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Tart Cherries. How is it that these little gems are becoming increasingly poplular in the sporting field? Recent and ongoing studies are showing that the compounds found in tart cherries provide unique health benefits which is having a huge impact on the performance and recovery aid for active individuals. One component, anthocyanins (type of flavonoid, aka antioxidant), gives cherries their deep, rich colour but more importantly possess anti-inflammatory properties which can reduce inflammation and pain after intense training. However, before you rush out to buy loads of cherries, it's important to know that all cherries are not the same. It is tart cherries that have significantly more anthocyanins and phenols than your average sweet cherries.

Proposed health benefits include improved sleep (due to the high levels of melatonin contained in the cherry which is critical in regulating the sleep wake cycle in humans); recovery from mechanical stress (think HIIT and resistance training), metabolic stress (think prolonged endurance cycling), and improvements in both arthritis and gout symptoms.

In studies looking at a variety of exercise types, tart cherry supplementation had led to improved recovery following exercise, decreased pain while running and reduced strength loss after damaging exercise. It is important to note that like any supplementation or addition to diet for certain purposes, it needs time for the body to absorb and be effective.

There is continued research in this area but as it stands, tart cherries and tart cherry juice may be an important addition to the diets of certain groups. As always, it is important to consult with a nutrition professional before embarking on any changes to your diet.

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