Many people are turning to tart cherry juice for some of their health needs, due to its rich supply of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.
What is Tart Cherry Juice?
Tart cherry juice is derived from tart cherries, a species of cherry scientifically known as Prunus cerasus that is native to certain parts of Asia and Europe, where it has been cultivated for centuries. You may also know this species by other common names, such as sour cherry or dwarf cherry. Unlike common cherries that you can find in most grocery stores, tart cherries are less popular as everyday groceries, due to their high acidity. While this makes them unpopular as a daily fruit snack, these cherries are commonly used in culinary applications, such as soups and meat dishes. Their extract is also a popular element in desserts and candies.
Tart cherry juice is often sold as a concentrate, and is included in various dietary supplements, thanks to its unique antioxidant profile, combined with vitamin E, vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc, quercetin, other phenolic compounds and even certain useful hormones. The antioxidants it is most well known for are anthocyanins, which are anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting in nature. While drinking pure tart cherry juice isn’t the most popular option, since it is so acidic and sour, many people dilute this juice with water and take it on a daily basis for a nutritional boost. There are some potential side effects of drinking this juice, but generally, the benefits outweigh the risks.
Benefits of Tart Cherry Juice
The numerous health benefits of tart cherry juice include stimulating circulation, preventing cancer, aiding sleep, strengthening cognitive function, supporting heart health, speeding the healing process, managing diabetes, eliminating inflammation and improving weight-loss efforts, among others.
Improves Heart Health
One of the most important elements of tart cherry juice is quercetin, which is a powerful antioxidant capable of reducing oxidative stress in many parts of the body, particularly in the cardiovascular system. Research has linked this compound to lower levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, as well as lower blood pressure, all of which reduces strain on the heart and prevents conditions like atherosclerosis, heart attacks and strokes.
In terms of cancer prevention, the anthocyanins found in tart cherry juice are very important, considering they can remain active and present in the blood for up to 12 hours after ingestion. These antioxidants can reduce the impact of free radicals on various organ systems and lower oxidative stress. Free radicals can cause cellular mutation and increase your risk of various cancers, but the anthocyanins in this juice can prevent tumor formation. This is in addition to ellagic acid and limonene, two other cancer-fighting compounds found in this juice.
Numerous studies have linked anthocyanins to increased levels of circulation, which is good news for the cardiovascular system, while also ensuring that various areas of the body receive the oxygen and resources they need. This can also result in an energy boost when you need it most!
Aids Weight Loss
If you are interested in losing weight, one great strategy is to improve your metabolism, which the active ingredients and compounds in tart cherry juice are able to do. By reducing the deposition of abdominal fat, lowering cholesterol, boosting circulation and preventing diabetes, tart cherry juice can significantly lower your risk for metabolic syndrome, which will aid in weight-loss efforts.
Speeds up Healing
With its stimulating, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, this juice is popular for people who wish to speed their recovery from illness or injury. This juice is popular as a post-workout beverage for the same reasons.
Quercetin, the critical antioxidant in this juice, is directly connected to lower incidences of Type 2 diabetes, as it can help to regulate the levels of insulin and glucose in your blood. This is not only important for people at risk of diabetes, but also those trying to manage their blood sugar levels after being diagnosed.
Research has revealed that tart cherry juice can lower oxidative stress that leads to cognitive disorders and neurodegenerative disease, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and dementia. The high levels of quercetin and anthocyanins are responsible for this brain-boosting ability.
One of the chemicals rarely talked about in tart cherry juice is melatonin, which is a critical hormone the body uses to regulate its Circadian rhythms and induce sleep. For people who struggle with insomnia or regularly interrupted sleep, drinking a cup of this juice before bed can quickly ease you into a rejuvenating night’s sleep.
As a general anti-inflammatory beverage, thanks to all of the unique antioxidants and chemicals outlined above, tart cherry juice is able to soothe symptoms of arthritis, gout, headaches and gastrointestinal distress. It can also help detoxify the body and reduce swelling from edema, thanks to the high levels of vitamin A and C found in this juice.
Side Effects of Tart Cherry Juice
Despite the many benefits, some of the potential side effects of tart cherry juice include inflammation of the stomach, weight gain, bleeding issues, and possible complications with pregnancy.
- Weight Gain – Tart cherry juice is high in nutrients, but it is also high in calories, at over 140 calories in a single cup. For people who are trying to lose weight, small amounts of this juice is acceptable, but be sure to include this juice in your daily calorie intake.
- Bleeding – Some of the active ingredients in tart cherry juice, namely quercetin, is able to help thin the blood, which can protect against heart attacks and strokes. However, if you are already taking anti-coagulant medication, this combination can cause bleeding, particularly for people with pre-existing bleeding disorders. Do not drink this juice within a few days of having surgery.
- Gastrointestinal Distress – This sour cherry beverage has a significant amount of sorbitol, which is a sugar alcohol found in certain foods that can have a digestive effect, even acting as a laxative at times. However, in large quantities, and for those who have sensitive stomachs, this compound can cause cramping, bloating, discomfort and diarrhea. Always drink tart cherry juice in moderation.
- Pregnancy – Although eating tart cherries has been deemed acceptable for pregnant and breastfeeding women, the higher concentrations of chemicals in tart cherry juice can potentially be dangerous to the baby, or even stimulate contractions, so it should be avoided.
How Much Tart Cherry Juice to Drink?
To derive the benefits of tart cherry juice, you only need to drink 1 cup of this juice a day, as this can provide plenty of antioxidants that will get to work in your body. However, it is safe to drink more than this, if desired, but moderation is key, given the potential side effects listed above. It is not recommended that you drink more than 4 cups of this powerful juice per day. Before adding a new element to your health regimen, especially one with so many unique chemicals and compounds, speak to your doctor about any of your specific risk factors.