Research suggests that tart cherry juice packs a ton of benefits that can not only boost our overall health but our sleep and sports performance and recovery, too.
Tart cherries are one of the few known food sources of melatonin (a molecule which regulates the sleep-wake cycle in humans). A number of research studies suggest that drinking tart cherry juice before bed can help us to sleep better and longer (6). A few studies even suggest that it may also be particularly beneficial for helping insomniacs to improve their sleep time (5,8)
Improved Sports Performance, Recovery and Immunity.
Tart cherries have been found to contain a number of particular antioxidant compounds which have anti-inflammatory properties; with the ability to neutralise increased amounts of potentially harmful molecules created during strenuous exercise. This process has the potential to help athletes experience less pain after training and recover more quickly, in preparation for their next session or sports event.
Studies from a wide variety of exercise types suggest that tart cherry juice consumption may help reduce muscle soreness after high intensity power workouts (1-2) (i.e. weight-lifting and HIIT) and reduce muscle damage and inflammation in endurance athletes (i.e. long distance cyclists or runners) (3-4).
Tart cherry juice is rich in many vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant chemicals proven to boost immunity and help prevent infections. One study suggests that drinking tart cherry juice in the days leading up to a race or event may help to reduce the incidence of respiratory tract infections (7). which are commonly experienced by marathon runners after a race.
Other Potential Health Benefits
And the number of possible benefits doesn't end there. Research has also linked Sour Cherry Juice consumption with a number of other health benefits including
Blood Pressure - regular sour cherry juice consumption may helpito lower blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels (9)
Improved brain function - the antioxidants in tart cherries may help to protect brain cells and improve our attention, memory and ability to learn new tasks (10-11).
Reduce symptoms of Osteoarthritis and Gout – the antioxidant properties of tart cherry juice may help to reduce arthritic inflammation (12) and lower the levels of uric acid in the blood – a chemical which in high concentrations can trigger gout (13).
How much do I need to take?
It is important to note all cherries are the same. Tart cherries (also called Montmorency cherries) have significantly more beneficial compounds than standard sweet cherries.
The dosages looked at in the research studies range between about 400ml-800ml tart cherry juice per day typically.
Choose an unsweetened version if possible or to make your own, you can blend a few handfuls of tart cherries with some water.
Alternatively, you can use tart cherry concentrate. 30ml of tart cherry concentrate (equivalent to approx. 90-100 tart cherries) is the recommended dose mixed with 100-200ml water.
(1) McCormick, R., Peeling, P., Binnie, M., Dawson, B., & Sim, M. (2016). Effect of tart cherry juice on recovery and next day performance in well-trained Water Polo players. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 13, 41. doi:10.1186/s12970-016-0151-x
(2) Levers, K., Dalton, R., Galvan, E., Goodenough, C., O’Connor, A., Simbo, S., Barringer, N., Mertens-Talcott, S.U., Rasmussen, C., Greenwood, M. and Riechman, S., 2015. Effects of powdered Montmorency tart cherry supplementation on an acute bout of intense lower body strength exercise in resistance trained males. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12(1), p.41.
(3) Howatson, G., McHugh, M.P., Hill, J.A., Brouner, J., Jewell, A.P., Van Someren, K.A., Shave, R.E. and Howatson, S.A., 2010. Influence of tart cherry juice on indices of recovery following marathon running. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports, 20(6), pp.843-852.
(4) Keane, K.M., Bailey, S.J., Vanhatalo, A., Jones, A.M. and Howatson, G., 2018. Effects of montmorency tart cherry (L. Prunus Cerasus) consumption on nitric oxide biomarkers and exercise performance. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports, 28(7), pp.1746-1756.
(5) Liu, A., Tipton, R., Pan, W., Finley, J., Prudente, A., Karki, N., Losso, J. and Greenway, F., 2014. Tart cherry juice increases sleep time in older adults with insomnia (830.9). The FASEB Journal, 28(1_supplement), pp.830-9.
(6) Howatson, G., Bell, P.G., Tallent, J., Middleton, B., McHugh, M.P. and Ellis, J., 2012. Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality. European journal of nutrition, 51(8), pp.909-916.
(7) Dimitriou, L., Hill, J.A., Jehnali, A., Dunbar, J., Brouner, J., McHugh, M.P. and Howatson, G., 2015. Influence of a montmorency cherry juice blend on indices of exercise-induced stress and upper respiratory tract symptoms following marathon running—a pilot investigation. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12(1), p.22.
(8) Pigeon, W.R., Carr, M., Gorman, C. and Perlis, M.L., 2010. Effects of a tart cherry juice beverage on the sleep of older adults with insomnia: a pilot study. Journal of medicinal food, 13(3), pp.579-583.
(9) Te Morenga, L.A., Howatson, A.J., Jones, R.M. and Mann, J., 2014. Dietary sugars and cardiometabolic risk: systematic review and meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials of the effects on blood pressure and lipids. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 100(1), pp.65-79.
(10)Chai, S.C., Jerusik, J., Davis, K., Wright, R.S. and Zhang, Z., 2019. Effect of Montmorency tart cherry juice on cognitive performance in older adults: a randomized controlled trial. Food & function, 10(7), pp.4423-4431.
(11)Kim, D.O., Heo, H.J., Kim, Y.J., Yang, H.S. and Lee, C.Y., 2005. Sweet and sour cherry phenolics and their protective effects on neuronal cells. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 53(26), pp.9921-9927.
(12)Schumacher, H.R., Pullman-Mooar, S., Gupta, S.R., Dinnella, J.E., Kim, R. and McHugh, M.P., 2013. Randomized double-blind crossover study of the efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in treatment of osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee. Osteoarthritis and cartilage, 21(8), pp.1035-1041.
(13)Bell, P.G., Gaze, D.C., Davison, G.W., George, T.W., Scotter, M.J. and Howatson, G., 2014. Montmorency tart cherry (Prunus cerasus L.) concentrate lowers uric acid, independent of plasma cyanidin-3-O-glucosiderutinoside. journal of functional foods, 11, pp.82-90.