So what are Tart Cherries?
Tart Cherries (Montmorency cherries), otherwise known as sour cherries are a deep red stone fruit. The majority of all Montmorency cherries are harvested in the United States and unless you live in one of the growing regions they are extremely hard to find in their natural form. Tart cherries are often enjoyed as dried fruits or Juice however in Australia it can be difficult to source either of these.
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This deliciously rare fruit has emerged onto the health & wellness scene for two main reasons which are the natural anthocyanins and levels of natural melatonin that they contain.1 The anthocyanins in tart cherries provide the rich, deep colour and deliver substantial antioxidant2 and anti-inflammatory activity. 3
In fact, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that Tart Cherries are ranked 14th among the top 50 foods for highest antioxidant content per serving, surpassing well known antioxidant sources like red wine and dark chocolate!4
Recent research and studies suggest that tart cherries provide an array of unique health benefits such as improved sleep quality,1,5 sports performance and muscle recovery.3,6
Tart Cherries are also a natural source of plant melatonin.1 Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally by the body which helps to regulate the body’s circadian rhythms and natural sleep patterns.7 A preliminary study found that consuming a daily serve sour cherry juice may help increase melatonin levels in the bloodstream enough to possibly improve the body’s natural sleep patterns.1,5 Researchers also noted that melatonin works most efficiently when consumed one hour prior to sleep time.5 However, more in-depth research is needed to determine and confirm the role for cherries and sleep as the evidence is preliminary.
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- Howatson, G et al. Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality. Eur J Nutr Oct 2011.
- Traustadottir, T et al. Tart Cherry Juice Decreases Oxidative Stress in Healthy Older Men and Women. The Journal of Nutrition and Disease. July 2009.
- Kuehl KS, Perrier ET, Elliot DL, Chesnutt JC. Efficacy of tart cherry juice in reducing muscle pain during running: a randomized controlled trial. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010 May 7;7:17.
- Halvorsen BL, Carlsen MH, Phillips KM, et al. Content of redox-active compounds (i.e., antioxidants) in foods consumed in the United States. Am J Clin Nutr 2006; 84:95-135.
- Pigeon, W et al. Effects of a Tart Cherry Juice Beverage on the Sleep of Older Adults with Insomnia: A Pilot Study. J Med Food 13 (3) 2010, 579–583
- Howatson, G et al. Influence of tart cherry juice on indices of recovery following marathon running. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2009 Oct 21.
- Hughes RJ, Sack RL, Lewy AJ (1998) The role of melatonin and circadian phase in age-related sleep-maintenance insomnia: assessment in a clinical trial of melatonin replacement. Sleep 21(1):52–66.