Cherries are a summer staple, whether you're eating them straight off the stem, using them to garnish your favorite cocktail, or baking them into a sweet treat. However, these tasty seasonal fruits can do a whole lot more than simply satisfy your sweet tooth. According to registered dietitians, there's a surprising benefit of eating these delicious fruits that even the most seasoned cherry connoisseurs may not know about.
"Cherries do not get the attention they deserve for being the nutrient-packed fruit that they are," says Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD, a registered dietitian at Balance One Supplements.
"One surprising benefit of cherries is their ability to ease joint pain and swelling from inflammatory arthritis," explains Best. "They contain highly anti-inflammatory nutrients, known as antioxidants, that can help to reduce this inflammation."
To test the efficacy of cherries on osteoarthritis pain, a 2013 study published in the journal Osteoarthritis Cartilage provided 58 non-diabetic adults with osteoarthritis either two 8-oz. bottles of tart cherry juice or a placebo to drink on a daily basis for six weeks. After the six-week period was up, subjects took a one-week break from treatment, then switched treatment plans. Researchers found that, while the effect was only slightly more pronounced than that of the placebo group, tart cherry juice did provide some symptom relief among the osteoarthritis patients studied.
Researchers also found that consumption of tart cherry juice was associated with lower levels of high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP), a protein that can indicate inflammation in the body. In addition to decreasing overall inflammation and osteoarthritis symptoms, this may lead to greater mobility among individuals with arthritis in the long run. A 2008 study published in Arthritis Research&Therapy found that higher levels of hsCRP were associated with lower tibial cartilage volume among women between ages 40 and 67, which can lead to a loss of mobility over time.
That's not the only way cherries can help reduce inflammation throughout your body, however. "Eating a cup of cherries before bed could also improve your sleep quality," says Best. "Cherries contain natural melatonin, a hormone associated with the sleep-wake cycle, that is known to increase sleep quality and duration."
A 2018 study published in the American Journal of Therapeutics found that supplementation with tart cherry juice among a group of 11 subjects increased both sleep efficiency and overall sleep duration.
Over time, this may help lower levels of inflammation and pain. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that short sleep is associated with higher levels of hsCRP—but logging longer, more restful hours in bed may help. So, if you're struggling with inflammation and pain, adding a handful of cherries to your meal plan might just be the ticket to sweet relief.