CSherries at bedtime are *always* a good idea.
Because they are rich in melatonin, a hormone your body naturally releases at night that allows you to relax and unwind, studies have suggested that consuming tart cherries may help you sleep more soundly. Research has also shown that eating tart cherries can help when it comes to managing blood pressure and recovering from exercise.
But sweet cherries are not lazy either. “Sweet cherries may offer a host of health benefits ranging from supporting the immune system to helping manage blood pressure, energy levels and sleep,” says Kelly Pritchett, PhD, RD, CSSD, associate professor in nutrition and exercise science at Central Washington University, adding that sweet cherries “are also packed with anti-inflammatory properties and are a low-glycemic index fruit.”
That means whether you’re eating them fresh as a snack, drinking cherry juice, or incorporating cherries into 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 never-so-hurt hydration boost in the form of cherry water. “Especially during the warmer months, that’s something a lot of people struggle with: hydration,” says Dr. Pritchett. “Cherry water can actually encourage the desire to drink more [water]since it tastes delicious.”
Cherry water can be made with sweet or tart cherries, depending on your personal preference. While tart cherries are higher in melatonin than sweet cherries and therefore may be the best choice if restful sleep is what motivates you, Dr. Pritchett notes that sweet cherries also contain this natural hormone and they come with the added bonus of not needing additional sugar to make the drink deliciously sweet.
“Adding sweet cherries to water would be a good alternative if you’re looking to substitute a high-sugar beverage like soda, as the sweetness can satisfy those sugar cravings, plus cherries are also a natural sweetener,” says Dr. Dr. Pritchett says. (And if you’re 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, then straining the mixture through a strainer (unless you prefer to keep the fruit soaking in your glass of water or pitcher while you drink, which in my humble opinion is a super delicious decision).
You can also customize the intensity of your water’s cherry flavor with the amount of fruit you add. Plus, you can infuse your cherry water even more flavor by adding herbs like mint, as recommended by clinical nutritionist Jennifer Fugo, MS, LDN, CNS, in her version of this refreshing summer drink, which also calls for a lemon wedge and involves soaking the cherries in water for just 15 minutes. Basil, rosemary, hibiscus, a squeeze of lime or orange, and/or a dash of cinnamon would be equally delicious to drink with cherries in a chilled glass of H2O.
By the way, using fresh cherries is best for maximum flavor, and the same goes for smashing the cherries with a spoon or potato masher – this will help bring out the freshest cherry flavor. “And to get the most health benefits, I would suggest blending or slicing the skins of the sweet cherries in the water before consuming, as that will help release more of the sweetness,” says Dr. Pritchett. And whether he buys them to eat as a snack or to make cherry water, Dr. Pritchett also makes a point of keeping cherries cold at all times for the best quality and results. “The best advice would be to buy cherries from a retailer that keeps them in the refrigerated case or rotates them frequently,” she says.