It's easy to add cherries to a fruit salad or pop the pitted fruit into a smoothie, but have you ever explored drinking tart cherry juice? While tart cherries are loaded with important nutrients, you'd have to eat an entire bag to obtain all of the benefits you can get simply from drinking the juice alone.
"The research done on tart cherry juice is pretty exciting," Sarah Pflugradt, RD, says. "Its role in muscle recovery from damaging exercise and as an anti-inflammatory food are two of the greatest benefits for athletes. I love that we can add cherries to the list of anti-inflammatory foods, because inflammation is a huge factor in so many conditions, such as arthritis, diabetes and heart disease. Another major benefit is that tart cherry juice may help improve sleep because both sweet and tart cherries contain melatonin."
Read more: Is It Bad to Eat Fruit Before Bed?
In short, tart cherry juice offers protection against a host of conditions thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. Read on to find out more about the impressive health benefits of tart cherry juice.
Antioxidants in Tart Cherry Juice
Tart cherries, like all red fruits and vegetables, are rich in anthocyanins — a class of antioxidant phytochemicals, or disease-fighting agents found in plant-based foods.
Other fruits and vegetables in this class include raspberries, strawberries, beets, cranberries, apples, red onions, kidney beans and red beans. Phytochemicals are what give bright fruits and vegetables their colorful hues. Anthocyanins, in particular, encourage healthy circulation, ensure proper nerve function and may offer cancer-fighting properties.
Consumption of anthocyanin-packed tart cherry juice provides older adults with greater protection against the development of heart disease, cancer and age-related cognitive decline, according to a study published in October 2009 by the Journal of Nutrition.
Plus, the antioxidants in tart cherry juice may have a positive effect on joint pain caused by inflammatory osteoarthritis. Women with osteoarthritis who consumed two 10.5-ounce bottles of tart cherry juice daily for 21 days had a significant reduction in pain and inflammation, according to a study published in a December 2012 issue of the Journal of Food Studies.
Read more: Top 10 Healthiest Fruits and Vegetables
Tart Cherry Juice May Provide Cancer Protection
Carcinogens are harmful substances in the air, water and foods that may damage the body's cells, triggering changes that could lead to cancer. Tart cherry juice offers anthocyanins and other disease-fighting chemicals that may be beneficial for halting cell transformation that may lead to cancer.
Cherries are a rich source of anthocyanins, which have been shown to reduce cancer cell proliferation and to inhibit tumor formation, according to a December 2004 study in the Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology. What's more, these powerful pigments were found to reduce the proliferation of human colon cancer cells in a May 2003 Cancer Letters study.
Tart Cherry Juice's Heart Health Benefits
Two daily cups of tart cherry juice can significantly reduce systolic blood pressure and harmful low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in older adults, due to its anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties, a January 2019 study published in the journal Nutrients found.
What's more, tart cherry juice contains quercetin, a powerful antioxidant that can significantly decrease blood pressure, according to a July 2013 study published in the International Journal of Preventative Medicine.
Tart Cherry Juice Aids in Sports Recovery
"If you're working out consistently, you might want to consider taking tart cherry juice," says Los Angeles-based nutritionist Kelly Plowe, RD. "Research has shown in both endurance cardio and strength training that tart cherry juice can you recover faster thanks in part to less muscle damage, inflammation and soreness."
In fact, marathon runners who consumed tart cherry juice for a few days prior to a marathon and right before a marathon experienced less muscle damage, soreness, inflammation and protein breakdown than runners who didn't sip, according to a December 2010 study in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports.
Still not convinced to forget the Gatorade and sip on cherry juice before your next run? Runners who consumed 11 to 12 ounces of tart cherry juice twice daily for seven days prior to a long-distance relay and during the race reported significantly less pain following the run than those who consumed a placebo, a 2010 study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found. The researchers conclude that tart cherry juice is an effective remedy for muscle pain that doesn't come coupled with the side effects of NSAIDs.
One small study tested the efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in preventing the symptoms of exercise-induced muscle damage in male college students. After drinking 12 ounces of cherry juice for eight consecutive days, the participants who drank the juice noticed decreased post-workout pain and strength loss, according to an August 2006 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Plus, research shows that the juice may be especially beneficial for athletes who have already peaked in training and are looking to improve recovery and return to working out more quickly, according to a 2017 review in Current Sports Medicine Reports.
What About Tart Cherry Juice For Sleep?
"Forget the glass of warm milk. I'm a huge fan of tart cherry juice as a natural remedy for sleep," says Plowe. "If you're having trouble falling asleep, a glass of tart cherry juice may do the trick. The fruit is a natural source of melatonin and tryptophan."
When compared to a placebo, drinking tart cherry juice was shown to add 84 minutes of sleep a night for eight insomnia sufferers aged over 50, according to a 2018 pilot study published in the American Journal of Therapeutics.
The study notes that since insomnia is common among older people and hypnotics can increase the risk of falls by more than four-fold, tart cherry juice may provide an effective treatment for sleepless nights without the risky side effects.
Tart Cherry Juice May Improve Your Brain Health
Omega-3s shouldn't be the only brain-boosting supplement in your arsenal, according to a July 2019 study in Food & Function. The study found that adults aged 65 to 73 years who drank two cups of cherry juice for 12 weeks improved their memory. The researchers chalk these effects up to the fruit's polyphenols, anthocyanins and melatonin but acknowledge that further research must be conducted to confirm the findings.
- Journal of Nutrition: "Tart Cherry Juice Decreases Oxidative Stress in Healthy Older Men and Women"
- British Journal of Sports Medicine: "Efficacy of a Tart Cherry Juice Blend in Preventing the Symptoms of Muscle Damage"
- Advances in Nutrition: "Therapeutic Potential of Quercetin to Decrease Blood Pressure: Review of Efficacy and Mechanism"
- Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: "Efficacy of Tart Cherry Juice in Reducing Muscle Pain During Running: A Randomized Controlled Trial"
- Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology: "Anthocyanins and Human Health: An In Vitro Investigative Approach"
- Cancer Letters: "Tart Cherry Anthocyanins Inhibit Tumor Development in Apc(Min) Mice and Reduce Proliferation of Human Colon Cancer Cells"
- Journal of Food Studies: "Efficacy of Tart Cherry Juice to Reduce Inflammation Biomarkers among Women with Inflammatory Osteoarthritis (OA)"
- Current Sports Medicine Reports: "Tart Cherry Juice in Athletes: A Literature Review and Commentary"
- American Journal of Therapeutics: "Pilot Study of the Tart Cherry Juice for the Treatment of Insomnia and Investigation of Mechanisms"
- Food & Function: "Effect of Montmorency Tart Cherry Juice on Cognitive Performance in Older Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial"