What’s better than “healthful with a cherry on top?” If you didn’t love cherries before, you certainly will once you learn about the unique health benefits of the Montmorency cherry, also known as tart cherry. This classic variety of tart cherry originated hundreds of years ago in France, and is the most widely grown tart cherry for commercial purposes. Because it is hardy and can be cultivated in cold climates, it is grown throughout Canada and the USA, and its distinctive, naturally tart flavour makes it a popular choice for jams, pies, preserves, and juices. While less sweet than regular cherries, there is nothing sour about the abundance of nutrients and health benefits tart cherries offer. Chances are you’re already enjoying them in your cherry pies, but here are six reasons you’ll want to make this “healing cherry” a staple in your diet.
Rich in nutrients
As a healthy whole food, tart cherries are a nutritional powerhouse. They are fat-free, low in sodium and contain high amounts of fibre, potassium, beta-carotene, calcium, iron, folic acid and vitamins A, C, B6 and E. To put this in context: tart cherries have nineteen times as much vitamin A and beta-carotene as strawberries and blueberries! Furthermore, one-quarter cup of dried tart cherries also contains 15% of the recommended daily amount of fibre, which keeps you feeling full longer, contributes to balanced gut health and helps lower the risk of heart disease. It would be no understatement to say this is one of the healthiest fruits you can eat.
Melatonin to maintain healthy sleep cycles
One of the most surprising discoveries about tart cherries is the significant amount of melatonin they contain. Dr. Russell Reiter, who heads a research team at the University of Texas Health Science Center, and has been studying melatonin for more than thirty years, said: “We were surprised at how much melatonin was in cherries, specifically the Montmorency variety.” Melatonin is an important chemical that the brain produces to help regulate healthy sleep-wake cycles. Natural levels of melatonin are highest at night. The body produces the chemical as a response to darkness, and promotes sleep. Sometimes our sleep-wake cycles can be impacted by stress, jet lag, or other physiological factors, and a supplement may become necessary - which is where the amazing tart cherry comes in. It contains some of the highest quantities of melatonin found in food, and in a sufficient quantity to affect sleep positively.
Tart cherries are a rich source of polyphenols and antioxidants. Antioxidants help protect your cells against “free radicals”, molecules your body produces when it breaks down food, or is exposed to environmental toxins. These compounds cause aging and cellular degeneration if not neutralized by antioxidants. Furthermore, oxygen itself is a source of free radicals, which can damage your cells and the integrity of your DNA, as well as contribute to conditions such as cardiovascular disease, inflammation, cancer, and degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s. This is known as oxidative stress. A lab testing procedure known as Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) measures the antioxidant activity of food and its ability to absorb and deactivate these free radicals caused by oxygen.
Nutrition experts recommend we consume between 3,000-5,000 ORAC content per day to help combat the detrimental effects of oxidative stress. Tart cherries are exceptionally high in ORAC content. A half cup of dried tart cherries contains 6,120 ORAC per serving! And if you prefer juice, an 8 oz glass of tart cherry juice will confer 3,622 ORAC/per serving. If foods are classified as “superfoods” because of their antioxidant content, then tart cherries definitely qualify as a major superfood, as they contain more antioxidants than many other fruits.
If you want to protect your body with anti-inflammatory foods, then tart cherries are diet essentials thanks to their high concentration of antioxidants and anthocyanin. Anthocyanins are a type of flavonoid polyphenol phytonutrient. We know that’s a mouthful (literally!) but, simply put, they are plant pigments that are associated with a range of health benefits, including improved immune and cognitive function and reduced risk of cancer and type-2 diabetes, in addition to the following below.
One study shows that Montmorency tart cherries have a higher anti-inflammatory content than any other food! Inflammation in the body occurs due to poor diet, stress, and sleep problems (don’t forget, the melatonin in the cherries will help with this). Another study, from researchers at the University of Michigan, showed that a diet enriched with tart cherries reduced inflammation markers in animals by up to 50 percent. They believe this powerful anti-inflammatory action is behind the cherries’ ability to reduce arthritis, and even provide pain relief from muscle and joint soreness. According to a growing body of research, tart cherries could help athletes recover faster from a workout and reduce muscle damage. For the rest of us, this is more evidence that eating a whole foods diet that contains tart cherries will help reduce inflammation naturally and help to provide optimal health.
If you’re not already convinced that you need tart cherries in your diet, then it’s time to pull on the heartstrings. If the rich, deep red colour of the Montmorency cherry isn’t enticing enough, perhaps the heart health benefits will be. Eating tart cherries will reduce risk factors for heart disease by lowering blood pressure, cholesterol and reducing belly fat. Several longitudinal studies have also shown the connection between the consumption of anthocyanin-rich foods such as tart cherries and cardiovascular disease prevention.
Where to find the best tart cherries
If you’re eager to get your hands on some tart cherries and start enjoying their bountiful health benefits, then look no further than Eden Foods’ Organic Dried Montmorency Tart Cherries. These 100% organic tart cherries contain no added sugar or sulphites. They are harvested from organic orchards, infused with organic apple juice concentrate, slowly heat-dried, and misted with organic safflower oil to keep them from clumping. Keep these handy in your pantry for a quick and healthy snack anytime. You can eat them whole, or use them in baking, add them to your granola, hot or cold cereals, or as a salad topper.
Love fruit juice? Enjoy a glass of Eden Foods’ 100% pure Montmorency Tart Cherry Juice. This juice is rich in flavour, nutrients, and is also a great source of potassium. Whether you prefer your tart cherries dried or as a juice, making them a daily part of your diet will ensure you reap all the health benefits we covered above - and that’s truly the cherry on top!
Founded in 1968, Eden Foods is the oldest principled independent organic food company in the United States. Its mission is Creation and Maintenance of Purity in Food. Eden brand is the authentic alternative to commercial food; the purest, best tasting grains, beans, and vegetables on the planet, from known trusted growers. Healthy soil, long-term organic, non-GMO.