These luscious red orbs are an enticing blend of tart and sweet and a perfect ingredient for cherry pie and jam. But tart cherries aren’t just for dessert. Research shows they have surprising health benefits, some of which you may not be aware of. First, let’s look at the health benefits these vibrant red orbs offer and then some ways to enjoy them.
Nutritional Benefits of Tart Cherries
Are tart cherries nutrient packed? You bet they are! Tart cherries are a powerhouse source of vitamin C, an antioxidant vitamin essential for immune health and healthy collagen production. Collagen helps keep your skin firm and wrinkle-free and joints healthy. But tart cherries also contain other antioxidants. They’re rich in anthocyanins, antioxidants that may improve cardiovascular health and reduce inflammation. They contain more anthocyanins than almost any other food.
But there’s more. According to Food Network, tart cherries have nine times the vitamin A of blueberries. They’re a potassium powerhouse too. Potassium is an essential mineral that helps regulate blood pressure levels and support normal muscle function. Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of potassium.
And then there’s the fiber. One cup of fresh tart cherries (about 30 cherries) contains 3 grams of fiber. Fiber, which is found in plant foods like fruits and vegetables and helps you feel full and satisfied after eating. It also helps lower cholesterol levels, prevent constipation, and lower the blood sugar response to a meal.
Health Benefits of Tart Cherries
Can tart cherries help you get a better night’s sleep? One study found that people who drank tart cherry juice before bed enjoyed an additional 85 minutes of sleep. Although it’s unclear why tart cherry juice helps with sleep, tart cherries boost serotonin and melatonin, a brain chemical and hormone that helps optimize sleep.
As mentioned, tart cherries are rich in antioxidants, which help protect against damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals form in cells when exposed to pollution or cigarette smoke. These molecules damage cells and make them age faster.
Free radicals also contribute to muscle pain caused by strenuous activity, a phenomenon known as delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Some studies show that drinking tart cherry juice reduces DOMS, the stiff and achy muscles you get after a tough workout. One study even found that tart cherry juice reduces the loss of muscle strength after a hard workout and enhances muscle recovery.
The anti-inflammatory properties of tart cherries are intriguing. Research shows they reduce inflammatory markers and could be beneficial for people with joint aches and pain due to arthritis. Plus, studies show tart cherries reduce uric acid and may help ward off one of the most painful conditions related to inflammation, gout.
Enjoying Tart Cherries
Now let’s look at ways to enjoy the health benefits of tart cherries. Tart cherries are delicious, the health benefits are appealing, and they’re easy to add to your diet. If you want to add them to your daily routine but can’t find fresh or frozen tart cherries in your local store, dried or even canned cherries are a substitute. They have similar nutritional benefits to fresh ones.
Create a Delicious tart Cherry Smoothie
One of the easiest ways to enjoy the benefits of tart cherries is to use them as an ingredient in smoothies. Just blend them with yogurt and other fruits. If you like your smoothie, creamy, add bananas for a thicker consistency, or peanut butter for extra protein. Add a bit of Stevia to sweeten things up–and then sip!
Tart Cherries Add Flavor to Salads
Add tart cherries to salads for a sweet, tangy, and antioxidant-rich addition. Top your next salad or bowl of mixed greens with whole cherries too. Chop up whole cherries and sprinkle them over your salad greens before adding dressing or toppings like nuts or cheese crumbles. The cherry flavor will complement the greens and other ingredients in your healthy salad. If you want an even sweeter taste, add dried cherries.
Add Tart Cherries to Savory Dishes for Contrast
Most people use tart cherries in sweet dishes, but they’re also delicious in savory recipes. The tartness of the cherries is a tasty way to add contrast to your dishes. Sprinkle these colorful berries into chicken soup or chili. You can add dried tart cherries to any type of homemade chicken soup or chili recipe for added sweetness and texture. They’re also flavorful when sprinkled into lentil dishes.
Add Tart Cherries to a Bowl of Oatmeal
Oatmeal is a popular breakfast food because it’s easy to make and full of nutrients, including fiber and protein. If you’re looking for a way to jazz up your morning bowl of oatmeal, add tart cherries instead of raisins or other dried fruit. The sweet-tart flavor will add interest to your morning meal without making it too sweet.
Stir Tart Cherries Into Yogurt
Add cherries to plain, nonfat yogurt, or use frozen tart cherries instead of fresh ones. The sweetness of the cherries complements the tartness of the yogurt, making a tasty snack for breakfast or an after-work out snack. Tart cherry enhanced yogurt also makes a quick dessert when you’re on the run and need something healthy that doesn’t take long to prepare.
You don’t have to be a cherry pie baker to enjoy the health benefits of tart cherries. Tart cherries are a delicious way to get the health benefits of cherries, as they’re packed with antioxidants and nutrients that help your body stay healthy. So, get creative, experiment with these recipes, and try something new. The best part? You don’t have to wait until cherry season to enjoy them. You can buy frozen or canned tart cherries year-round at most grocery stores.
- “The Health Benefits of Tart Cherries – Food Network.” foodnetwork.com/healthyeats/healthy-tips/2016/03/the-health-benefits-of-tart-cherries.
- “10 Health Benefits of Tart Cherry Juice.” 10 Jun. 2017, healthline.com/nutrition/10-tart-cherry-juice-benefits.
- Chai SC, Davis K, Zhang Z, Zha L, Kirschner KF. Effects of Tart Cherry Juice on Biomarkers of Inflammation and Oxidative Stress in Older Adults. Nutrients. 2019 Jan 22;11(2):228. doi: 10.3390/nu11020228. PMID: 30678193; PMCID: PMC6413159.
- Alba C MA, Daya M, Franck C. Tart Cherries and health: Current knowledge and need for a better understanding of the fate of phytochemicals in the human gastrointestinal tract. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2019;59(4):626-638. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2017.1384918. Epub 2017 Oct 30. PMID: 28956621.