Tart Cherry Reduces Pain, Helps Sleep, and Stops Us Getting Fat.

My new favorite drink is Tart Cherry juice, also called Sour Cherry. It’s tangy, slightly sour -oh so delicious, it quenches thirst immediately – and on these horrible humid days that’s exactly what I need.  I don’t buy the pre mixed kind – its way to expensive that way.  I get it in a concentrate and mix it myself.

Tart Cherry cheaper than soda

It works out to about 55 cents per serve, and that’s if you have it at full strength, which I usually don’t.  That’s a bargain when you consider that 1 quart of concentrate is made from around 25# of tart cherries.   If you do drink it at recommended strength you are getting about ¾ of a pound of tart cherries per serve.  I easily manage that since I have 2 or 3 glasses per day – watered down.  At 80 calories per serve, that’s 2 glasses for my 80 calories with plenty of flavour.  At full strength it’s too strong for me anyhow.   For my money that’s good value because if you compare it to soda – it’s cheaper and it actually does you a whole world of good unlike pop.  Even diet soda has been linked to increases in risk of stroke, and don’t even get me started on the health risk of regular sodas!  There is plenty of research to back up claims that high fructose corn syrup (which may soon to be called just plain old ‘corn syrup’ by the way) is a leader in the development of metabolic syndrome and diabetes.   I just don’t think it’s a good addition to a persons diet and unhappily plenty of people drink that stuff regularly. Not to mention that the colouring used in cola flavored drinks have been linked to cancer.

Tart Cherry reduced pain

Tart Cherry is a super food and so is sweet cherry or black cherry.  But tart cherry in particular has anti-inflammatory benefits.  That’s one of the reasons that I drink it (besides it being just so delicious).  Many of us have low-grade inflammation going on – it just takes a diet high in sugar and refined carbs and being over weight and there you go – a recipe for inflammation.  Even fit and healthy people can benefit from tart cherry – just ask the participants of a study conducted last year.  These were a group of long distance runners, male and female and aged between 25 and 45 who took part in a study.  They either drank tart cherry juice of cherry flavoured placebo for 7 days prior to running around 25 or so kilometers (about 15.5 miles).  The reason this study was done is because runners often experience pain with running and take painkillers like aspirin or ibuprofen.  Fine….except long-term ingestion of these kinds of painkillers at high doses can affect the stomach and intestines causing bleeding and ulcers.  Complications can be severe if these develop.  Both groups had pain after the run, but the group who got the cherry juice reported significantly less pain.

The Natural Standards Data Base states that preliminary evidence shows that tart cherry possesses anti-inflammatory compounds which may be 10 times stronger than aspirin – without the side effects. If you have lots of pain and need more than what you want to drink in a day there are plenty of good supplemental forms.  One thing for sure is that it’s a powerful antioxidant, rich in nutrients and all kinds of phytochemicals.  Good enough to help protect neuron cells and stop them degrading.  There are studies to prove it. Tart cherry is something I definitely want to continue taking in as I get older – I need all the brain cells I can get!

There is even a sleep advantage with Tart Cherry.

That’s a bonus – I knew about the anti-inflammatory effects of tart cherry, but it contains melatonin too.  Melatonin is a hormone that helps us sleep, but some foods contain it and Tart Cherry is one of them.  The Natural Standard Data Base states that preliminary evidence shows that it might be useful as a sleep aid, but that there is insufficient evidence at this time.  There was a study done last year that showed some significant but moderate benefits on sleep for Tart Cherry.  It was a placebo controlled study (randomized, double blind, crossover for those who care), and placebo had absolutely no effect what so ever – which is good because it shows the Tart Cherry actually worked.   You need two eight ounces glasses per day.  The conclusion was that it was comparable or better than results for valerian and melatonin products that have been tested. It wasn’t as good as ‘evidence based treatments’ meaning- drugs, and it didn’t stand up as well as cognitive therapy or hypnosis for sleep disorders.  Put it this way – you might not want to rely on it to go to sleep instead of a sleeping pill if your sleep problems are severe but it might make sleep a bit easier if you add it regulary.  If you want to try it for sleep then get the Montmorency type of tart cherry because this has the most melatonin in it – 13ng compared to 2ng in some other types of Tart Cherry.  The Montmorency kind is the type that I get my concentrate in.  And of course, there’s always supplements.  Especially if you are looking for chronic pain relief.

More good news turned up as I looked further into Tart Cherry – there’s indications that it might also be good for weight loss. Again it’s the poor lab rats that provide us with this insight.  When Tart Cherry powder was mixed into high fat food at the rate of 1% – compared to a high fat food with out Tart Cherry – the rats that got the cherry powder had less total fat, abdominal fat, decreased lipids and less inflammatory markers than the rats without cherry powder.   This has implications for reducing metabolic syndrome and therefore diabetes and heart disease.  And I’m definitely keeping it in my diet.

I just love the flavour and if you don’t like sour, then give the black cherry a try. You can mix it with carbonated water for the sparkling effect.

Time for me to retire for the night – I had a long day at work today and I think a glass of tart cherry juice is just what I need!

Resources:
Efficacy of tart cherry juice in reducing muscle pain during running: a randomized controlled trial. Kuehl etal J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010 May 7;7:17.

Sweet and sour cherry phenolics and their protective effects on neuronal cells.
Kim DO etal J Agric Food Chem. 2005 Dec 28;53(26):9921-7.

Effects of a tart cherry juice beverage on the sleep of older adults with insomnia: a pilot study. J Med Food. 2010 Jun;13(3):579-83.

Regular tart cherry intake alters abdominal adiposity, adipose gene transcription, and inflammation in obesity-prone rats fed a high fat diet.
Seymour EM,etal J Med Food. 2009 Oct;12(5):935-42.

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