Whether it’s your off-season or post-run, it’s important to recover properly - and tart cherry concentrate can help year-round.  Immediate replenishment of carbohydrates and protein can decrease delayed onset muscle soreness and inflammation while enhancing muscle repair.  It is preferable to consume these nutrients in whole foods, as opposed to supplements with isolated nutrients, because whole food has been shown to best reduce post-exercise inflammation.  Tart cherries are a prime example.  Research has shown that those who consumed 2 to 3 tablespoons of tart cherry concentrate (depending on the brand) - either made into a drink by diluting with water or added to a smoothie after an event such as a race - enjoyed a faster muscle recovery.  With high antioxidant properties, tart cherry concentrate also can help decrease inflammation both in- and out-of-season.

In a recent study, athletes who had consumed tart cherry juice lost only 4 percent of their pre-test strength, compared with 22 percent of strength lost by members of the control group who did not consume the cherry juice.  In another study group of runners, fewer runners experienced delayed onset muscle soreness as a result of adding cherry juice to their diet.

Tart cherries are helpful to non-athletes as well because they are known to help reduce pain and inflammation associated with both fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis.  However, it’s not just any cherries; tart cherries are the kind used in baking pies, not the sweet cherries enjoyed as snacks. Tart cherries have higher antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  Tart cherry concentrate is most economical and has a thick, syrup-like consistency.  One ounce of cherry concentrate is equivalent to approximately 45 to 60 cherries, which is enough to reduce inflammatory markers in healthy men and women.

Whether you add cherry concentrate to your smoothie, dilute it into a flavored water beverage, or take it by the spoonful - use caution.  Tart cherry concentrate can add up quickly in calories, which range from 160 to 260 per day and may result in weight gain unless you adjust other fruit and carbohydrate servings to accommodate.  An easy way to include tart cherries into your diet is to work them in with your current routine, say in a small smoothie.  If you normally have a small smoothie as a snack or with breakfast, add a tablespoon of tart cherry concentrate.  Or try this easy tea recipe to sip on.

Tart Cherry Tea
All you need:
1 bag of plain black tea
1 cups hot water
1/2 tsp honey
1 to 2 tbsp tart cherry concentrate
All you do: Steep tea in cup for 3 to 5 minutes.  Remove the tea bag and stir in the honey and tart cherry concentrate until dissolved.  Enjoy!

Amber Kastler, MFCS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian for Hy-Vee in Fort Dodge. She received a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master of Family and Consumer Science degree from Iowa State University in Dietetics.  Contact Amber at (515) 576-1330 or akastler@hy-vee.com.

This information is not intended as medical advice.  Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.