Tart cherries

Tart cherry, also called sour cherry or wild cherry, is originally from Europe and southwest Asia. It is closely related to the sweet cherry. Sweet cherries are Rainer cherries, Lambert cherries and Bing cherries. On the other hand, tart cherries are Balaton and Montmorency varieties found in Michigan. Tart cherry is more acidic, and it offers greater nutritional benefits than sweet cherry.

Tart cherries are known to have long-term healing effects used by our ancestors as a great remedy for neurodegenerative diseases, cancers, metabolic syndrome, muscle pain, gout, and arthritis. The amazing health benefits of tart cherries include the following.

A super anti-aging food

Tart cherries are darker than other cherries, which indicates they are rich in potent anti-oxidant-anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are pigments that belong to flavonoids, they are present in vibrant colors such as red, purple, or blue. Anthocyanins, phenols, flavonols, and other compounds in tart cherries deliver powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. They provide protection against muscle injury and inhibit inflammation. Studies have suggested that anthocyanins significantly suppress the release of pro-inflammatory mediators and cytokines, which protects the entire body against inflammation-associated pathologies.[1]

What makes tart cherries superior is that they provide high levels of some novel anthocyanins that are absent from other anthocyanin-rich foods, such as blueberries or bilberries. In addition, tart cherries also contain much higher amounts of total phenols than sweet cherries. These are naturally occurring plant compounds that are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory elements, they help your body defend the damage from oxidative stress and reverse aging process.

For more information about anthocyanins rich foods and anti-aging diet, you could read
A Super Charged Anti-aging Diet Part One for a younger and healthier body.

Reduce gout attacks

Studies have shown that tart cherries are natural remedies for gout attacks. Additionally, researchers discovered that when tart cherry intake was combined with allopurinol, a medication used for the treatment of gout, the risk for gout attacks was significantly reduced.[2] This is a great news for gout sufferers.

Fast recovery from muscle injury

Muscle recovery

Research shows that anthocyanins and phenols in tart cherries protect against muscle injury and inhibit muscle pain and inflammation. Take one and a half cups of tart cherries or a cup of tart cherry juice right after training can significantly reduce post-workout muscle inflammation and soreness including post-race muscle pain.[3],[4] Researchers suggested that the improved muscle recovery time may relate to the protection from tart cherries against oxidative damage induced by exercise.[5]

Natural relief for osteoarthritis
If you are looking for a natural remedy for your painful arthritis and swollen joints and knees, you may consider tart cherries or tart berry juice. According to studies, patients who take tart cherry juice regularly had a significant decrease in inflammation and reduced pain as indicated by reduced levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a biochemical marker for inflammation. The result was greater for those women who had the highest inflammation levels at the beginning of the study.[6] Researchers suggested that tart cherry juice provides anti-inflammatory activity against osteoarthritis without the side effects of many pain medications.

For another powerful painkiller, you could read Great natural Pain Reliever and Brain Food-Astaxanthin.

Improve quality of sleep

Tart cherries are also known to be rich in anotherImprove sleep antioxidant-melatonin, also called “sleep hormone”. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland, which is a small gland located in the center of the brain, it helps regulate your sleep and wake cycles. Insomnia is a common problem we are facing today; it not only affects our energy level but also impacts our health and quality of life significantly. Due to excess stress, unbalanced hormones, a busy schedule and unhealthy lifestyles, it is not a surprise that our sleep quality is compromised. The production of natural melatonin drops with age. Therefore, it is important to obtain exogenous melatonin to help maintain a healthy balance. Based on the research, 60 ml of tart berry juice offers about 85 mcg of melatonin, such small amounts of melatonin from tart berries significantly increased participants’ total sleep time and sleep efficiency.[7] If you are suffering from insomnia, you could consider trying tart berry juice at night before you go to bed instead of sleeping pills.

For more information about how to overcome insomnia, you could read How to Overcome Insomnia.

Beyond sleep, as a potent antioxidant, melatonin also plays a powerful role in fighting against free radical damages and free radical-related diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancers and helps reverse aging process.[8],[9]

Beside tart berries, melatonin rich foods are pineapples, bananas, oranges, tomatoes, walnuts, corn, and rice, etc. From the table below, you can see that tart berries rank at the top for melatonin concentration.

Foods With Melatonin Table (ng/100g*)[10]

FOODMelatonin, ng/100g
Tart (sour) cherry juice concentrate17,535
Tart (sour) cherries1,350
Mustard seed191.33
Ginger root142.30
Barley grains87.30
Rolled oats79.13
Rolled oats79.13
Fresh mint49.66
Black tea40.50
Underripe banana (pulp)31.40
St. John’s wort19.61
Ripe banana (pulp)18.50
Brussels sprouts16.88
Green tea9.20
Black olives8.94
Green olives8.36
Sunflower seeds4.26
Concord grapes (skin)3.24
Red grapes (pulp)2.27
Red grapes (whole)1.94
Concord grapes (pulp)1.92
Concord grapes (whole)1.71
Red grapes (skin)1.42
Red wine1

1 mcg (microgram) =1000ng (nanograms)
* average number – reported amounts were 90.7-450 ng/100g
**average number – reported amounts were 13-29 ng/100g

Protect your heart and reduce the risk for diabetes

Heart diseaseStudies suggest that tart cherries help lower cholesterol and triglycerides levels, as well as other risk factors for heart disease, thus improve your blood cholesterol profile. They found that the cardiovascular benefits from tart cherries are equivalent to some medications and results are even better with taking medications at the same time. Surprisingly, taking 8-ounce of tart cherry juice a day can reduce triglycerides levels by over 17% on average.[11],[12],[13]

Researchers also indicated that anthocyanins in tart berries help regular glucose levels and reduce the risk of developing diabetes[14]. They also suggested that tart cherries may reduce metabolic syndrome and therefore also reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes.[15]

Promote weight loss

Weight lossResearchers discovered that abdominal fat is linked to the chronic inflammation. Adipose cells are not just fat cells, they are chemically active cells and generate pro-inflammatory cell-signaling molecules called cytokines, which trigger heart disease, diabetes, and other health issues.

Studies have shown that waist circumference is critical for people with Type 2 diabetes because the greater the waistline, the higher the risk of developing cardiovascular complications.

You could check “ Waist to Hip Ratio” to find out your waistline and associated health risks.

Researchers also suggested that obese or overweight people who consumed 8 ounces of tart cherry juice a day demonstrated significantly lowered inflammation with reduced metabolic syndrome, which leads to fat loss around the abdomen, reduced triglyceride, and overall weight loss, the significant results were shown by the consumption of tart berry juice for just 4 weeks.[15],[16]

Tart cherries are considered as a potent food for inhibiting the chronic inflammation and promoting weight loss.

Anti-cancer effects

Studies have shown that anthocyanins in tart berries promote a broad range of anti-cancer protection. They trigger apoptosis of pre-cancerous cells and switch off genes that are involved in the multiple pathways of cancers. Tart berries provide a variety of anti-carcinogenic benefits.[17],[18]

Strong anti-neurodegenerative activity

There are some studies indicated that tart cherries are very effective in slowing the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s diseases and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis ( ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Tart cherries are rich in antioxidants such as phenols and anthocyanins, which are known to have strong anti-neurodegenerative activities. The active compounds in tart berries not only protect neurons from oxidative stress but also help slow down aging process and general cognitive decline.[19],[20]

Tart Cherries vs. Red Cherries

Tart Cherries vs. Red CherriesIn general, tart cherries are found to contain higher amounts of anthocyanins and phenols as compared to other types of cherries including red cherries. They are also low in sugar. Tart cherries score as 22 on the glycemic index. The glycemic index is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating. Low glycemic index (GI ) is scored at 55 or lower, low GI foods that produce only small fluctuations in your blood glucose and insulin levels have proven health benefits, such as reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes and also promoting sustainable weight loss. At a ranking of 22, tart cherries are a low-glycemic food that will not significantly affect your blood sugar levels. Sweet cherries, on the other hand, have a GI of 62, which is considered as a high GI food that can have a moderate impact on your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes.

Both sweet and tart cherries are known to contain a number of bioactive compounds that provide many health benefits including anti-inflammatory and anti-aging effects. Unlike red cherries that are usually available in the grocery stores as fresh seasonal fruits, tart cherries usually come frozen, canned or juiced and mainly used for baking or cooking. You may occasionally find them at farmers’ markets. Another reason that makes tart cherries so appealing beyond their amazing health benefits is that they are inexpensive or not pricey; they are all natural without any preservative or added ingredients. You can take them as fruit or juice.

How to select and store cherries

Select bright and red cherries that are free from spots. For best flavor, use as soon as possible right after picking. For storage, keep them in refrigerator uncovered for up to 5 days, or freeze them as soon as possible after picking, wash them in cold water, drain and pit, pack into containers and place them in the freezer. Cherries can maintain good quality for a year in the freezer.

Tart Cherry recipes
  • Tart cherry sauce with chicken

Tart cherry sauce with chicken

Ingredients (4 servings)

Chicken (whole, fresh, small): 1
Tart cherries (canned, drained): 2 cups
Thyme (fresh, chopped): 4 tbsp.
Rosemary (fresh, chopped): 2 tbsp.
Garlic (fresh, finely chopped): 2 tbsp.
Pepper (black, ground): 1 tsp.
Salt: pinch
Paprika sauce: 1 tbsp.
Red wine: 1 ½ cups
Olive oil: 4 tbsp.
Tart cherry juice: ¼ cup
Corn starch: 1 tbsp.


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Mix sea salt, black pepper, thyme, garlic, rosemary and paprika in a bowl to make a spices mixture.
  3. Place the chicken on a baking sheet and brush evenly with 4 tablespoons olive oil, then coat chicken with the spices mixture.
  4. Bake the chicken in preheated oven about 1 1/2 hours until no longer pink at the bone and the juices run clear.
  5. Mix tart cherry juice, tart cherries, red wine, orange juice in a saucepan; bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook about 10 minutes, stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil, then whisk corn starch into the sauce, mix well until thickened.
  6. Top hot cherry sauce over the cooked chicken and spread the sauce evenly.
  • Tart cherry pie

Tart cherry pie

Ingredients (1 pie with 8-inch)

Tart cherries (fresh or frozen, pitted): 4 cups
Coconut sugar: ¾ cup
Cornstarch: 4 tbsp.
Almond extract: ½ tsp.
Your favorite pie crust
Coconut butter: 1 1/2 tbsp.
Lemon juice (fresh): 1 tsp.
Milk or cream


  1. Place cherries in a saucepan over heat and cover. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook about 5 minutes until most juice is out of tart cherries, remove it from heat.
  2. In a small bowl, mix coconut sugar, cornstarch together. Pour this mixture into the hot cherries and mix well. Sprinkle almond extract and lemon juice on top. Return the mixture to the stove and cook over low heat and stir frequently until the mixture is thickened, Remove from the heat and let it cool down.
  3. Adjust the thickness of the tart cherry mixture with water or corn starch as you desire.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  5. Prepare your favorite crust and fit into a 9-inch pie plate.
  6. Fill the crust shell with sour cherry mixture; dot filling with butter.
  7. Moisten edges of bottom crust, cover with top crust, trim and flute edges of the pie, brush top with milk or cream.
  8. Bake in the oven at 375°F for about 50 minutes until crust golden. Transfer pie to rack and cool completely.

For another powerful functional food, you could read The Secret of Amazing Health benefits-Coconut Flour and Coconut oil.

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  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3565332
  2. Zhang Y, Neogi T, Chen C, Chaisson C, Hunter DJ, Choi HK. Cherry consumption and decreased risk of recurrent gout attacks. Arthritis Rheum. 2012 Dec;64(12):4004-11. doi: 10.1002/art.34677.
  3. Bowtell JL, Sumners DP, Dyer A, Fox P, Mileva KN. Montmorency cherry juice reduces muscle damage caused by intensive strength exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011;43:1544-51.
  4. Howatson G, McHugh MP, Hill JA, et al. Influence of tart cherry juice on indices of recovery following marathon running. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2010;20:843-52.
  5. Kuehl KS, Perrier ET, Elliot DL, Chesnutt JC. Efficacy of tart cherry juice in reducing muscle pain during running: a randomized controlled trial. Journal Int Soc Sports. 2010;7:17.
  6. Kuehl KS, Elliot DL, Sleigh A, Smith J. Efficacy of tart cherry juice to reduce inflammation biomarkers among women with inflammatory osteoarthritis. J Food Stud. 2012;1:14-25.
  7. Pigeon WR, Carr M, Gorman C, Perlis ML. Effects of a tart cherry juice beverage on the sleep of older adults with insomnia: a pilot study. J Med Food. 2010;13(3):579-583.
  8. Sanchez-Barcelo EJ, Mediavilla MD, Alonso-Gonzalez C, Reiter RJ. Melatonin uses in oncology: breast cancer prevention and reduction of the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. Expert Opin Investig Drugs. 2012 Jun;21(6):819-31
  9. Srinivasan V, Pandi-Perumal SR, Brzezinski A, Bhatnagar KP, Cardinali DP. Melatonin, immune function and cancer. Recent Pat Endocr Metab Immune Drug Discov. 2011 May;5(2):109-23.
  10. http://www.immunehealthscience.com/foods-with-melatonin.html
  11. Martin KR, Bopp J, Burrell L, Hook G. The effect of 100% tart cherry juice on serum uric acid levels, biomarkers of inflammation and cardiovascular disease risk factors. FASEB J. April 2011;25 (Meeting Abstract Supplement):339.2.
  12. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130423102129.htm
  13. Kelley DS, Adkins Y, Reddy A, Woodhouse LR, Mackey BE, Erickson KL. Sweet Bing cherries lower circulating concentrations of markers for chronic inflammatory diseases in healthy humans. J Nutr. 2013;143:340-4.
  14. Lachin T, Reza H. Anti diabetic effect of cherries in alloxan induced diabetic rats. Recent Pat Endocr Metab Immune Drug Discov. 2012 Jan;6(1):67-72.
  15. Seymour EM, Lewis SK, Urcuyo-Llanes DE, Tanone II, Kirakosyan A, Kaufman PB, Bolling SF. Regular tart cherry intake alters abdominal adiposity, adipose gene transcription, and inflammation in obesity-prone rats fed a high fat diet. J Med Food. 2009 Oct;12(5):935-42.
  16. Calder PC, Ahluwalia N, Brouns F, et al. Dietary factors and low-grade inflammation in relation to overweight and obesity. Br J Nutr. 2011 Dec;106 Suppl 3:S5-78.
  17. Wang LS, Stoner GD. Anthocyanins and their role in cancer prevention Cancer Lett. 2008 Oct 8;269(2):281-90.
  18. Thomasset S, Teller N, Cai H, et al. Do anthocyanins and anthocyanidins, cancer chemopreventive pigments in the diet, merit development as potential drugs? Cancer Chemoth Pharm. 2009 June;64(1):201-11.
  19. McCune LM, Kubota C, Stendell-Hollis NR, Thomson CA. Cherries and health: a review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2011 Jan;51(1):1-12.
  20. Seymour EM, Kondoleon MG, Huang MG, Kirakosyan A, Kaufman PB, Bolling SF. Tart cherry-enriched diets reduce atherosclerosis and mortality in mice. FASEB J. 2011 March;25(Meeting Abstract Supplement):980.10.


To keep the body in good health is a duty, otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.~Buddha

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About the author: Lucy Liu
Lucy Liu

As a Holistic Health Practitioner, Registered Dietitian, TCM Practitioner, Energy Healer, Master Hypnotist, Reiki Master, Advanced Theta Healing Practitioner, Author and Speaker, Lucy Liu, the founder of optimalhealthsolutions.ca, has gained a good reputation in holistic health after many years of serving patients and clients as a holistic health practitioner. Lucy has developed a unique and comprehensive approach, which combines Western Medicine, Chinese Medicine, Energy Medicine, and Alternative Medicine together, to help others achieve optimal health by creating harmony between the body, mind, and spirit, and maintain long-term success for healthy lifestyle changes.
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