In a recent study published in the European Journal of Nutrition, researchers from the School of Life Sciences at Northumbria University found that tart cherry juice can increase melatonin levels. Melatonin levels are directly associated with regulating the sleep-wake cycle in humans. Increased melatonin helps improve both sleep duration and quality.
There are a number of other health benefits associated with tart cherries. These cherries are known to contain high levels of polyphenols, particularly a group called anthocyanins that are considered antioxidants. These natural compounds have been linked to reduced levels of oxidative stress. Oxidative stress has been associated with a higher risk of infections and susceptibility to diseases like cancer, diabetes and atherosclerosis.
In a 2006 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers found that drinking tart cherry juice could decrease certain symptoms of exercise-induced muscle damage and inflammation. Since this study, antioxidants have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties in a number of different contexts, suggesting that it may be the anthocyanins in tart cherries that play major role in reducing muscle damage and inflammation.
Examples of tart cherries include varieties like 'Nanking' and 'Evans'. For those who don't wish to pucker up to tart cherry juice, an alternative is to try cooking with cherries. The above video gives some options for cooking with cherries. Tart cherries can always be substituted for the sweet ones in most recipes.