Tart cherries are enjoying a moment in the media sweet spot, hailed for their health benefits, including their usefulness in curtailing post-workout muscle pain and inflammation. They provide a healthy alternative to over-the-counter pain relief and may work on headaches, too, the Seattle Times observed. U.S. News dubbed the fruit “the newest post-workout superfood.”
“Tart cherries have been shown to reduce inflammation, targeting conditions like osteoarthritis and gout…like Mother Nature’s painkillers!” Taub-Dix (@bonnietaubdix on Instagram) tells Healthy Eats.
While sweet cherries, which contain fiber, vitamin C, carotenoids and antioxidants, also offer benefits, most research underscores the anti-inflammatory qualities of tart cherries, Taub-Dix notes. Not only can they help with post-exercise muscle recovery, tart cherries are also rich in melatonin, which can help improve sleep duration and quality.
When fresh isn’t an option, tart cherries in juice, frozen or supplement form may provide health benefits, but it’s important to check labels to make sure products don’t contain a lot of added sugar, says Taub-Dix.
“At this point natural sugars and added sugars are not distinguished on the Nutrition Facts Panel, but you can check the ingredient list of see what you’re really getting,” she advises. What’s more, she cautions, people who need to be careful with their blood sugar levels, like diabetes, need to pay particular attention to portion sizes as well.
As for that “superfood” label, Taub-Dix contends it is well deserved. (See this related post.)
“I love calling healthy foods ‘superfoods,’” she says. “My list is endless.”
And if you want to know how to eat them, well, how about in a cherry pie?
Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. Her work has appeared in publications including The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Glamour and Marie Claire, as well as Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer. In addition to contributing to Healthy Eats, she blogs for Food Network’s FN Dish.