Little red wonders
Small, shiny, tasty – and good for you too, no wonder cherries are a firm favourite for so many.
In fact, cherries are beloved in countries around the world, with National Cherry Day1 in the UK, and whole festivals dedicated to them in the USA. We just can’t seem to get enough of this small red fruit and its firm texture and delicious sweetness or tartness (depending on your preference).
Not only this; cherries have been used medicinally for many years due to the perceived health punch they can provide as they are packed with nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
The Science of Cherries
The deep red pigmented flesh of the fruit contains polyphenolic flavonoid compounds known as anthocyanin glycosides. Anthocyanins are the red, purple or blue pigments that are found in many fruits and vegetables. The anthocyanins are largely concentrated in the skin and are known to provide a number of powerful antioxidant properties.
Some recent studies have looked at this quite closely; researchers focusing on Montmorency cherries have discovered a number of potential benefits associated with tart juice concentrate from this particular type2.
Suggested benefit: exercise recovery
Cyclists who are preparing for a race day may find a new kind of sports drink – tart cherry juice – beneficial to help with their post-exercise recovery. A study found Montmorency cherry juice helped to accelerate recovery, maintain muscle function3 and reduce certain markers of exercise-induced inflammation among a group of cyclists competing in a simulated road race.
16 well-trained male cyclists who were divided into two groups. One group consumed Montmorency tart cherry juice, while the other group were given a placebo drink that contained an equal amount of carbohydrates. Researchers found the cyclists in the Montmorency tart cherry group maintained muscle function and experienced a reduction in certain inflammatory responses, compared to those consuming the placebo drink.
Interestingly, the tart cherry juice also appeared to maintain exercise efficiency, reducing the amount of oxygen muscles needed to do work. The juice group’s maximum oxygen consumption values were lower after 24 hours, compared to the placebo group.
Suggested benefit: improved sleep
Research suggests having a daily ritual of drinking tart cherry juice in the morning and evening may help you to sleep better at night4. Montmorency tart cherries are a natural source of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle.
Researchers found drinking Montmorency tart cherry juice twice a day for two weeks helped to increase sleep duration by nearly 90 minutes among older adults with insomnia.
Those that drank tart cherry juice twice a day were able to sleep in a controlled setting more than an hour longer each night (on average 84 minutes).
The research suggests that cherry concentrate could even be beneficial for those that have difficulty sleeping such as people affected by insomnia, shift work or jet lag.
Suggested benefit: gout relief
Researchers have found5 that after drinking Montmorency cherry juice concentrate, uric acid levels in the bodies of an experimental sample group reduced significantly, in just a few hours. This is of potential interest, as high levels of uric acid can lead to gout. Not particularly glamourous, perhaps, but yet another demonstration of the wide variety of ways in which a simple cherry may help support our bodies’ functions.
Small…but packing a punch
Those are just some of the more recent findings on the potential for this small yet powerful stone fruit. With no sign that their popularity will fade anytime soon, it looks like there’s even more reason to add them to your diet – and perhaps next time you enjoy a sweet dessert with a cherry on top, you needn’t feel quite so guilty…