Can Tart Cherries Up Your Game?

Cherries are great in pies, but folks, they are also a fruit that should have some place in your diet outside of a sugar-bomb baked good!

You can divide cherries into two basic groups: sweet and tart. Sweet cherries pack a lot of nutrients, including Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, copper, manganese and potassium, so definitely get these delights into regular your daily diet when you can get your hands on them. That being said, today I’m going to talk about tart cherries, and more specifically, what they can do to improve your athletic performance.

A study published in the European Journal of Sport Science found that Montgomery tart cherries, when taken as a juice concentrate, boosted athletic performance and recovery for semi-professional soccer players. In that study, the tart cherry juice was even found to decrease inflammation after exercise and reduce post-exercise muscle soreness (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30058460/).

Yet another study, this one found in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, found that runners who consumed some tart cherry juice before going on a long-distance run experienced less pain than runners who did not drink the juice (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20459662/).

Cherries don’t have the best shelf life, unfortunately, so consider growing your own if possible. Tart cherry trees in particular can do well in certain areas, and they have a high yield. It’s best to eat any cherries you bought in the store within two days if you keep the fruit at room temperature. You can store them in your fridge to help them keep longer, too. Don’t wash all of your cherries before storing as this can make them rot faster. Instead, wash the cherries you plan on eating right before you eat them to make your batch last longer.

Keep in mind that as great as cherries can be for your performance, they still have a lot of fructose in them. Just one cup–about ten of them–has four grams of fructose. If you’re tracking your sugar intake, you’ll need to take this into consideration if you add cherries into your diet. Generally, you want to keep your daily fructose intake under 25 grams a day if you are healthy. If you have any health issue related to insulin resistance, you probably want to aim for 15 grams maximum a day. Fortunately, you don’t need to eat a ton of them to receive benefits–just a handful will likely do!