Tart Cherry: Benefits, Uses, and Risks
Who doesn’t love a good superfood? Tart cherries have been growing in popularity, touting a variety of health-boosting benefits for our brains and bodies.
Keep reading to learn more about the benefits, uses, and risks of tart cherries.
What is Tart Cherry?
Also known as sour cherries or Montmorency cherries, tart cherries are a rich source of antioxidants and several other nutrients.
Tart cherries, as their name suggests, are known for their crisp, tart taste and bright red color. Understandably, though, a sour snack isn’t always ideal, so tart cherries tend to be used primarily in juice or extract form.
Sweet cherries, on the other hand, are typically darker in color and sweeter in taste, making them ideal for a quick snack.
While both types of cherries have their share of health benefits, tart cherries and their rich nutrient content have been on the rise in relatively recent years.
Fun fact: the majority of tart cherries, including those used in Hilo products, are produced in Michigan.
5 Tart Cherry Health Benefits
So, we’ve mentioned that tart cherries are rich in nutrients. Which nutrients, you ask? To start out, an 8-ounce serving of tart cherry juice—approximately 100 tart cherries—contains:
- 5 grams of fiber
- 2 grams of protein
- 62% of the vitamin A Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI)
- 40% of the vitamin C RDI
- 7% of the vitamin K RDI
- 14% of the manganese RDI
- 12% of the potassium RDI
- 12% of the copper RDI
As an added perk, that 8-ounce glass only contains 119 calories.
In addition to the above-mentioned nutrients, tart cherries also contain B vitamins, phosphorus, zinc, calcium, iron, magnesium, omega-3s and 6s, and antioxidants—not to mention sleep-boosting tryptophan and melatonin.
With all of these nutrients, tart cherries offer several health benefits including:
1. Enhanced Exercise Recovery and Performance
Tart cherry juice and supplements have become popular among the fitness community, and for good reason. Several studies have shown that tart cherries have a significant effect on exercise recovery, resulting in stronger, less sore muscles after physical activity.
Tart cherries have also been known to improve blood flow and overall athletic performance due to their low glycemic index and anti-inflammatory properties.
2. Better Sleep
Perhaps you’re familiar with the fact that after eating turkey, you tend to get a bit sleepy. This isn’t just a coincidence—it’s because turkey contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid that increases the body’s natural melatonin production.
Similarly, tart cherries contain tryptophan. Not only do they encourage the body’s melatonin production, but they also contain their own share of melatonin, making them a healthy addition to any bedtime routine.
3. Reduced Joint Discomfort
In addition to their plethora of nutrients, tart cherries also contain anthocyanins. These anti-inflammatory compounds can help to reduce pain, stiffness, and overall discomfort associated with joint issues such as arthritis.
4. Improved Cognitive Function
Did you know that some brain disorders, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, may be caused by oxidative stress? With their antioxidant properties, tart cherries may help to protect the brain and improve cognitive function in older adults.
Not only that, but tart cherries may also reduce the body’s stress levels that occur as a result of aging.
5. Stronger Immune System
With all of those rich nutrients, it’s no surprise that tart cherries can give your overall immune system a helpful boost; some studies have even shown that tart cherry juice may defend against some forms of cancer.
Even if the immune boost is an indirect result of better sleep and a more active lifestyle, it certainly is a nice perk!
How to Consume Tart Cherries
Unless you like the sour taste, you’ll likely want to opt for tart cherries in the form of juice or extract capsules as opposed to fresh fruit. Tart cherries can also be dried or frozen, or even baked into pastries.
Tart cherry juice is the most popular option, with a recommended amount of up to 16 ounces per day. To reap the sleep-boosting benefits, try drinking a glass approximately one hour before bed.
You can also find tart cherries in supplement form, either as a powder or capsule. For example, Hilo Sleep Gummiesare infused with tart cherry extract along with melatonin and chamomile to promote restful sleep and recovery.
As with any fruit juice, you may find that some tart cherry juices have high sugar content. For the healthiest option, opt for unsweetened juice in the purest form possible. That said, tart cherries naturally contain high levels of sorbitol, which is a sugar alcohol that can cause digestive issues for some individuals.
Additionally, plant compounds found in tart cherries, such as quercetin, may not interact well with certain medications—blood thinners, for example.
If you’re unsure, it’s always a good idea to consult your doctor before adding any new supplements or ingredients to your diet.