7 Best Benefits of Tart Cherry

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Eating tart cherries is a great way to add some important phytonutrients to your diet, and to enjoy a sour treat!

What are Tart Cherries?

Tart cherries are a species of cherry in the Prunus genus that has a more acidic taste than traditional sweet cherries. Native to Europe and Asia, this cherry bears the scientific name Prunus cerasus and is most popularly made into a nutrient-dense juice. The tree that these cherries grow on is slightly smaller than a sweet cherry tree, and there are a few different varieties, including Montmorency, balaton, morello, and amarelle. These sour cherries are sometimes dried and used as ingredients in cocktails and liqueurs, as well as in cakes, tarts, pies, and in certain pork dishes.

Some people prefer a tart cherry extract to their sweet cousins because of the impressive antioxidant profile in these fruits, despite the mouth-puckering effect these treats can have.

Tart Cherry Nutrition

When it comes to nutrition, tart cherries are a rich source of vitamin A, C, and dietary fiber, as well as low levels of iron and calcium. 100 grams of these cherries only contains about 50 calories. These cherries have a higher anthocyanin content than almost any other food, as well as high levels of ellagic acid and quercetin, which are two other powerful antioxidants.

A glass of tart cherry juice with a white plate of fresh tart cherries on a wooden table

Tart Cherry Benefits

The most impressive benefits of tart cherries include their ability to do the following:

  • Reduce inflammation
  • Prevent osteoarthritis
  • Lower stress levels
  • Lower risk of cardiovascular diseases
  • Improve brain health
  • Reduce obesity
  • Treat insomnia
  • Improve bone mineral density
  • Anti-cancer

The high levels of anthocyanins can also improve brain health by reducing oxidative stress and plaque deposition, while also preventing certain neurodegenerative diseases. The low-calorie, high-nutrient nature of these cherries make them great for metabolic syndrome, and also for reducing obesity, gout, and muscle pain.

Studies have found that these cherries can lower stress hormone levels, which can ease insomnia symptoms, while also relieving the pain and discomfort of arthritis, gout, and other common inflammatory conditions. Good levels of vitamin C and certain key minerals will also boost the immune system and protect bone mineral density.

Tart Cherry vs Black Cherry

  • Color: Anthocyanins are responsible for giving fruits their color, and when it comes to tart cherries (dark crimson or nearly black) vs. black cherries, the anthocyanin content is far higher in the former.
  • Sugar Levels: Tart cherries also have lower levels of sugar, which can make them better for diabetic patients, but worse when eating them whole, due to the powerful sour flavor.

Sweet vs Sour Cherries

  • Eating: Tart cherries tend to be frozen, dried, or blended in juices, while sweet cherries are often eaten fresh.
  • Color: Tart cherries don’t lose their coloring when they’re stored or frozen, unlike sour cherries.
  • Nutrients: Tart cherries are a better source of nutrients, particularly the anthocyanin content.
  • Benefits: Tart cherries are also better for relieving pain and inflammation when compared to sour cherries.

Side Effects

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, the powerful impact of these cherries may be dangerous, so most experts recommend avoiding consumption. Drinking too much of this calorie-dense juice could also increase weight gain, or lead to gastrointestinal distress.

About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, and publisher who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Urbana (USA). He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and calls the most beautiful places in the world his office. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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