While you might find them for a fleeting few weeks at the farmers market, tart cherries are different from the sweet, juicy gems you pop all summer long. Tart cherries are typically used for pies, dried or pressed into juice. The juice in particular has gotten quite a bit of attention among the health conscious lately, and it turns out there’s a good amount of science to support the trend. Here, a list of the impressive health benefits of tart cherry juice.
Benefits of Tart Cherry Juice
1. Minimizes post-workout muscle soreness
Tart cherries have known anti-inflammatory properties—a feature of the fruit that has caught the attention of athletes and researchers alike. A scientific study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition tested the effects of cherry juice on healthy, long-distance runners, whose sport often results in “acute muscle damage...acute inflammation and decreased force production that can last up to one week post-exercise.” The results of this study suggest that tart cherry juice does indeed show promise as a (decidedly tastier) replacement for the NSAIDs typically relied upon to reduce and prevent exercise-induced muscle pain. Bottom line: If you’re going to be hitting the gym hard anytime soon, tart cherry juice might help you bounce back from your workout a little faster.
2. Improves Sleep
Drinking tart cherry juice on the regular might lead to a sounder night’s sleep—or at least that’s the conclusion of research published in the Journal of American Therapeutics. The study looked at the effects of the beverage on patients suffering from insomnia and poor sleep quality and found that the group treated with tart cherry juice showed improvements in sleep efficiency and overall sleep time. The placebo group, on the other hand, did not. It is not entirely clear why tart cherry juice helps with sleep-related woes, but it most likely has to do with the fact that tart cherries contain a small (but significant) amount of melatonin, the hormone associated with regulating the sleep-wake cycle.
3. Boosts Brain Function
Feeling a little fuzzy these days? Well, if you make tart cherry juice your beverage of choice, the fog might just begin to lift. Tart cherries are rich in anthocyanin, an antioxidant flavonoid that research has shown to have a positive effect on cognitive function. In fact, in a study involving dementia patients, the individuals treated with cherry juice showed significant improvements in verbal fluency and memory, both short and long-term. Plus, scientists believe that the anthocyanins in tart cherry juice might also have a preventative effect when it comes to cognitive decline. In other words, even if you’re sharp as a tack, a glass of the stuff will only do you good.
4. Rich in Nutrients
The research into the medical benefits of tart cherry juice is ongoing, but one fact about this beverage is already well-established—namely that it’s loaded with nutrients your body needs for optimal health. Tart cherry juice is an excellent source of magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, and iron. Perhaps most notably, cherry juice also contains an impressive amount of potassium, a nutrient that plays a large role in regulating blood pressure and reducing the risk of stroke.
5. Boosts the Immune System
Remember how we mentioned the anthocyanins in cherry juice have a positive effect on cognitive processes? (If you don’t, drink some.) Well, anthocyanins boast a bunch of other health benefits, including improved immune function. Research shows that anthocyanins have antimicrobial and antibacterial properties that help the body fight off certain infections—listeria, E.Coli and staph infections, to name a few.
6. Improves Cardiovascular Health
High blood pressure and high LDL cholesterol (you know, the bad kind) are among the factors associated with the development of cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States. The good news is that tart cherry juice contains compounds that reduce oxidative stress and inflammation—two major culprits when it comes to most diseases—and at least one study suggests that drinking it regularly can even lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
7. May Aid Weight Loss
Don’t swap your workout with a glass of juice just yet—more research needs to be done to determine the benefits of tart cherries for weight loss. That said, tart cherry juice does show some promise because of its anti-inflammatory properties (and because obesity and systemic inflammation are closely connected). In fact, one study showed that tart cherry powder reduced abdominal fat by weight and body fat by percent in rodents. The takeaway? As long as you steer clear of the sweetened stuff, cherry juice won’t hurt your waistline—and it might even help you make some progress.
8. Relieves Arthritis-related Pain
It’s no secret that inflammation can truly wreak havoc on the body, and pain is one of the symptoms associated with many inflammatory conditions, both chronic and acute. (Hint: Over-the-counter painkillers work by reducing inflammation.) As such, it should come as no surprise that research points to tart cherry juice—given its aforementioned anti-inflammatory properties—as a potential treatment for pain associated with various types of arthritis.
Where to find tart cherry juice
Cherry juice isn’t hard to find, but you have to be careful about which kind you buy. Steer clear of any cherry juice that has added sugar, as the cons of excess sugar consumption outweigh the benefits of the juice. Your best bet is to head to a health food store and look for unsweetened and additive-free cherry juice made from sour, ruby-red Montmorency cherries. (Note: The cherry variety might not be indicated, but the right kind will say tart on the label.) Alternatively, you can buy tart cherry extract in powder form and mix your own beverage. A word to the wise? It’s pretty strong (and…sour), so you might want to dilute the stuff by at least half with either plain or sparkling water before taking a gulp.