Is it safe to drink tart cherry juice concentrate?

Tart cherry juice concentrate has become an increasingly popular supplement in recent years due to its purported health benefits. Some research suggests that tart cherry juice can reduce inflammation, improve sleep quality, and aid post-workout recovery. However, there are also some concerns about the safety of consuming large amounts of tart cherry juice concentrate.

What is tart cherry juice concentrate?

Tart cherry juice concentrate is made by pressing or juicing tart cherries, then removing most of the water content to create a thick, concentrated liquid. This process leaves behind the cherry’s natural sugars, antioxidants, and other beneficial plant compounds like anthocyanins, which give tart cherries their bright red color.

Compared to regular tart cherry juice, the concentrate contains a much higher percentage of cherry solids and beneficial nutrients. Tart cherry juice concentrate is usually diluted with water before drinking to reduce its potency and strong, sour flavor.

Nutrition facts of tart cherry juice concentrate

One serving (30ml) of tart cherry juice concentrate provides:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 120
Total fat 0 g
Sodium 15 mg
Potassium 300 mg
Total carbs 29 g
Sugars 24 g
Protein 1 g

As you can see, tart cherry juice concentrate is low in fat and protein but contains a considerable amount of natural sugars. It’s also high in potassium, with 300mg per serving. The concentration provides more antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds compared to diluted tart cherry juice.

Potential benefits of tart cherry juice concentrate

Here are some of the evidence-based health benefits associated with drinking tart cherry juice concentrate:

May reduce inflammation

Tart cherries contain high levels of anthocyanins, which are antioxidant compounds linked to reduced inflammation. Studies show drinking tart cherry juice can decrease inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6 (IL-6).

This anti-inflammatory effect may help with inflammatory conditions such as gout, arthritis, and exercise-induced muscle damage.

May improve sleep quality

Some research indicates that tart cherry juice can increase melatonin levels and improve sleep quality. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. In one study, participants who drank tart cherry juice concentrate had significantly increased melatonin levels and slept over 80 minutes longer per night.

May enhance post-workout recovery

Due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, tart cherry juice may help relieve exercise-induced muscle soreness and damage. A 2019 review found that consuming tart cherry juice concentrates before or after strenuous exercise can reduce muscle pain and strength loss.

May benefit heart health

Animal studies show tart cherry juice can reduce certain heart disease risk factors, including high cholesterol and blood pressure. The anthocyanins in tart cherries help relax blood vessels to support healthy circulation. More human research is needed in this area.

Downsides and risks of drinking tart cherry juice concentrate

While tart cherry juice concentrate offers important health benefits, there are some potential downsides to consider:

High in sugar

Since it takes significant cherries to make concentrated juice, it packs a lot of natural sugar. One serving provides 24g of sugar, mainly in the form of glucose and fructose. Consuming too much added or natural sugars can contribute to weight gain and metabolic problems.

Possible digestive issues

The high sugar and acidity of tart cherry juice concentrate may provoke digestive issues in some people, including gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or fructose intolerance may be more susceptible.

Risk of medication interactions

Tart cherry juice can impact how certain medications are broken down and absorbed by the body. Its compounds may interact with drugs like blood thinners, NSAIDs, cholesterol drugs, and diabetes medications. Speak with a doctor before drinking it regularly if you take any prescriptions.

Can trigger gout attacks

While tart cherries may protect against gout in the long run, their high purine content can also trigger painful gout attacks in the short term. People with gout should introduce tart cherry juice gradually and avoid drinking a lot at once.

Who should not drink tart cherry juice concentrate?

Certain individuals should exercise more caution with tart cherry juice concentrate, including:

  • People with diabetes – Due to its high sugar content, tart cherry juice can spike blood sugar levels.
  • Those prone to kidney stones – The high oxalate content may increase kidney stone risk.
  • Individuals taking medications – Potential for interactions with many common medications.
  • People with fructose intolerance – Unable to properly digest the fructose in cherry juice.
  • Children under 12 years old – More research needed to establish safety and optimal dosing.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should also speak with their healthcare provider before regularly consuming tart cherry juice concentrate.

How much tart cherry juice concentrate should you drink?

There is no standard recommended dosage for tart cherry juice concentrate. However, most studies investigating its health effects use around 30ml (1oz) diluted with water once or twice per day.

The concentration can be adjusted based on your personal tolerance. Start with a smaller 4-8oz serving diluted with water and monitor your response. Then gradually work up to larger doses if you don’t experience any digestive issues.

For exercise recovery, try drinking a serving in the days leading up to an event, immediately after, and for a few days after. Consume it with food to minimize any stomach upset.

Is drinking tart cherry juice concentrate safe?

For most healthy adults, drinking moderate amounts of tart cherry juice concentrate diluted with water is likely safe. It poses little risk when consumed for short periods as part of a balanced diet.

However, the high natural sugar content means it’s best limited to one small glass per day. Larger intakes, especially long term, may contribute to weight gain, diabetes risk, and other problems associated with excessive sugar intake.

Additionally, some individuals may experience digestive side effects like diarrhea or abdominal pain from the juice’s acidity and fructose content.

As with any supplement, it’s wise to start with a small amount and avoid exceeding the recommended dosage. Speak with your healthcare provider first if you take medications or have any health conditions.

Conclusion

When consumed in moderation, tart cherry juice concentrate can be a safe, natural way to boost your fruit intake and reap benefits like reduced inflammation, improved sleep, and faster post-workout recovery.

However, it does carry some potential side effects and risks with excessive intake due to its highly concentrated form. To maximize benefits while minimizing adverse reactions, limit intake to 4-8oz diluted per day and monitor your individual response.

Additionally, consult your doctor before adding it to your routine if you have any medical conditions or take prescription medications to avoid complications. Overall, tart cherry juice concentrate can be a nutritious addition to a well-balanced diet for most healthy individuals when used properly.

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