Sports Nutritionist, Anita Bean says: “Cherries are powerhouses of nutrients, packed with vitamins, minerals, fibre and phytonutrients. They offer numerous health benefits and, eating them after exercise, may help you get more out of your workout.”
They are a good source of vitamin C in a vegan diet. A 150g portion provides 14mg vitamin C, which is 35% of your daily requirement. This is particularly important for vegans because vitamin C greatly improves iron absorption from plant sources, such as whole-grains, nuts, pulses and green leafy vegetables. Iron is needed for making haemoglobin, the red pigment in red blood cells, and for a healthy immune system.
They are a perfect post-workout snack thanks to their high content of flavonoids and anthocyanins, which have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Antioxidants play an important role in performance and recovery and studies suggest that these compounds help reduce muscle soreness, muscle damage and inflammation after intense exercise, as well as speed up muscle recovery. 1, 2, 3, 4 Although most of the studies were done with tart cherry juice, which has a higher level of anthocyanins, sweet cherries will have similar benefits.
They may help you get a better night’s sleep. Cherries contain melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate our sleep patterns. Researchers found that drinking cherry juice 30 minutes after waking and 30 minutes before the evening meal boosted sleep time by 84 minutes and improved sleep quality in people with insomnia. 5 (Note: there is a higher level of melatonin in tart cherries compared to sweet cherries).
They can help reduce inflammation. Cherries contain powerful anti-inflammatory compounds. A growing body of scientific research indicates that inflammation contributes to diseases such as heart disease, arthritis, and obesity. One study found that regular consumption of 280g sweet cherries for 28 days lowered levels of inflammatory compounds in the blood, including C-reactive protein (CRP). A high level of CRP in blood is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. 6
They may ease arthritis and gout. The compounds that give cherries their red colour (anthocyanins) may act in a similar way to anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin, by blocking the actions of certain enzymes. According to studies, eating cherries may offer potential benefits for conditions such as gout, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and sports injuries.7
They may reduce blood pressure. People who drank cherry juice concentrate experienced a 7% drop in blood pressure within 3 hours. This is thought to be due their high content of anthocyanins and phenolic compounds, which help relax blood vessels. 8
- Bell, P.G. McHugh, M.P., Stevenson, E., and Howatson G. (2014). The role of cherries in exercise and health. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, 24, 477-490.
- Howatson, G., McHugh, M. P., Hill, J. A., et al., ‘Influence of tart cherry juice on indices of recovery following marathon running’, Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, 20(6), (2010), pp. 843–52.
- Connolly, D.A.J., McHugh, M.P., Padilla-Zakour, O.I. (2006). Efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in preventing the symptoms of muscle damage. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 40,679-683.
- Bowtell, J. L., Sumners, D. P., Dyer, A., et al., ‘Montmorency cherry juice reduces muscle damage caused by intensive strength exercise’, Medicine and Science in Sports Exercise, 43(8) (2011), pp. 1544–1551.
- Howatson, G., Bell, P.G., Tallent, J., Middleton, B., McHugh, M.P., Ellis, J. (2012). Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality. European Journal of Nutrition, 51, 909-16.
- Kelley DS, Adkins Y, Reddy A, Woodhouse LR, Mackey BE, Erickson KL. (2013) Sweet Bing Cherries Lower Circulating Concentrations of Markers for Chronic Inflammatory Diseases in Healthy Humans. J. Nutr. 143: 340-344.
- Zhang Y, Neogi T, Chen C, Chaisson C, Hunter DJ, Choi HK. Arthritis Rheum. (2012) Cherry consumption and decreased risk of recurrent gout attacks; 64(12):4004-11
- Keane KM, George TW, Constantinou CL, Brown MA, Clifford T, Howatson G. (2016). Effects of Montmorency tart cherry (Prunus Cerasus L.) consumption on vascular function in men with early hypertension. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Jun;103(6):1531
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