Studies have revealed at least eight major health benefits to be gained from drinking tart cherry juice, and some are directly related to diabetes.
When it comes to nutrition and good health, there’s plenty of sweet news about sour cherries, also commonly known as tart cherries or pie cherries. Not only does this fruit—and its juice—help improve sleep, reduce inflammation, enhance stamina, lower high blood pressure, manage painful symptoms of osteoarthritis and gout, enhance mood, and stave off dementia, tart cherries may also help control symptoms of diabetes.
The same phytochemicals, or plant pigments, that give sour cherries their bright red color, also give them anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities that help prevent muscle damage in athletes, fight depression and anxiety, and improve memory and cognition in older adults. Researchers have also found that these phytochemicals, which are known as polyphenols and anthocyanins, and are found in both the flesh and juice of the fruit, can also help enhance glucose metabolism and regulate blood sugar in people with diabetes. Anthocyanins are known to significantly boost insulin production, though it is not yet understood how this happens.
Fruit and fruit juices can be a tough fit for people with diabetes, but it’s not hard to work tart cherry juice into a diabetic diet. There’s great variance in calories, carbs and sugar among different brands and different concentrations of tart cherry juice, however, so be sure to check and compare brands to find the juice or concentrate that works best in your diet.
If you can handle the tangy taste, tart cherry juice concentrate from companies like Dynamic Health, FruitFast, Pure Planet, and Piping Rock contains anywhere from 40 to 70 calories, 10 to 18 g carbohydrates and 7 to 17 g sugars in every 2-tablespoon serving. Concentrates can be diluted with sparkling water, tap water or iced tea, or added to other foods, such as smoothies and salad dressings.
Some companies, such as R.W. Knudson and Old Orchard, dilute tart cherry juice in various concentrations with water for a ready-to-serve unsweetened drink. Others, like Musselman’s, Lakewood and Cheribundi, blend tart cherry juice with other fruit juices, such as apple and pear, which adds natural sweetness. An 8-ounce serving of tart cherry juice, whether diluted with water or other juices, can range from 130 to 180 calories, 31 to 45 g carbs and 21 to 30 g sugar.
Cheribundi also offers a “light,” stevia-sweetened version, lowering an 8-ounce serving to 80 calories, 21 g carbs and 17 g sugar, while still packing the goodness of 40 cherries into every bottle. Overall, the variances in nutrition are due to the type of cherries used, the juicing processing involved, and the concentration of tart cherries in each serving.
While there are no official “dose” recommendations, participants in several scientific studies that yielded positive results drank two 8-ounces glasses or bottles of tart cherry juice or cherry juice blended with other juices, a day. Others took 1 tablespoon of concentrated tart cherry extract twice a day (the equivalent of 45 to 60 cherries), or one daily cherry supplement containing 100 mg of anthocyanins.
Benefits were seen in anywhere from 48 hours to a couple of weeks, and appeared to continue long-term. The makers of Cheribundi tart cherry juice suggest drinking one 8-ounce serving a day for seven days in a row in order to start seeing (or rather, feeling) the benefits. Ultimately, more research is necessary to determine just how much cherry juice, and in what form, is most effective for preventing or treating any medical condition. If you’re not sure how to fit tart cherry juice into your diabetic diet, ask your physician or dietitian for advice.