All About Cherries
Cherries derive their name from the Old Northern French or Norman word cherise, and the Latin word cerasum. Around two dozen sub species of True cherries exist, including prunus avium (sweet cherry), prunus cerasus (sour cherry), prunus emarginata (Oregon or bitter cherry) and prunus pennsylvania (fire cherry). What we know commonly as everyday cherries are the prunus avium or sweet cherry variety. Of course sour cherries are used in cooking too. Both species originate in Europe and western Asia. Cherries have been cultivated and consumed since prehistoric times. Records of cherry cultivation date back to 72BC in northeastern Anatolia.
A cherry tree takes about 4 years once planted to produce its first crop of fruit. Cherry flowers are characterised by a single bud with beautiful pink, white or red flowers. A famous example of their beauty can be seen in Japan during cherry blossom season in Spring, when Sakura trees from Okinawa to Hokkaido bloom in magnificent numbers. In Australia and New Zealand, cherries are usually at their peak in late December and are a favourite at Christmas time.
Cherries - Summary of health benefits
- Sweet, tart and cherry juice have varying health benefits
- Reduces oxidative stress and inflammation
- Reduces exercise=induced muscle soreness
- Lowers blood pressure
- Improves cognitive function and sleep quality
- Low glycemic index food
- Anthocyanin - polyphenol with strong antioxidant qualities
- Lowers LDL cholesterol
- High in potassium
Fun fact: raw sour cherries contain 50% more vitamin C per 100g serve than sweet cherries. They also contain 770mcg of beta-carotene while sweet cherries contain 38mcg per serve.
What the Research Says...
Cherries & Exercise Recovery - some conflicting evidence
Cherry concentrate enhances cycling performance
Tart cherry (Prunus cerasus) concentrate was examined with regard to functional performance in a group of high-intensity cyclists. 30ml of cherry concentrate was administered two times a day for 8 days. On the 8th day, the cyclists completed a 109 minute cycling trial. Blood samples were taken pre and post event, and at several intervals within 72hrs. The results showed marked reductions in inflammatory blood markers, including (interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-6, IL-8, tumor necrosis factor alpha, high-sensitivity CRP. These correlated with improvements in functional performance, fatigue and delayed onset muscle soreness. Cherry concentrate is effective in enhancing cycling efficiency and power according to the study results.
Cherry attenuates muscle damage in female athletes
Similar to the above study, another published in the European Journal of Sport Science examined the same cherry intervention in a group of active female study participants. Various measurements of muscle soreness, pain threshold, flexibility and inflammation were taken throughout the study. Lower inflammation, better jump height, lower muscle soreness and higher pain thresholds were all observed in this group of female athletes due to the inclusion of cherry concentrate.
Sour cherry had no effect on muscle recovery in soccer players
A study from 2020 investigated cherry juice effects on professional soccer players. Reserve players from an English Premier League club consumed 2 x 30mls of tart cherry juice. Once before and another following the 90 minute game. A final two serves of cherry juice was administered 12 and 36 hours later. Muscle function, self-reported well-being and muscle soreness were measured at various intervals. There were some reported improvements in muscle function and reactive strength indices. However, there were no statistically significant benefits on team recovery from sour cherry juice.
Sleep and cognitive health
Cherry juice Improves cognitive function
Anthocyanin-rich cherry juice improved cognitive function in elderly dementia sufferers. A 12 week trial, published in the European Journal of Nutrition in 2017 assessed cognition in mild to moderate dementia patients. Cherry juice (200mls per day) resulted in enhanced verbal fluency, memory and lowered blood pressure at the cessation of the study.
Cherry Juice & Sleep Quality
In natural medicine, tart/sour cherry juice is often used to support sleep onset. This is due to the naturally occurring melatonin content. A small placebo-controlled crossover study from 2018 looked at montmorency tart cherry juice and its effect on insomnia in elderly participants. The group took 240ml twice a day of either cherry juice or a placebo. After 2 weeks, they completed follow-up sleep quality questionnaires. The group who consumed cherry juice had statistically significant increases in sleep time by 84 minutes. They also reported improved sleep efficiency according to the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality index. Cherry juice also increased tryptophan availability and reduced systemic inflammation. The combined results make cherry juice a favourable option for insomnia treatment in the elderly.
Cherries may protect against heart disease and atherosclerosis
37 participants between the ages of 65 and 80 were assessed in a study published in Food & function journal. They were randomly assigned to consume 480 mL of tart cherry juice daily or a control drink for 12 weeks. After 12 weeks of tart cherry juice consumption, C-reactive protein, malondialdehyde, and oxidized LDL decreased by 25%, 3%, and 11%, respectively. The authors also postulated that the mechanism behind cherry’s blood pressure lowering-effects were due to the polyphenol (anthocyanins) and potassium content, working synergistically.
Yes, 480ml is quite a lot of cherry juice to consume each day, however the results show promising health outcomes for those susceptible to these conditions. Cherry juice appears to have antioxidative and antiinflammatory properties which may protect against vascular plaque formation and heart disease.
Cherries reduce symptoms of gout
Gout is a condition characterised by hyperuricaemia, or a systemic accumulation of uric acid. Urate crystals form in the joints, usually in the feet, knees and hands, causing pain and inflammation. A study conducted in 2012 involved 633 participants suffering from gout. The authors found that 2 days of cherry intake was associated with a reduction of gout attacks by 35%. The authors hypothesized that cherries block an enzyme called xanthine oxidase. When this enzyme is inhibited, the body more easily eliminates uric acid instead of accumulating in peripheral tissues. Cherries are therefore a useful functional food for gout management.
Cherries support glucose metabolism
A 2015 randomised crossover trial examined sour cherry pomace and its effect on various glycemic parameters. The pomace which is the fibrous part of the fruit, was baked into muffins for the study. Participants rated their appetite, satiety and glycemic responses after eating the muffins. The results showed the sour cherry muffins to be a low glycemic food. Participants reported improved satiety and sustained energy for up to 3 hours after consumption.
How To Make Your Own Glacé Cherries
In Australia, fresh cherries are a delicious perk of summer months, Christmas and the festive season. If you’ve got a glut of cherries and always wondered how to make glacé cherries, here’s how you do it. The end result might not be exactly the same as commercial glacé cherries, (they are an artistry on their own!) However, they’ll still be delicious.
Cherry Coconut Florentines
A delicious, easy and festive treat celebrating glacé cherries. The sugar and honey can be slightly reduced so adjust as you need.
140g muscovado sugar
100g desiccated coconut
140g flaked almonds
300g glacé cherries, sliced
4 tbsps. plain flour
250g dark chocolate
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
- Melt sugar, honey and butter in a saucepan over medium heat until well combined.
- Stir in coconut, almonds, cherries and flour.
- Spread the mixture evenly onto a baking tray and bake for 10-12 mins until just golden. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
- Meanwhile, melt dark chocolate either over a bain-marie or in 10 seconds bursts in the microwave until completely melted and smooth. Set aside.
- Gently turn the florentine bake over onto a board, with the underside now facing up. Remove baking paper.
- Spread melted chocolate on the base of the florentine with a spatula and leave to set completely.
- Cut into squares, stars or any shapes you like. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for a week or enjoy immediately.
How to Make Glacé Cherries
600g pitted sweet cherries
400g caster sugar
Juice from ½ lemon
1 tsp. almond extract (optional)
- Wash the cherries well and remove pits carefully with a small paring knife.
- Place cherries, sugar, water and lemon juice in a heavy-based saucepan and bring to a simmer.
- Reduce heat slightly and continue to simmer for around an hour.
- Remove any scum that appears at the surface during cooking.
- When the cherries are shiny, translucent and dark in colour, remove them from heat and allow to cool. Stir in almond extract here.
- Store the cherries and the syrup in a jar or any airtight container in the fridge for up to one year. Ensure cherries are completely submerged in syrup to preserve them properly.
Abbott, W., Brashill, C., Brett, A., & Clifford, T. (2020). Tart Cherry Juice: No Effect on Muscle Function Loss or Muscle Soreness in Professional Soccer Players After a Match. International journal of sports physiology and performance, 15(2), 249–254. https://doi.org/10.1123/ijspp.2019-0221
Bajerska, J., Mildner-Szkudlarz, S., Górnaś, P., & Seglina, D. (2016). The effects of muffins enriched with sour cherry pomace on acceptability, glycemic response, satiety and energy intake: a randomized crossover trial. Journal of the science of food and agriculture, 96(7), 2486–2493. https://doi.org/10.1002/jsfa.7369
Bell, P. G., Walshe, I. H., Davison, G. W., Stevenson, E. J., & Howatson, G. (2015). Recovery facilitation with Montmorency cherries following high-intensity, metabolically challenging exercise. Applied physiology, nutrition, and metabolism = Physiologie appliquee, nutrition et metabolisme, 40(4), 414–423. https://doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2014-0244
Brown, M. A., Stevenson, E. J., & Howatson, G. (2019). Montmorency tart cherry (Prunus cerasus L.) supplementation accelerates recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage in females. European journal of sport science, 19(1), 95–102. https://doi.org/10.1080/17461391.2018.1502360
Chai, S. C., , Davis, K., , Wright, R. S., , Kuczmarski, M. F., , & Zhang, Z., (2018). Impact of tart cherry juice on systolic blood pressure and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in older adults: a randomized controlled trial. Food & function, 9(6), 3185–3194. https://doi.org/10.1039/c8fo00468d
Chai, S. C., Davis, K., Zhang, Z., Zha, L., & Kirschner, K. F. (2019). Effects of Tart Cherry Juice on Biomarkers of Inflammation and Oxidative Stress in Older Adults. Nutrients, 11(2), 228. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11020228
Keane, K. M., Bailey, S. J., Vanhatalo, A., Jones, A. M., & Howatson, G. (2018). Effects of montmorency tart cherry (L. Prunus Cerasus) consumption on nitric oxide biomarkers and exercise performance. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports, 28(7), 1746–1756. https://doi.org/10.1111/sms.13088
Kent, K., Charlton, K., Roodenrys, S., Batterham, M., Potter, J., Traynor, V., Gilbert, H., Morgan, O., & Richards, R. (2017). Consumption of anthocyanin-rich cherry juice for 12 weeks improves memory and cognition in older adults with mild-to-moderate dementia. European journal of nutrition, 56(1), 333–341. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-015-1083-y
Losso, J. N., Finley, J. W., Karki, N., Liu, A. G., Prudente, A., Tipton, R., Yu, Y., & Greenway, F. L. (2018). Pilot Study of the Tart Cherry Juice for the Treatment of Insomnia and Investigation of Mechanisms. American journal of therapeutics, 25(2), e194–e201. https://doi.org/10.1097/MJT.0000000000000584
Nakagawa, T., Lanaspa, M. A., & Johnson, R. J. (2019). The effects of fruit consumption in patients with hyperuricaemia or gout. Rheumatology (Oxford, England), 58(7), 1133–1141. https://doi.org/10.1093/rheumatology/kez128
Wang, Y., Gallegos, J. L., Haskell-Ramsay, C., & Lodge, J. K. (2021). Effects of chronic consumption of specific fruit (berries, citrus and cherries) on CVD risk factors: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. European journal of nutrition, 60(2), 615–639. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-020-02299-w
Wikipedia Contributors. (2019, October 10). Cherry. Retrieved October 14, 2019, from Wikipedia website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherry, viewed June 19 2021