Travelers may be able to help fight jet lag by packing tart cherries into their carry-on bags, according to scientists cited by the Cherry...

Travelers may be able to help fight jet lag by packing tart cherries into their carry-on bags, according to scientists cited by the Cherry Marketing Institute (CMI).

Cherries, known for their powerful antioxidant and phytonutrient profile, are linked to potential health benefits in numerous studies, according to the CMI. They are one of the few known, researched food sources of melatonin, a potent antioxidant produced naturally by the body to help regulate biorhythm and natural sleep patterns.

“Dried cherries are one of my favorite travel snacks,” says Stephanie Michaels, a travel expert and the ‘Adventuregirl’ blogger. “Not only are they delicious, but they’re also super-portable. Mix them with walnuts, another melatonin-rich food, and you’ve got a great trail mix that may help you sleep better and re-set your body clock, so you’re ready to go when you land.”

According to Russel J. Reiter, Ph.D, one of the world’s leading authorities on melatonin, cherries are believed to be one of the most concentrated food sources of melatonin. The body of research conducted by Reiter at the University of Texas Health Science Center has revealed that a handful of cherries contain more melatonin than the amount normally found in the blood. The extra melatonin may help a traveler’s body get in sync with a new time zone when he or she travels.

“Travelers will often consume melatonin supplements to help regulate their sleep-wake cycle during long-haul flights,” says Reiter. “But choosing cherries may be a natural alternative.”

Consuming tart cherries, whether in the form of dried cherries, whole fruit or cherry juice, may help travelers avoid the worst effects of jet lag, according to scientists cited by the Cherry Marketing Institute. This is because tart cherries are naturally high in melatonin and other antioxidants, as well as phytonutrients

Studies suggests melatonin works best when consumed one hour prior to the desired sleep time on the plane and for three or more consecutive evenings after arrival, depending on the number of time zones crossed.

Packing the right foods and beverages can be key to helping avoid jet lag and making travel easier and more comfortable, according to Michaels. Her top travel-nutrition tips include:

● Hydrate. Make sure to stay hydrated while flying, with non-caffeinated or non-alcoholic beverages. Purchase a bottle of water in the terminal to avoid becoming thirsty;

● Eat foods rich in melatonin, like tart cherries, to help regulate the natural sleep cycle, ease jet lag and restore normal sleeping patterns when traveling; and

● Prepare for delays with convenient, portable snacks. Pre-packing a trail mix with dried cherries, favorite dried cereal, chocolate chips and nuts can be a life-saver when stuck in the terminal. It’s a healthier option than fast-food and is just as quick, but is better for you.

The Cherry Marketing Institute is an organization funded by North American tart cherry growers and processors. CMI’s mission is to increase the demand for tart cherries through promotion, market expansion, product development and research.

For more information on the science supporting the unique health benefits of cherries and for cherry recipes and menu ideas, visit