“Pucker up” for restful sleep – and other tart cherry juice benefits
If you sometimes struggle to get enough restful sleep at night and find yourself battling crankiness and fatigue the next day, you have plenty of company. According to a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-third of Americans currently get less than the recommended amount of sleep (defined as seven or more hours a night).
Now, a delicious natural intervention - drinking tart cherry juice - is becoming increasingly popular as a technique for promoting a good night’s sleep. Botanically known as Prunus cerasus, tart cherries are also called Montmorency cherries, dwarf cherries, and “sour” cherries. Tart cherries may not have the mellow, candy-like taste of sweet cherries. But, when it comes to promoting refreshing sleep and conferring other health benefits, these (somewhat) sour little fruits are true “sweethearts.” Let’s look at some of the ways in which tart cherry juice can promote health.
Tart cherry juice may help you get your Zsssthe
For a juice with such a tangy, “wide-awake” flavor, tart cherry juice delivers some pretty relaxing effects. Studies have shown that tart cherry juice can improve sleep quality and lengthen sleep time. Experts say this may be due to tart cherries’ high melatonin levels, a natural hormone that helps regulate sleep cycles. Tart cherry juice also contains tryptophan, an amino acid that may help you fall asleep more quickly and sleep more soundly.
The takeaway: tart cherry juice is worth trying to ease occasional insomnia. In fact, many experts, including the health professionals at SleepFoundation.org, recommend drinking tart cherry juice as part of a regular bedtime routine. (Pro tip: For maximum benefit, pair cherry juice with other tryptophan-rich foods, such as turkey.)
“Bounce back” more quickly after workouts with tart cherry juice
Athletes and active people take note: tart cherry juice has been shown in studies to help soothe post-workout soreness, stiffness, and inflammation. In one study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, marathon runners drank 24 ounces of tart cherry juice every day in the week leading up to a race, as well as on race day and 48 hours afterward. The tart cherry group experienced three times less muscle pain and soreness than the control group, along with decreased markers of inflammation.
Another study showed that supplementing with tart cherry juice aided the recovery of muscle function, resulting in smaller reductions in muscle strength after strenuous workouts. And tart cherry supplementation may even reduce muscle damage - or breakdown - following rigorous resistance training. So if you think you might have “gone overboard” during an ambitious exercise session, you could try tart cherry juice to reduce stiffness and aching in overworked muscles. In addition, you might find that it makes a great “post-workout buddy.”
Tart cherry juice may protect memory and cognition
It looks like tart cherry juice - rich in antioxidant compounds such as quercetin and proanthocyanidins - might have the “right stuff” to help protect cognitive function, mental clarity, and memory as people age. Studies have shown that consuming 16 ounces of tart cherry juice a day boosted antioxidant defenses in healthy older adults - meaning that this wholesome juice may help neutralize free radicals that cause oxidative stress. Other studies have suggested that tart cherry juice may improve verbal fluency and short-term and long-term memory. So to preserve and protect healthy cognitive function, it certainly can’t hurt to sip on tart cherry juice!
Opt for the “real deal” -- tart cherry juice with no added sugars
Natural health experts advise drinking two eight-ounce glasses daily of unsweetened, 100-percent pure tart cherry juice. Steer clear of tart cherry “drinks” or “cocktails,” as these beverages may contain a blend of inferior juices.
If tart cherry juice is too sour for your taste, tart cherries are available in powdered form. However, before supplementing with powder or drinking large amounts of tart cherry juice, get the “thumbs-up” from your integrative doctor.
Remember: it can take seven to 10 days before the beneficial effects of tart cherry juice kick in.
By the way, an 8-ounce serving of tart cherry juice contains a reasonable 120 calories, about the same as a large apple. It also delivers a whopping 62 percent of the recommended dietary intake for immune-boosting vitamin A, and 40 percent of the RDI for antioxidant vitamin C. Another “plus” is that potassium in tart cherry juice can promote heart health by regulating blood pressure.
Whether you’re looking to promote sleep, ease muscle pain, protect cognitive function or simply hydrate with a tangy drink, tart cherry juice makes a great addition to your healthy diet.
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