By April Graff
Hy-Vee Registered Dietitian
---- — Q: I am in my early 60s and have been suffering from gout flare-ups that make it difficult to walk. I take prescription medication for it, but have heard that cherry juice can help treat gout.
A: Eating tart cherries, drinking juice or taking cherry extract seems to reduce the likelihood of a gout attack by around 35 percent (Arthritis and Rheumatism, December 2012). You may know that staying away from alcoholic beverages and purine-rich foods such as anchovies, sardines, mussels or liver also can help lower your risk of a gout attack (Evidence-Based Medicine online, Feb. 16, 2013).
Cherries have been a popular food for centuries, and now research is demonstrating an amazing array of nutritional benefits derived from a diet that includes tart cherries and cherry juice. Montmorency tart cherry juice is a great source of anthocyanins. These natural pigments are responsible for the red, purple and blue colors of many fruits and vegetables and act as pain relievers that provide similar relief to aspirin. The anthocyanins found in cherries block inflammatory enzymes in the body and may help to reduce pain associated with arthritis, gout and even headaches. Fresh cherries also work to relieve pain. Just 20 cherries have been found to naturally offer as much pain relief as a single aspirin.
Tart cherries have other health benefits, too. Like apples, tart cherry juice is an excellent source of quercetin, a powerful antioxidant which has been linked to reducing the risk of coronary heart disease. Potassium is also abundant in a glass of tart cherry juice helping to maintain healthy blood pressure.
Tart cherries are one of the few food sources of melatonin, an antioxidant produced by the body that helps to regulate natural sleep patterns. This all-natural nightcap may also help travelers ease the symptoms of jet lag.
Tart cherry juice tastes like fresh cherries – there’s no added sugar. Like most 100 percent fruit juice, it’s crisp and refreshing and offers a fresh cherry taste year-round. For a single serving, mix 2 tablespoons (one ounce) of cherry juice concentrate with 6 to 8 ounces of water. One quart of concentrate should last about a month. Keep the juice in the freezer before using it – it will not freeze solid. A carton of tart cherry juice can be stored up to one year in the freezer or as long as 6 months in the refrigerator.