American consumers live in a culture that is ­constantly on the go. Lifestyles that allow no rest for the weary are actually leaving people just that — sleep deprived. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 50 to 70 million adults in the US suffer from sleep-related disorders, and one in three adults report being tired during daylight on a daily basis.  

Daylight Saving Time is just around the corner on March 9, just a blink from when it ended back in November, and that can further complicate sleep rhythms. “Getting proper sleep has never been more important,” said Carol Ash, MD, director of sleep medicine for Meridian Health, Neptune, NJ. “Inadequate sleep is considered a risk factor for obesity, heart disease and other chronic diseases.”

Although Americans are spending more money than ever on over-the-counter sleep aids, they can actually find benefits in the foods they choose to eat. “Instead of shopping for solutions in the pharmaceutical aisle, consumers should consider switching up what they eat and drink,” Dr. Ash suggested. “Simple steps, such as adding tart cherries to the daily diet, may help people be better — more efficient — sleepers.”

According to the Cherry Marketing Institute, Lansing MI, research has shown that the phytonutrients found in tart cherries — anthocyanins, which give them their sweet-tart flavor and bright red color and are a natural source of melatonin — can actually aid in sleep benefits. For example, the phytonutrient content in tart cherries may help ­reset the body’s internal clock to establish regular sleep patterns.

Better sleep isn’t the only benefit attached to tart cherries. This superfruit packs a powerful punch when it comes to marketing foods that tout health benefits. Food- and health-savvy consumers are looking for foods that do more than satisfy a craving. In fact, according to an IRI webinar in 2010, 68% of consumers used food to manage or treat a health condition, and since 2008, natural or unprocessed foods and superfoods have consistently ranked closely behind whole grains, high fiber and “low-in” claims as important product attributes for maintaining good health.

As consumers seek foods with perceived health benefits, products containing tart cherries will fit the bill, especially during the month of February, which is not only National Cherry Month but also the American Heart Association’s official heart health awareness month.

Products such as scones, cornbread, shortbread and muffins create opportunities to incorporate cherries into formulations and market products to consumers looking to improve their overall health. Forms such as dried and frozen tart cherries are available year-round (along with tart cherry juice) and lend themselves well to baking applications. For additional information, visit www.cherryprocessor.comor www.choosecherries.comfor formulation suggestions.