The next time you’re looking for a healthy and delicious beverage, reach for cherry juice.
Like all types of fruit, cherries are low in calories and contain a variety of important nutrients including fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Cherries are good sources of the amino acids tryptophan, serotonin, and melatonin, and they also contain anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant that can the reduce cell damage caused by free radicals.
There are several different varieties of cherries, with Bing the most common type of sweet cherries grown in the United States and Montmorency the most commonly grown tart cherries. The majority of sweet cherries are enjoyed fresh, with 20-25% canned, frozen, dried, or made into juice. 97% of tart cherries are used primarily in cooking and baking, and, more recently, in tart cherry juice.
Research into the specific health benefits of cherries and cherry juice shows that they help promote health by reducing or preventing oxidative stress and inflammation.
The first study looking at potential health benefits of cherries was conducted in 1950 with 12 people with gout. The researchers discovered that eating fresh cherries every day led to reduced swelling and increased range of motion in fingers and toes. In a 2012 study with 633 gout patients, consuming up to 3 servings of fresh cherries or cherry extract over a 2-day period was associated with a 35% lower risk of gout attacks compared with no intake of cherries.
Several studies have shown that drinking 10-12 ounces of tart cherry juice twice each day helps reduce muscle soreness and pain associated with exercise. The anthocyanins in cherries are believed to be primarily responsible for decreasing inflammation and pain.
Human, animal and cell culture studies suggest that the anthocyanins in cherries help manage blood sugar levels. One small study with 19 women with diabetes who drank 1.5 ounces of tart cherry juice concentrate every day for 6 weeks showed a reduction in HgbA1c and fasting blood sugar levels.
A small study with 10 overweight or obese participants showed a decrease in triglycerides, VLDL, and the triglyceride/HDL risk ratio by drinking 8 ounces of tart cherry juice each day. However, there was no benefit to healthy, normal weight people.
Several research studies have shown that drinking tart cherry juice lowers both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in people with high blood pressure.
One study looked at 15 participants over age 65 with a history of insomnia related to the inability to stay asleep through the night. Participants consumed two 8-ounce servings of a proprietary juice blended from whole Montmorency tart cherries and apple juice processed to shelf stable conditions and provided by the manufacturer CherryPharm Inc. with one serving in the morning between 8 and 10 a.m. and one serving in the evening 1–2 hours before bedtime to avoid excess fluid intake immediately before bed. Within three days the participants reported improved sleep, most likely due to the anthocyanins and melatonin present in cherries.
Adding Cherries to Your Eating Pattern: Tips and Tricks
- Look for unsweetened cherry juice with no added sugars or additives.
- Cherry juice from concentrate with no added sugar is just as healthy as fresh cherry juice.
- Enjoy fresh cherries when they are in season as a snack or tossed into fruit or vegetable salads.
- It’s easy to make your own cherry juice at home:
- Wash and stem fresh cherries.
- Combine 1 cup of cherries with one-quarter cup of water. Blend in a food processor until cherries just start to come loose from the pits.
- Pour the juice through a sieve into a bottle or jar.
- Store in the refrigerator and drink within 5 days.
By Lynn Grieger, RDN, CDE, CPT, CHWC
- Kelley DS, Adkins Y, Laugero KD. A Review of the Health Benefits of Cherries. Nutrients. 2018;10(3):368. Published 2018 Mar 17. doi:10.3390/nu10030368
- Medical News Today. What are the benefits of tart cherry juice? Claire Sissons. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323752.php last reviewed 11-10-18, accessed 4-20-19.
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.