The Health Benefits of Tart Cherries

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Cherries

I know you’re asking: How is March tart cherry month? Tart cherries are different from the sweet cherries that are in season during the warm summer months.

These sweet-sour cherries aren’t eaten fresh; rather they are enjoyed year-round dried, frozen, canned and as concentrated juice. Research has also shown that these delicious cherries contain numerous health benefits.

About Tart Cherries

Last summer, I was lucky enough to travel to Traverse City, Mich., (the cherry capital of the world!) thanks to the Cherry Marketing Institute. I was able to experience the Montmorency tart cherry harvest from farm-to-table. Montmorency is the variety of tart cherry that is most commonly grown in the United States and Canada.

Amazingly, tart cherries aren’t eaten in their fresh state. They are harvested by a machine that basically shakes the cherries off small bushes or trees. Then the cherries are collected, washed and checked for quality. After, they are distributed and processed into many delicious forms.

You can check out the hundreds of ways tart cherries are packaged at Cherry Republic. The Michigan-based store, which also sells goods online, has the most-fabulous tart cherry products, including Cherryaki Sauce, Cherry Summer Sausage, Sweet Cherry Balsamic Vinegar and Cherry Horseradish Sauce.

Nutrition Low-Down

One cup of frozen tart cherries contains 60 calories, 0.5 grams of fat, 15 grams of carbohydrates and 2 grams of fiber. Tart cherries also contain nine times more vitamin A than blueberries, with one serving of tart cherries providing 25 percent of the recommended daily value. These babies also contain a boatload of phytonutrients, including anthocyanins.

Research suggests that the powerful antioxidants found in tart cherries are linked to a variety of health benefits, including anti-inflammation, heart health, pain relief and muscle recovery. Several studies have linked the consumption of tart cherries and cherry anthocyanins to decreased inflammation and inflammatory-related conditions like arthritis.

Furthermore, eating tart cherries has been linked to heart-health benefits, including decreased cholesterol and decreased risk for hardened arteries (called atherosclerosis), which are risk factors for heart disease.

Muscle recovery and tart cherry juice has received much attention. Studies have linked consumption of tart cherry juice to helping muscle recovery post-exercise, decreasing muscle damage and strength loss, and reducing inflammation and oxidative stress.

It’s recommended that if you choose to pair tart cherry juice with your workouts, you consume 10 fluid ounces preworkout and an additional 10 fluid ounces, or munch on dried tart cherries, within 30 minutes after exercise.

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Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

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