Sweet or tart cherries are a mouth-watering snack or dessert topping. The colorful fruit is low in calories and packs a nutritious punch. Phenolic anti-oxidant compounds give them their rich color, taste, and potency. Some research even shows that cherries rank above blueberries and strawberries when it comes to antioxidant power. Though most people assume fruit has some nutritive value, it might come as a surprise just how many benefits cherries offer.
Exercise Performance and Recovery
The ability of cherries to improve your workout and recovery are two good reasons to add them to your pre- and post-exercise shakes and smoothies. In a double-blind placebo-controlled study, male and female endurance athletes and triathletes ingested capsules with tart cherry powder before and after races. More than 10 percent of those athletes had faster racing times, less muscle soreness, and fewer catabolic markers such as blood urea nitrogen, which are waste products created by protein breakdown.
Gout is a form of arthritis where needle-like uric acid crystals form in the joints, causing acute pain and swelling. One study of 633 individuals with the condition showed that consuming cherries lowered gout attack risk by 35 percent. When paired with traditional gout medication, gout attack risk reduction was 75 percent.
One of the signals your body uses to go to sleep is our circadian rhythm. That’s when the pineal gland releases the hormone melatonin, making you feel drowsy. Melatonin is also a powerful antioxidant that treats heartburn and supports eye health. Studies show that Prunus cerasus, tart cherries, have more melatonin than the amount naturally occurring in the blood, which suggests that cherries could improve sleep.
Hypertension is the silent killer that affects one-third of those in the U.S. over the age of 20. Endothelial dysfunction, which negatively affects blood vessel wall flexibility, is a known precursor of the disease. Research on the polyphenolic compounds in Montmorency tart cherries demonstrated lower systolic blood pressure within the first three hours of consumption.
Sour cherry juice contains phytochemicals that act as natural MAO and tyrosinase inhibitors. MAO, monoamine oxidase, is an enzyme that accelerates oxidation in the brain, breaking down certain neurotransmitters related to mood, such as serotonin. Tyrosinase is a copper-containing enzyme that does the same thing with melanin, which plays a role in cognition. Sour cherry juice inhibited the breakdown of the essential compounds, resulting in antidepressant, anti-anxiety effects.
Some cognitive decline may occur as you get older, but cognitive disorders, such as dementia or cerebrovascular disease, can increase risk and the speed of progression. In a 12-week study of older adults with mild to moderate dementia, after daily consumption of about seven ounces of cherry juice, subjects had notable improvements in verbal fluency and short- and long-term memory.
Protects Against AGEs
When sugars bond with lipids, they form advanced glycation end products or AGEs. These byproducts trap LDL particles and promote their oxidation, leading to atherosclerosis and other degenerative diseases. Oxidation ages the body inside and out, making it more vulnerable to other complications. Research into the consumption of dried and fresh Italian sour cherries showed that when fully ripened, the fruit’s higher phytochemical levels exhibited both antioxidant and anti-glycation effects.
Lower Blood Sugar
Without treatment and maintenance, diabetes can damage major organs over time. Doctors tested how a special red sour cherry extract containing pulp and seeds affected diabetic mice. They found that no matter the concentration, P.cerasus not only lowered blood sugar but also helped with pancreatic cell regeneration and reduced oxidative stress.
Nondiabetic Peripheral Neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy occurs when there is damage to the messages that pass between the brain, spinal cord, and the rest of the body. Disease, nutrition deficiencies, toxins, and medications can all cause this symptom, most often in people 50 years or older. In a study of nondiabetic peripheral neuropathy, individuals with severe pain drank four ounces of cherry juice twice a day for 14 days. Over half of the subjects experienced a 50 percent reduction in pain, suggesting the fruit offers analgesic properties.
Breast cancer is responsible for nearly a quarter of all female cancer cases. The MCF-7 breast cell line is important for researching and understanding the behavior of estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancers, which are the most common types. One study showed that extracts of sweet cherry had a more than 92 percent MCF-7 growth inhibition rate, which was far higher than that of the standard drugs commonly used.