Differences Between Tart Cherry and Black Cherry Juice

Cold cherry summer drink in glasses
Tart and black cherry juices both contain antioxidant compounds that aid the immune system. (Image: a_namenko/iStock/GettyImages)

It's easy to tell the difference between tart cherry juice and the sweeter black cherry juice. Each comes from a different species of plants. In the United States, the most commonly grown variety of sweet cherries is the dark-colored Bing cherry. For tart cherries, it's the Montmorency, which retains its bright-red color after being harvested. The two types of juice are nutritionally different in some ways, but both offer health benefits from antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Calories, Carbs and Protein Content

Black cherry juice is higher in calories than tart cherry juice. Using the nutritional information from R.W. Knudsen brand organic juice from pressed whole cherries, black cherry juice has 190 calories per cup; tart cherry juice has 140.

Black cherry juice has 45 grams of carbohydrates — or 16 percent of your recommended daily value (DV) — and 33 grams of natural sugar per cup. Tart cherry juice has 34 grams of carbs, or 11 percent DV. The tart taste of the Montmorency is due to its lower sugar content of 25 grams per cup.

The protein content of black cherry juice versus tart cherry juice is 2 grams and 1 gram per cup, respectively. Both varieties of juice are fat free with no cholesterol or dietary fiber and aren't significant sources of vitamin D.

Vitamin and Mineral Comparison

Cherry juice is a good source of potassium, with 1 cup of black cherry juice offering 570 milligrams and tart cherry containing 370 milligrams toward the recommended daily intake of 4,700 milligrams, according to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Potassium in your diet is important to help lower your blood pressure, reduce your risk of kidney stones and promote bone health.

Both types of cherry juice contain a small amount of calcium. Black cherry juice contains twice as much sodium as tart cherry juice with 40 milligrams and 20 milligrams, respectively. Tart cherry juice is a better source of iron, meeting 8 percent DV versus 6 percent for black cherry. Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin and necessary for transporting oxygen to tissues in your body.

Polyphenols for Your Heart

Both juices are rich in antioxidants, but tart cherry juice is a better source. The antioxidant content in either type of juice is similar to that in fresh cherries, according to the American Institute of Cancer Research. Antioxidants may help prevent or delay the onset of illnesses by protecting your cells from damage by free radicals. According to a 2013 article in Molecules, foods rich in polyphenols may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The antioxidant and antihypertensive effects of cherries on the heart was demonstrated in a 2013 study published in Molecules. Researchers examined the polyphenol profile of black cherries to determine their antioxidant capacity and the effects the phenolic compounds had on the cardiovascular system. When evaluating polyphenol capacity, the study found black cherries higher in antioxidants than other fruits like plums and grapes. The results of the study concluded that black cherry may potentially be useful in preventing and treating hypertension.

Anti-Inflammatory Content

Another benefit of cherry juice is its anti-inflammatory content. Cherries, especially ripe tart cherries, contain a high level of anthocyanins, which is the plant pigment that gives cherries their red color and anti-inflammatory properties. Anthocyanins work by blocking enzymes that produce inflammatory compounds known as prostaglandins. The anthocyanins in tart cherries have been used to research their effect on pain relief, with emphasis on gout, arthritis joint pain and exercise-related muscle pain.

A 2016 review of studies from Eastern Michigan University examined the effects that Montmorency tart cherries have on health. It concluded that tart cherries may have a positive effect on decreasing pain caused by inflammation. They may also reduce the incidence of gout by lowering uric acid levels, minimizing muscle damage from oxidative stress and promoting sleep through tryptophan content.

Another study in 2014, published in the Journal of Functional Foods, measured levels of inflammation and uric acid in subjects before and following the ingestion of Montmorency tart cherry juice concentrate. Findings suggest that cherry juice reduced blood levels of gout-causing uric acid and increased anthocyanin compounds in the bloodstream.

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