5,770
4. Blueberries 2,400
5. Blackberries 2,036
6. Frozen tart cherries 2,033
7. Canned waterpack tart cherries 1,700
8. Strawberries 1,540
9. Raspberries 1,220
10. Plums 949
11. Oranges 750
12. Red Grapes 739
1 Research conducted at Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston and Brunswick Laboratory in Wareham, Massachusetts.
ORAC values for other fruits and vegetables for comparison:
Brussels Sprouts 980
Alfalfa Sprouts 930
Broccoli Florets 890
Red Bell Pepper 710
Sweet, or "Black" cherries 670
Pink Grapefruit 495
Grapes, white 460
Iceberg/Head Lettuce 105
Dried tart cherries mixed with cashews, smoked almonds or honey roasted peanuts make a great snack or appetizer for family or unexpected guests.