An Antioxidant Powerhouse

Tart cherries are packed with powerful antioxidants. In fact, they have among the highest levels of antioxidants of other super foods. 1-4 Tart cherries ranked 14 in the top 50 foods for highest antioxidant content per serving size – surpassing well-known leaders such as red wine, prunes, dark chocolate and orange juice, according to one recent study.5

Understanding ORAC
Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) is a measure of antioxidant strength. ORAC measures how many oxygen radicals a specific food can absorb and deactivate. The more oxygen radicals a food can absorb, the higher its ORAC score.

Antioxidant Capacity of Tart Cherries 3 ORAC Chart Tart cherries have as much, if not more, antioxidants than many other fruits. 3,6

Even more important than antioxidant levels alone, the natural compounds in tart cherries may work synergistically to deliver powerful health benefits, according to research from the University of Michigan. 7,8 The researchers isolated individual cherry phytonutrients and tested the antioxidant power alone, or paired together. They found that the “whole” was greater than the sum of its parts – specific compounds worked together to boost antioxidant power more than would be expected for any compound on its own.

Anthocyanins are the key antioxidant compounds in cherries. Along with providing the bright red pigment to tart cherries, these phytonutrients have been specifically linked to high antioxidant capacity and reduced inflammation, at levels comparable to some well-known pain medications. 9,10

Tart cherries are also sources of other phenolic compounds, such as gallic acid, p-coumaric acid, kaempferol, and quercetin, all of which are potent antioxidants. 3,11

To see how other fruits match up to cherries’ powerful phytonutrient profile, click here to view the Phytonutrient Match Up

Page References:

  1. Wu X, Beecher GR, Holden JM, Haytowitz DB, Gebhardt SE, Prior RL. Lipophilic and hydrophilic antioxidant capacities of common foods in the United States. J Agric Food Chem 2004;52:4026-4037.
  2. Kirakosyan A, Seymour EM, Llanes DEU, Kaufman PB, Bolling SF. Chemical profile and antioxidant capacities of tart cherry products. Food Chem 2009;115:20-25.
  3. Seymour EM, Ou B. Phytochemical and diverse antioxidant profile of whole tart cherries (Prunus cerasus). FASEB J 2011;25:773.14.
  4. Wang H, Nair MG, Strasburg GM, Booren AM, Gray JI. Antioxidant polyphenols from tart cherries (Prunus cerasus). J Agric Food Chem 1999;47:840-844.
  5. Halvorsen BL, Carlsen MH, Phillips KM, Bohn SK, Holte K, Jacobs DR, Blomhoff R. Content of redox-active compounds (i.e., antioxidants) in foods consumed in the United States. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;84:95-135.
  6. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Research Service. 2010 Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of Selected Foods, Release 2. Nutrient Data Laboratory Home Page:
  7. Kirakosyan A, Seymour EM, Noon KR, Urcuyo-Llanes DE, Kaufman PB, Warber SF, Bolling SF. Interactions of antioxidants isolated from tart cherry (Prunus cerasus) fruits. Food Chem 2011;122:78-83.
  8. Kirakosyan A, Seymour EM, Kaufman PB, Bolling SF. The nature of the synergistic actions between medicinally active constituents in sour cherry (Prunus cerasus L). Planta Med 2008;74:SL89.
  9. Seeram NP, Momin RA, Nair MG, Bourquin LD. Cyclooxygenase inhibitory and antioxidant cyanidin glycosides in cherries and berries. Phytomedicine 2001;8:362-369.
  10. Tall JM, Seeram NP, Zhao C, Nair MG, Meyer RA, Raja SN. Tart cherry anthocyanins suppress inflammation-induced pain behavior in rat. Behav Brain Res 2004;153:181-188.
  11. Kim DO, Heo HJ, Kim YJ, Yang HS, Lee CY. Sweet and sour cherry phenolics and their protective effects on neuronal cells. J Agric Food Chem 2005;53:9921-9927.
  12. Mintel. Functional Foods – US. August, 2009.
  13. Multi-Sponsor Surveys, 2010. The 2010 Gallup Study of Nutrient Knowledge & Composition. Multi-Sponsor Surveys, Princeton, N.J.
  14. Mintel. Functional Beverages – US. May, 2010.