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Big Leaguers Embracing Tart Cherry Juice for Inflammation, Sleep Benefits

September 16, 2022 by Dan McCue
Toronto Blue Jays' George Springer, right, celebrates his two-run home run against the Tampa Bay Rays with Whit Merrifield (1) during the seventh inning of the second baseball game of a doubleheader Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022, in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)

Major League Baseball players have rarely been cited as paradigms of good eating.

When New York Yankee Babe Ruth, perhaps the greatest of them all to this day, collapsed at a railroad station in Asheville, North Carolina, in April 1925, sportswriter W.O. McGeehan of the New York Tribune, wrote the Sultan of Swat’s delicate condition was caused by a “hot dogs and soda binge.”

Others jumped on the story, attributing Ruth’s illness, which caused him to be rushed to St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York, to a “crazed hot dog eating binge that had him consuming anywhere from 12 to 18 dogs before finally passing out.”

The legend of “The Bellyache Heard Round the World” was born.

While many have tried to emulate the Babe’s home run hitting prowess, few if any have attempted to match him at the trough.

Today, at best, a few admit to being junk food junkies.

Current Mets pitching star Jacob deGrom, for instance, told The New York Times in 2018 that a favorite — and regular meal — consisted of a McDonald’s Big Mac with large fries, a large Mountain Dew and two double cheeseburgers.

But a report this week from MLB.com suggests a new, healthier trend is being embraced by players across the league — regularly drinking tart cherry juice to reduce inflammation, reduce their overall stress and get a better night’s sleep.

Studies on tart cherry juice and its potential benefits for athletes and those who are striving to stay fit are not new.

What is still relatively new — at least in the context of Major League Baseball — is teams hiring nutritionists or dieticians to alert players to those benefits.

Researchers agree that tart cherry juice contains many antioxidant and anti-inflammatory polyphenol compounds, and its melatonin properties are beneficial for sleep.

Becci Twombley, longtime nutritionist for the Anaheim Angels regularly encourages players to drink dark cherry juice, promoting its ability to deliver “better blood flow and less pain.” 

Matt Monagan, the author of the MLB.com piece, reports that the Pittsburgh Pirates’ official website has a section of a page on the positive effects. 

So accepted has tart cherry juice become that some players have even taken to endorsing it.

These include Toronto Blue Jays right fielder and three-time MLB all-star George Springer, and former Yankee outfielder Brett Gardner.

The good news is, if one wants to emulate their MLB heroes, tart cherry juice is easy to find on store shelves.

But New York Mets dietician Carsan Dittman told MLB.com’s Monagan that it is important to purchase the right kind.

“It’s best to use something that you know is coming from a food as opposed to a supplement, unless it’s certified,” she said in an interview with the author. “That’s so you know exactly what’s in the bottle or what’s on the label is actually in the bottle. But it’s best to go with a food-based choice.” 

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

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