Because they are rich in melatonin—a hormone that your body releases naturally at night that allows you to relax and unwind—studies have suggested that consuming tart cherries can help you sleep more soundly. Research has also shown that eating tart cherries may help when it comes to blood pressure management and post-exercise recovery.
But sweet cherries are no slackers, either. “Sweet cherries can offer an abundance of health benefits that range from supporting the immune system to helping manage blood pressure, energy levels, and sleep,” says Kelly Pritchett, PhD, RD, CSSD, an associate professor of nutrition and exercise science at Central Washington University, adding that sweet cherries “are also packed with anti-inflammatory properties and are a low-glycemic fruit.”
Tha means that whether you are munching on them fresh as a snack, sipping on cherry juice, or incorporating cherries to a smoothie, cherries can be a boon to your pre-bedtime routine and overall health regimen. Summer, however, offers a perfect excuse to combine the benefits of cherries with a boost of hydration—never a bad thing—in the form of cherry water. “Especially during the warmer months, that's something that a lot of people struggle with: hydration,” says Dr. Pritchett. “Cherry water may actually encourage the desire to drink more [water], as it tastes delicious.”
Cherry water can be made with both sweet or tart cherries, depending on your personal preference. While tart cherries are richer in melatonin than sweet cherries, and may therefore be the better choice if restful sleep is your motivator, Dr. Pritchett points out that sweet cherries also contain this natural hormone and come with the added perk of not needing any additional sugar to make the beverage delectably sweet.
“Adding sweet cherries to water would be a good alternative if you're looking to substitute a high-sugar drink such as soda, as the sweetness can satisfy those sugar cravings, plus cherries are an all-natural sweetener as well,” Dr. Pritchett says. (And if you are looking to limit your sugar intake, whipping up a batch of cherry water, Dr. Pritchett notes, is a better alternative to store-bought cherry juice, which often contains added sweeteners.)
How to make cherry water
First, know that cherry water is super quick and easy to make: It simply involves infusing cherries in water and then running the mixture through a strainer (unless you prefer to keep your fruit soaking in your water glass or pitcher as you sip, which IMHO is a super delicious decision).
You can also customize the intensity of the cherry flavor of your water with the amount of fruit you add. Plus, you can infuse even more flavor into your cherry water by adding herbs like mint, as clinical nutritionist Jennifer Fugo, MS, LDN, CNS, recommends in her version of this refreshing summer beverage, which also calls for a slice of lemon and entails soaking the cherries in water for a mere 15 minutes. Basil, rosemary, hibiscus, a squeeze of lime or orange, and/or a sprinkle of cinnamon would all be equally delicious sipping with cherries in an ice cold glass of H2O.
BTW, use fresh cherries is best for maximum flavor, and same goes for breaking up the cherries with a spoon or potato masher: This will help extract the most fresh cherry taste. “And to get the most health benefits, I would suggest muddling or slicing the skin of the sweet cherries in your water before consuming, as that's going to help release more of the sweetness,” says Dr. Pritchett. And whether you are buying them to snack on or to make cherry water, Dr. Pritchett also stresses keeping your cherries cold at all times for best quality and best results. “The best tip would be buying cherries from a retailer that keeps them in the refrigerated display or rotates them frequently,” she says.
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