Tart cherries have been studied for their effects on improved recovery whilst lowering inflammation, along with increased levels of deep sleep and well-being. This is thanks to the high levels of antioxidants and melatonin found in tart cherries.
It’s the bioactive compounds such as anthocyanins inside tart cherries that promote enhanced healing throughout your body.
If these ‘anthocyanins’ sounds alien to you, then you may be more familiar with the term flavonoids.
Anthocyanins derive from a parent class of molecules – flavenoids, which are responsible for their ‘enhancement in human performance’. These being, sports performance and recovery, to reduced muscle scarring – all of which I’ll discuss in this article:
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How do Montmorency Tart Cherries work?
The abundant antioxidants inside tart cherries, such as; polyphenols, melatonin, vitamins E/C and carotenoids all contribute to the anti-inflammatory and healing properties of tart cherries. (IV, V, VI)
- Polyphenols are micronutrients that are found in plant sources. They are associated with the red pigments found in fruits and vegetables. Polyphenols have been used to treat fat loss, diabetes, neurodegenerative disease, and even cardiovascular diseases.
- Melatonin helps to regulate a natural circadian sleeping pattern. It’s a hormone that can be easily disrupted with stress and the overconsumption of stimulants, making supplementation a popular option in some cases.
Vitamins C and E
- These vitamins are both antioxidants which help to reduce inflammation whilst protecting cells throughout your body from oxidative damage.
- Carotenoids are often the source of popular vitamins such as vitamin A. Vitamin A, for example originates from Provitamin A which you’ll find in carrots, butternut squash and tomatoes.
Benefits of Montmorency Tart Cherry
These phytonutrients heal, restore, and improve the way your body functions both during and after exercise. You can find high amounts in Montmorency tart cherries, beetroot, blueberries, red cabbage and tomatoes, to name a few.
Muscle recovery and improved performance
When you exercise, your inflammation, oxidative stress (OS) and muscle damage will increase. This is a ‘no-brainer’.
This is because it signals for the release of white blood cells which increase inflammation where it protects your muscles and cells. However, if muscle soreness if prolonged, then muscle scarring and illnesses could arise from chronic inflammation or OS if left unattended.
Ten studies monitored oxidative stress, muscle soreness post-exercise, muscle pain, and even muscle endurance where tart cherry consumption is concerned.
Out of the 10 studies, 8 of those proved that oxidative stress decreased, along with improved endurance with lowered inflammation – all because of the high levels of antioxidants found in tart cherries. (VII)
Protects against free radicals
Antioxidants are crucial if you’re trying to protect yourself from cell damage. It’s the type of antioxidants found inside cherries that hold the ability to heal your body on a cellular level, lowering the increase of free radicals.
Free radicals attack your body’s immune system, opening you up to the common cold, or even more serious illnesses if left unattended for long periods of time, where it becomes chronic.
More seriously, free radicals can damage your cell membranes, altering the very thing that makes you, you – such as your DNA. And if that wasn’t enough, even your mitochondria can be harmed if free radicals get their own way.
Studies indicate that eating tart cherries can increase the removal of toxins that build up post-exercise that might otherwise cause these illnesses and attacks on your immune system to occur.
Those that used tart cherries, either in whole food or supplement for, found that they did improve their quality of sleep.
This is due to the way tart cherries increase levels of melatonin. It’s melatonin that can regulate our sleep-wake cycle.
Therefore, if you’re downing coffee, spending long hours on screens, or your stress levels are through the roof, then your melatonin won’t stand a chance against your ‘out-of-sync’ stress hormones.
In the words of one paper; “Melatonin is another antioxidant which is linked to sleep regulation, and is found in both sweet and tart cherries”. (VIII)
Therefore, if you’re looking for deeper levels of sleep with enhanced recovery, tart cherries are certainly worth a try!
Not to mention the added extras you’ll receive from the high amount of antioxidants to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress – which would otherwise disrupt your natural circadian sleep patterns.
Sport Nutrition Expert Recommendation?
Whether you choose to eat Montmorency tart cherries, blueberries, beetroot or any other type of fruit and vegetables for that matter, you’ll be sure to notice a difference in the way you recover after exercise and feel day-to-day all thanks to their high polyphenol content.
So, how much do you need to eat to get all of these benefits? According to one study, consuming 100 grams of tart cherries will give you anywhere between 300 to 550 mg of polyphenols, and with it, their associated benefits. (IX)
Personally, I like to eat polyphenol-rich fruits like tart cherries at breakfast, around training, and even at night with yoghurt. By doing this I feel an immediate benefit. The next day I feel refreshed, with reduced swelling and loess muscle soreness.
(I) McCune, Letitia M, et al. “Cherries and Health: a Review.” Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jan. 2011. [source]
(II) Bell, P G, et al. “The Role of Cherries in Exercise and Health.” Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2014. [source]
(III) Coelho Rabello Lima, Leonardo, et al. “consumption of cherries as a strategy to attenuate exercise-induced muscle damage and inflammation in humans.” Nutricion Hospitalaria, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Nov. 2015. [source]
(IV) Ferretti, Gianna, et al. “Cherry Antioxidants: from Farm to Table.” Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), MDPI, 12 Oct. 2010. [source]
(V) Commisso, Mauro, et al. “Multi-Approach Metabolomics Analysis and Artificial Simplified Phytocomplexes Reveal Cultivar-Dependent Synergy between Polyphenols and Ascorbic Acid in Fruits of the Sweet Cherry (Prunus Avium L.).” PloS One, Public Library of Science, 21 July 2017. [source]
(VI) Scalbert, Augustin, et al. “Dietary Polyphenols and the Prevention of Diseases.” Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2005. [source]
(VII, VIII, IX) Kelley, Darshan S, et al. “A Review of the Health Benefits of Cherries.” Nutrients, MDPI, 17 Mar. 2018. [source]