Color plays a notable role in how we choose our food. It’s often the first detail we notice while we shop for fresh produce or look at the food on a plate. Research suggests the color red is not only eye-catching but also triggers appetite.
One fruit that is popular because of its color, sweetness, and juiciness is cherry. Not only are they luscious to eat, but it also turns out there are many health benefits to eating a handful of cherries.
How many calories are in cherries? Are cherries good for us? What are the health benefits of cherries? Here’s a look at the various aspects of this fantastic fruit, including:
1. Cherries Nutrition Facts
2. Health Benefits Of Cherries
3. Types Of Cherries
4. Are Cherries Good For You?
The cherry is a fruit of the genus Prunus and is a fleshy drupe (stone fruit). There are two types of cherries: the species obtained from the Prunus avium (sweet cherry) and those derived from the Prunus cerasus (sour cherry).
It is thought that sweet cherries originated in a region between the Black and the Caspian Seas and migrated from Europe along with the colonists in the 1600s.
Cherries got their name from the Turkish town of Cerasus, and Turkey remains the world’s largest cherry-producing region.
We often overlook these little red wonders because we associate them with decadent desserts and sweet cocktail garnishes.
Let’s look at the nutritional value of cherries.
Cherries Nutrition Facts
The USDA provides the following nutrition information for one cup (138 g) of raw cherries with pits. 1<https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171719/nutrients>
There are about 87 calories in one cup of cherries, which is low but can add up if you eat too many. Sour cherries are much lower in calories and higher in vitamin C and beta-carotene than sweet cherries.
One cherry cup provides 22 g of carbs, most of them from natural sugars, and 3 g of fiber. Fresh cherries are considered low glycemic food. 2<https://www.health.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0026/143567/paeds_gi.pdf>
Cherries are very low in fat, with about 1 g to 2 g of fat per cup.
There is 1.5 g of protein in one cup of fresh cherries.
Vitamins and Minerals
Cherries are a good source of vitamin C, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, and folate.
Health Benefits Of Cherries
High In Antioxidants
Cherries are nutrient-dense. They are rich in antioxidants like anthocyanins, quercetin, hydroxycinnamates, carotenoids, and melatonin. These are natural chemicals that help the body deal with day-to-day damage from pollution, inflammation, smoking, exercise, and radiation.
A few studies show that both sweet and tart cherries may help reduce this damage. One study linked drinking tart cherry juice for two weeks with less oxidative damage. 3<https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20944519/>
May Reduce Inflammation
Cherries are one of the best natural anti-inflammatory foods. Among a group of studies investigating the impact of cherries or cherry products on inflammation markers, eleven studies showed a decrease in these markers. 4<https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16549461/ >, 5<https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5872786/
A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition evaluated cherries’ ability to reduce muscle damage and pain during strenuous exercise 6<https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12771324/>
May Help Treat Gout
Gout is a painful, arthritic condition mainly afflicting the big toe. The big toe becomes stiff, inflamed, and sore due to excess uric acid, which leads to crystals forming in joints.
The high uric acid levels are called hyperuricemia, and the pain comes from the body’s natural anti-inflammatory response to the crystals. High uric acid levels can lead to more severe health issues, such as diabetes, kidney disease, and heart disease.
A study published in Arthritis and Rheumatism evaluated 633 individuals with gout treated with cherry extract over two days. The cherry treatment was associated with a 35% lower risk of gout attacks.
When patients were given allopurinol (a medication prescribed for gout and kidney stones) along with cherry juice, the risk of gout attacks was 75% lower.
According to research conducted at Boston University, gout patients who ate three servings of cherries over two days (along with their regular medication) were up to 75% less likely to have a gout attack than those who didn’t eat the fruit. 7<https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23023818/>, 8<https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3510330/>
Improved Sleep Quality
Tart cherry juice is a sleep aid, as cherries are rich in four compounds that regulate sleep: melatonin, tryptophan, potassium, and serotonin. Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain. It is known to regulate the sleep/wake cycle and control the internal body clock. Cherries are one of the best natural sources of melatonin. 9<https://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/journal/2012-05/cherry-juice-supplies-melatonin-and-improves-sleep>
A 2018 study on the health benefits of cherries and a study published in the European Journal of Nutrition suggested a positive correlation between cherry consumption and better sleeping patterns. 10<https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3133468/>, 11<https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22038497/
Cherries are also rich in quercetin, a natural flavonoid associated with potent antioxidant and health properties. Quercetin helps counterbalance the DNA damage caused by free radicals and may help protect and delay heart disease and treat certain cancers, including breast, colon, prostate, and lung. The research suggested that eating 45 cherries daily for 28 days lowered several harmful inflammation markers. 12<https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20944519/>
The anthocyanins in sweet cherries may help prevent heart disease by reducing inflammation and promoting healthy arterial function. One American Heart Association study even tied higher anthocyanin intake to a lower risk of heart attacks in young and middle-aged women. 13<https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.112.122408 >, 14<https://translational-medicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12967-016-1076-5
Cherries provide a decent amount of potassium. We have enough evidence to suggest that foods rich in potassium may help control blood pressure and reduce hypertension and stroke risk.
Potential Workout Buddy
Some studies say tart cherry juice may help combat muscle damage from exercise. One study showed that when marathon runners drank tart cherry juice for a few days pre-and post-race, they experienced less post-race pain. 15<https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1550-2783-7-17>
Another study suggested that when runners drank tart cherry juice twice a day for a week before a long race, they had less pain from running. The drink may have eased muscle damage and pain from the challenging exercise. 16<https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20459662/>
Types Of Cherries
Though there are 1,000 cherries in existence, only a handful are available in stores for consumption. Depending on the variety and size of cherries, the flavor can vary but usually falls into one of two categories: sweet or tart (sour).
The majority of sweet cherries are consumed fresh, with the remaining 20 – 25% brined, canned, frozen, dried, or juiced. In contrast, 97% of tart cherries are processed primarily for cooking and baking.
Montmorency: These are the best-known sour cherries. Their tart flavor makes them less than ideal for snacking but perfect for canning, freezing, pie filling or sauce.
Bing: These are the best-known variety of sweet cherries. They are large, firm, round, extra-sweet and juicy with purple-red flesh and deep red skin. Bing cherries are available from the end of May until early August.
Lambert: This variety is the second most famous kind of sweet cherry. They are smaller in size than Bing and are heart-shaped. They are dark red, have a rich flavor and are great to eat fresh or use in baking, as they maintain their texture when cooked. Lamberts are available from May until the end of August.
Rainer: This variety is sweet with yellow or pinkish skin. It is milder and sweeter than Bing. However, they grow in limited quantities. Cooking these cherries destroys their gorgeous color, so it’s best to enjoy them fresh.
Royal Ann: This variety has a blush-yellow skin and is often canned or made into maraschino cherries, which are artificially sweetened, heavily preserved, and artificially colored bright red.
Cherries can be embraced in a wide variety of dishes, from cocktails and appetizers to side dishes and desserts. Add juicy cherries to your salads, incorporate them into whole-grain dishes, make a BBQ sauce with them or use them in a mocktail to keep you refreshed.
Are Cherries Good For You?
Yes, cherry lovers can indulge to their heart’s content during the summer season. Cherries are a healthy addition to the diet.
A study by Immunity and Disease Prevention Research concluded that cherries have nutrients that may help slow cancer progression, aging, neurological diseases, cardiovascular disease, and inflammatory conditions. They may also aid in the detoxification of foreign substances. 17<https://www.ars.usda.gov/research/publications/publication/?seqNo115=287986>
Cherries have the lowest glycemic index (22 – 20) and glycemic load (6 – 3) of all fruits. And we know that not only do lower glycemic snacks not spike blood sugar, but they also help you get full faster and stay full longer.
Please read article on Glycemic Index
Be sure to thoroughly wash cherries before eating them to remove any pesticides or residue.
Cherry pits contain a chemical called amygdalin. Although you shouldn’t worry if you accidentally swallow one pit, watch out for crushed cherry pits because an excess of amygdalin can cause cyanide poisoning. 18<https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/biochemistry-genetics-and-molecular-biology/amygdalin>
Cherry allergies can sometimes occur, and symptoms may include hives, swelling, vomiting, tightness in the chest and throat, and shortness of breath.
If you have trouble digesting cherries, speak with a dietitian or GI doctor for individual recommendations.
A handful of fresh sweet cherries in the summertime at their peak are a natural gourmet delight.
And in case you want to harness the antioxidant power of cherries regularly, cherry juice concentrate with no added sugars can add a super-nutritious, all-natural kick to your morning smoothie.
Store cherries unwashed and uncovered in your refrigerator for up to a week. Rinse them with water before eating, and do not eat the pits.
Making cherries and cherry products a staple of your diet is a small shift that may translate into long-term health benefits.
What do you think about the article? Have any questions? Let me know in the comments below!
Sources & References