Health Benefits of Tart Cherry Juice
How I Learned of Tart Cherry Juice's Health Benefits
I recently viewed an episode of Dr. Oz in which he encouraged his viewers to add tart cherry juice to their daily diets. Aside from promoting it as a great antioxidant, he also encouraged its use for combating cases of insomnia. My ears perked up. I have literally struggled with insomnia for years. I quickly Googled for more information, became impressed, and bought myself a bottle of the deep red juice from my local health food store. It wasn’t cheap—$6 for a quart. I gave it a try. Not only was the juice tasty, but also it actually helped me with my insomnia. All I needed was about half of a cup before bed to reap the benefits of a full night’s slumber. I was not only sleeping better; I also began to experience a sense of well being. Of course, that may have been due to the much-needed rest, but it was certainly a perk that I welcomed. I actually felt as if my body clock was adjusting. I was sold on it, and have since promoted it and continued my research. I must say, I have been impressed to find many reasons to continue drinking tart cherry juice, and I believe you will agree.
Tart cherry juice has been known to greatly reduce:
- Metabolic syndrome
- Muscle fatigue
In a pilot study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, scientists from the University of Pennsylvania, University of Rochester, and V.A. Center of Canandaigua tested the effects of tart cherry juice on older adults. Participants reported significant reductions in insomnia severity. Importantly, the study showed the tart cherry juice not only helped those that struggle with falling asleep, but also helped those who struggle with staying asleep. This is the particular type of insomnia I struggle from. I can fall asleep, but staying asleep is the issue.
Researchers noted that the juice’s natural sleep-enhancing benefit is likely the result of a naturally high concentration of melatonin. Melatonin has been shown in previous research to help induce sleepiness at night and wakefulness during the day. Basically, melatonin stabilizes our body clock and sleep patterns. As for me, I’m a believer. This study supported why I felt as if my body clock was adjusting when I began drinking the juice.
I was pleased to learn of this benefit. The University of Michigan research group published findings of metabolic support in tart cherries in the Journal of Medicinal Food. This study suggests tart cherries may help to control weight and to prevent metabolic syndrome. Symptoms of metabolic syndrome include high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which ups the risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Now, before you run off and drink a jug full of tart cherry juice as a weight-loss technique, be forewarned that it is high in sugar. And sugar equals calories, lots of them. Moderation is key.
Muscle Fatigue, Pain, and Inflammation
Post-run Muscle Pain and Inflammation
Oregon Health and Science University, Department of Medicine researchers have reported that drinking tart cherry juice for seven days before and during a strenuous running event minimizes post-run muscle pain and potentially inflammation.
The study below helps support the post-run muscle pain and inflammation study.
A team of researchers discovered that tart cherry juice could improve and minimize exercise-induced muscle damage. It was noted that strength loss and pain were significantly less in the cherry juice trial versus the placebo group. Impressively, participants who drank the cherry juice lost only four percent of muscle strength over four days of exercise, but placebo participants lost 22 percent. This is great news for athletes that challenge their muscles to the fullest extent. Not only is muscle damage decreased, strength is sustained for a longer period. What athlete wouldn’t want that?
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, antioxidant-rich tart cherry juice and tart cherries "lower uric acid and prevent attacks."
Note: This claim was cited in another article I had read, but I have been unable to find the specific amount consumed by the gout patients in this study. I’ll update this section when found. I did find the study, but was unable to access the specific details.
ORAC value is a method of measuring the antioxidant capacity of different foods and supplements. According to the free-radical theory of aging, this will slow the oxidative processes and free radical damage that can contribute to age-related degeneration and disease.
The ORAC values for tart cherries are as follows:
Tart cherry juice concentrate
Dried tart cherries
Frozen tart cherries
Canned water-packed tart cherries
Needless to say, tart cherry juice is rich in various vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Although it does not contain fat or cholesterol, it is high in carbohydrates. Cherry juice contains vitamins A and C and potassium. Studies have shown that consuming foods rich in vitamins A and C improved immune system response, wound healing, and vision in low light conditions. Other studies show consuming foods rich in potassium may help lower blood pressure as well as decrease the risk of kidney stones. However, some diets have restrictions on high potassium, and tart cherry juice has quite a bit of potassium. You and your doctor would know best.
The naturally occurring antioxidant known as anthocyanins is found in many red, purple, and blue-colored fruits and vegetables. Obviously, this is one particular antioxidant found in tart cherry juice. It is important to note that diets rich in antioxidants have been linked with reduced cases of cancer and a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition, tart cherries also contain flavones, which lower blood pressure and improve blood flow and heart and brain health.
Diabetes and Diet Concerns
Tart cherry juice is high in simple carbohydrates (high glycemic/sugar). If you are diabetic or limiting your sugar consumption, read the food label to determine whether this juice is an option. Tart cherry juice is in fact tart, so dilution may be your answer. Perhaps half a serving diluted in water may be a safe option. It will lighten the taste as well as the sugar consumption. Also, some patients are on a low potassium diet due to kidney health or other diagnosis. Tart cherry juice is very high in potassium and may not be for you. Check with your doctor or nutritionist to be sure that tart cherry juice is safe for your particular diet.
So in Answering My Initial Question, Is It a Cure-all?
I'd have to say, I found quite a few facts supporting the benefits of tart cherry juice. It is definitely rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Studies are showing incredible benefits in nutrition, muscle health, and cellular armor against various cardiovascular diseases and cancers. Why not sleep better, feel better, and live better? Pour yourself a glass of tart cherry juice and celebrate a healthier life.
© 2011 Marisa Hammond Olivares