Tart cherries, or sour cherries, more commonly, are the cherries we think of as having a sour, maybe even bitter flavor; they are contrasted with sweet cherries, which are notably less sour. They are prized for their known benefits to health; combine that with the fact that they’re an all-natural supplement, you have one powerful addition to your arsenal.
Tart cherry has taken the wellness world by storm as its beneficial effects on health are becoming better understood. As the fitness world is turning more towards natural, non-pharmaceutical health supplement options, tart cherry has been more studiously analyzed by researchers and coaches. With athletes and the health-conscious among us advocating for more natural, ethically-sourced supplements, tart cherries have become one of our go-to superfruits.
We'll be looking at 4 major concepts surrounding tart cherry benefits, as well as the most common questions you may ask yourself when deciding whether to add this fruit to your routine:
In this article, we'll be going over...
- Scientifically-Tested Benefits of Tart Cherry
- Optimal Dosage
- Tart Cherry + Sleep
- Potential Side Effects
This article will give you comprehensive knowledge about this beneficial little fruit, and how to best incorporate it into your everyday life.
To begin, let’s look at what clinical and nutritional research have to say about tart cherry…
TART CHERRY BENEFITS...
You hear it all the time: eat your fruits and vegetables. It is often repeated in the media and at home that those are the staples of a healthy diet. Whoever gave you that advice was on the right track since studies have shown that consuming fruits and vegetables, mainly those that are high in vitamin-C, reduces your risk for developing coronary heart disease.
Some fruits and vegetables are particularly high in polyphenols (basically molecules packed with antioxidant properties) known as flavonoids, which are demonstrated to have protective effects against cardiovascular-related mortality in the elderly. If we approach tart cherry with the same logic, the benefits are pretty compelling.
Tart cherries are high in fiber, vitamin-C, and have a high amount of antioxidative compounds compared to sweet cherries, but both are highly biologically reactive and readily-absorbed into the body. It’s this reactivity that makes both tart and sweet cherries a good choice for a boost, because they are ready to go when you are.
Tart cherries, in particular, have been shown to help with:
- Reducing free radicals in the body, also known as reducing oxidative stress.
- Inhibiting the enzymes implicated in diabetes, possibly improving glucose regulation.
- Possibly reducing the incidence of arthritis attacks by restoring plasma uric acid to normal levels. Uric acid has been associated with joint pain and gout.
- Possibly a neuroprotective effect against Alzheimer’s disease pathology by way of reducing the plaques that cause it -- this has been demonstrated in aged rats, but the results are promising.
In summary, these clinical research studies have shown promise for the beneficial effects of tart cherry for health.
Studies vary based on whether the investigational product (in this case, tart cherries) were powdered, fresh or canned, but all recommend that tart cherry in any form can still imbue benefits to health regardless.
WHAT IS THE BEST TART CHERRY DOSAGE...
When you look at the studies examining tart cherry, you will often see how they often say their studied effects were produced in a “dose-dependent” manner. In non-science speaking terms, that just means that the strength of change produced by tart cherry varied based on the dose.
When physicians prescribe medications, they often need to take their patient’s weight, height, and medical history into account; the same holds true for tart cherry whether it is juice or powder.
Too much of anything can harm more than help, while too little will do nothing.
More research is needed to understand what the best dosage for tart cherries should be, but the following human studies have shown some hints.
HUMAN STUDIES SUGGEST THE FOLLOWING FOR DOSAGE:
- 1 tablespoon twice daily tart cherry extract for participants managing gout.
- 480mL of tart cherry juice for 12 weeks for older participants controlling blood pressure.
- 480mg per day for male participants engaging in muscle exercise.
All of these studies make the clear point that dosage needs further study, as well as personalization in regard to the patient’s weight and medical history.
I HAVE TROUBLE FALLING ASLEEP, CAN I TAKE TART CHERRY FOR SLEEP?
Tart cherry extracts have been studied for their role in promoting healthy sleep. Sleep is one of the most important factors for cognitive health that we know of, and lack of quality sleep has been associated with memory disorders in later life.
Tart cherries are prized as sleep aids due to the fact that they are a non-drug supplement that is readily bioavailable upon consumption. As we have already mentioned, doses depend on a variety of factors, tart cherries may be a powerful addition to your sleep regimen no matter what form you use
TART CHERRY BENEFITS FOR SLEEP ARE THE RESULT OF...
High melatonin content: tart cherries increased melatonin in human participants; melatonin is one of the key hormones for regulating sleep-wake cycles.
Increased tryptophan availability: cherry juice inhibited enzymes that break down tryptophan, one of the precursors to serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of well-being. Reducing anxiety and negative thoughts may play a role in improving sleep in this way.
Reduced insomnia symptoms; both studies, and many more, have found that participants self-reported sleep quality improved over the course of tart cherry supplementation.
Sleep is extremely important for health and wellness, and avenues for improving sleep deserve more research.
But like all supplements, tart cherry carries its own risks...
WHAT ARE THE SIDE EFFECTS OF TART CHERRY AND HOW DO I REDUCE THEM?
Part of tart cherry’s appeal is the lack of severe side effects at moderate doses. In fact, researchers investigated its usefulness as a sleep aid in older adults due to the fact that traditional hypnotics increased the risk for falls.
Like all substances, though, too much of anything can cause unintended side effects, especially if you have a pre-existing condition.
Tart cherries carry certain side effects, including:
- Digestive problems at high doses: this has been attributed to cherries and their high sorbitol content, which is similar to prunes.
- Inhibiting blood thinner medications: this is due to tart cherries quercetin content, which can interfere with certain medications like blood thinners.
- Unintended weight gain: the USDA found that tart cherry juice contains about 16kcal per 1 fl oz, which can add up if you’re drinking cherry juice by the cup.
Again, while minimal, the side effects of tart cherry should be taken into account before you introduce it to your diet.
Tart cherry can be a great addition to your overall health by improving cardiovascular health, sleep quality, and reducing oxidative stress.
In addition, tart cherry has also been shown to improve muscle recovery, reduce muscle soreness, and improve joint health, making it particularly appealing for athletes. That's why we've added tart cherry extract to our BCAA blend.
Like all great things, take it in moderation, and educate yourself on tart cherry to decide whether or not to add it to your routine.