Some of the nutrition trends over the last year are carrying over to the New Year include consuming a more “natural” diet and finding “natural” solutions to common ailments.

One natural solution for pain will be sure to please cherry lovers. There is considerable evidence showing the benefits of tart cherry juice in combating muscle damage following vigorous exercise in healthy adults.

“Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), if taken for too long or in large amounts, can cause damage to the stomach and kidneys. Finding alternatives for treating pain can be beneficial,” said Lindsey Stevenson, nutrition and health specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

Tart cherry juice was found to be successful in decreasing pain in individuals with knee osteoarthritis. The anthocyanins in cherries are responsible for an increase in total antioxidative capacity to reduce inflammation in the body.

The benefits of consuming tart cherry juice does not stop at decreasing pain. The juice contains serotonin, tryptophan and melatonin, all known to be sleep aids.

“We’ve known for decades that consuming fruits and vegetables is good for the mind and body, but it’s always nice to know exactly how a certain food can keep a body healthy or heal it,” added Stevenson.

For more information on nutrition, contact any of these nutrition specialists in southwest Missouri: Dr. Pam Duitsman in Greene County at (417) 881-8909; Lindsey Gordon Stevenson in Barton County at (417) 682-3579; Stephanie Johnson in Howell County at (417) 256-2391 or Mary Sebade in Dallas County at (417) 345-7551. The regional office of the Family Nutrition Education Program is located in Springfield and can be reached at (417) 886-2059. Nutrition information is available online