Cherries are one of the most loved fruits in America. Cherries are not only a great source of healthy compounds in your body, but you can use them for cooking and baking.
There are various types of cherries, but the two main types are tart and sweet cherries. Sweet cherries are often eaten fresh, while tart cherries are often dried, frozen or pressed and sold as cherry juice or concentrate. In the US, the most commonly grown type of tart cherry is Montmorency, and the most commonly grown type of sweet cherry is Bing.
This article explores cherry nutrition, the health benefits associated with the fruit, and some simple cherry recipes.
Cherry Nutrition Facts
Cherries are packed with vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, and fiber. Additionally, cherries calories content is quite low. All these nutrients from the fruit help offer numerous benefits to the body. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), one cup of cherries with no pits contains:
- Calories – 97 kcal
- Sugar – 20g
- Fiber – 3g
- Protein – 2g
- Carbohydrate – 25g
- Potassium – 342mg
- Fat – 0.3g
- Vitamin C – 11mg
- Calcium – 20mg
- Vitamin K – 3.2 mg
- Magnesium – 17mg
- Manganese – 0.1mg
- Iron – 0.5mg
- Fat – 0.3mg
- Copper – 0.1mg
- Vitamin B6 – 0.1mg
Antioxidants are molecules that naturally occur in food and helps the body protect itself from free radicals. Cherries contain numerous antioxidants. In fact, the fruit ranks among the top 20 foods with the highest antioxidant concentration. One cup serving of sweet cherries can carry up to 4,873 antioxidants.
The antioxidants present in cherries include phenols, melatonin, quercetin, perillyl alcohol, and hydroxycinnamic acid. Polyphenol antioxidants include catechins, flavonols, and anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are responsible for the deep red color of cherries and their tart taste. The higher the number of anthocyanins, the more sour the cherry.
A cup of pitted cherries provides 18% of the USDA’s recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin C for persons on a 2,000-calorie diet. Cherries also provide 4% of the RDA of vitamin K and vitamin B6 in one cup. Other B vitamins found in cherries include B1, B3, B2, and B5.
Vitamin C helps keep bones and tissues healthy and minimizes the risk of heart disease, hypertension, osteoarthritis, and cancer. It also acts as an antioxidant to help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body, promotes collagen formation, and plays a role in the healing of wounds.
Vitamin K is essential for proper blood clotting, and vitamin B6 helps in energy metabolism and the synthesis of neurotransmitters and hormones. Eating both vitamin B6 and vitamin K may help reduce the risk of osteoporosis and may help with depression.
Cherries are rich in potassium, magnesium, iron, calcium, copper and manganese. Copper is essential in collagen production. The body also requires copper for maintaining the immune and nervous system, creating energy, and maintaining blood vessels and connective tissues.
Potassium helps regulate your heartbeat and balancing out sodium concentration in the body, offsetting some of sodium’s effects on your blood pressure. Iron is used in making hemoglobin, a protein responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body. It also helps the muscles store and use oxygen.
Cherries are rich in dietary fiber. One cup of sweet cherries contains 3 grams of fiber. Fiber is an important part of a healthy diet. It helps lower the body’s cholesterol level, enhances the feeling of fullness, prevents constipation, reduces the insulin spike, and keeps healthy blood sugar levels. Fiber has also been linked to reducing the risk of colorectal cancer and heart disease.
Cherries have 12mg of phytosterols per 100 grams. They have a high phytosterol content compared to bananas, which have 8 milligrams per 100 grams. Because they have a similar structure to the body’s cholesterol, phytosterols compete with cholesterol for absorption in the digestive system when consumed. As a result, they help lower the levels of bad cholesterol in the body.
What are the Health Benefits of Cherries?
Cherries offer the body numerous health benefits which include:
1. Help Reduce Inflammation
Cherries are packed with numerous antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Antioxidants help protect the body from injury during oxidation — a chemical reaction that produces free radicals. These free radicals start a chain reaction, and if this reaction occurs in a cell, it may kill or damage the cell.
The antioxidant levels in cherries help counter oxidative stress, which causes many chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Oxidative stress is also linked to premature aging. A study found that eating cherries reduced markers of oxidative stress.
Cherries are particularly rich in polyphenol, a group of antioxidants that reduce inflammation, fight cell damage and promote the body’s overall health. Polyphenol-rich diets have been proven to minimize the risk of certain cancers, diabetes, heart disease, and mental decline.
Cherries also contain vitamin C and beta-carotene, both of which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
2. Cherries Promote Heart Health
Consuming nutrient-rich foods like cherries helps promote your heart’s health. Many studies have shown that eating fruits is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. Cherries are especially rich in compounds like antioxidants and potassium that are known to promote heart health.
High intakes of potassium are associated with a reduced risk for heart disease, strokes and overall better heart health since it helps maintain a regular heartbeat, balances sodium levels in the body, reduces sodium’s negative effects on the heart, and helps regulate blood pressure. P
Polyphenol antioxidants such as anthocyanins, catechins, and flavonols promote heart health by reducing inflammation in the heart and protecting it against cellular damage. A study found that people with a high intake of polyphenols had a reduced risk of heart disease.
3. Improve Your Quality of Sleep
Eating cherries may help improve the quality of your sleep. These sleep-enhancing qualities are attributed to the fruit’s high concentration of melatonin, a hormone the body releases in preparation for sleep.
A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that subjects who consumed tart cherry concentrate for a week had higher melatonin levels and reported better sleep quality and longer sleep duration than the control group.
Another study involving older adults with insomnia found that drinking tart cherry juice before sleep increased their sleep time by 84 minutes.
4. Help Speed Exercise Recovery
Research shows that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds present in cherries may help relieve exercise-induced inflammation, muscle pain, and injury. Tart cherry concentrate and juice accelerate muscle recovery, prevent strength loss, and decrease muscle pain in elite athletes.
Some studies also suggest that cherries may enhance athletic performance. A study of endurance runners found that those who consumed powdered tart cherries daily for ten days before a half-marathon ran faster and experienced less muscle soreness.
5. Can Reduce Symptoms of Gout and Arthritis
Because of their anti-inflammatory properties, cherries have been found to help reduce symptoms of gout and arthritis. Gout is a form of arthritis caused by an accumulation of uric acid. This buildup can result in inflammation, extreme swelling, and pain in the joints.
Antioxidants present in cherries are known to inhibit oxidative stress and minimize inflammation by suppressing the release of inflammatory proteins. This helps reduce symptoms related to arthritis.
Anthocyanins present on cherries also help decrease uric acid levels in the body, making cherries beneficial to people with gout.
A study involving ten women found that eating two cups of sweet cherries lowered C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammatory marker, and significantly reduced uric acid levels five hours after consumption. Another study found that cherry intake along with the gout medication allopurinol reduced gout attacks.
6. Promote Brain Health
Degenerative brain disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are caused partly by oxidative stress. Cherries contain large amounts of antioxidants and other beneficial compounds that have protective effects on the brain.
In a study that involved older adults with mild to moderate dementia, it was found that those who consumed cherry juice experienced improvements in short-term and long-term memory and also had improvements in verbal fluency. In contrast, those in the placebo group had no improvements.
7. Strengthen the Immune System
Cherries are rich in vitamins, minerals, and many other beneficial plant compounds that help boost the immune system. The high antioxidant content of tart cherries may also help infections.
In a study researching the effect of cherry juice on upper respiratory tract symptoms (URTS) experienced by marathon runners, it was found that 50% of the runners that were given the placebo developed URTS after the race, while only one of those in the tart cherry group developed symptoms.
What is the Sugar Content in Cherries?
Like all other fruits, cherries contain natural sugars. The sugar concentration in cherries is between 8-20%, depending on the type of cherry and its ripeness. Its most abundant sugar is glucose, followed by fructose. Sweeter cherries have a higher concentration of sugar compared to their sour counterparts.
If you have diabetes, you can only keep your glucose levels within limits by monitoring your carbohydrate intake. Depending on the ripeness, one cup of pitted sweet cherries has about 25 grams of carbs. This is equivalent to about six teaspoons of sugar. On the other hand, one cup of pitted sour cherries has about 19 grams of carbs. This is equivalent to about five teaspoons of sugar.
A half a cup serving of cherries should not be problematic for a person with diabetes. However, different people will react differently depending on their blood glucose levels.
Are There Side Effects of Eating Cherries?
You are unlikely to have an adverse reaction after eating cherries — unless you’re allergic. Like all foods, cherries are to be consumed in moderation. If you eat too many cherries or drink too much cherry juice, it could cause diarrhea.
Some Simple Cherry Recipes
Below are some easy, but very delicious, cherry recipes you can make at home:
Our homemade cherry jam may be a great topping to your bread, ice cream, and waffles. The recipe is simple, and you can use the jam for weeks.
Cherry Barbecue Sauce
For a savory meal, use cherries to make a barbecue sauce that makes a wonderful condiment for chicken.
For a baked good to enjoy at breakfast or as a snack, how about cherry muffins?
- Can I grow cherries from pits? Yes, you can. All you need to do is place your cherry pits in planting medium, water the plant, and monitor its growth.
- How are cherries pitted? There are numerous ways to pit a cherry. You can pass a chopstick to drive the pit out, tear the fruit into two, use a paring knife to cut the cherry in two, or use a paper clip to dislodge the pit.
- What cherries are good for pie? The best cherries for pie are Bing cherries. They are sweet and readily available in the grocery store.
Wrapping Up Cherry Nutrition
Cherries are highly nutritious and delicious fruits packed with numerous vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. They contain various plant compounds that help improve your sleep, reduce inflammation, boost heart and brain health, boost your immunity, and reduce recovery time after exercise. These small red fruits are an essential part of a healthy diet.
To learn more about cherries, visit our Cherry Trees hub page where you’ll find resources on topics such as different varieties of cherries, guides for growing and caring for trees, plus our mouthwatering cherry recipes you’ll definitely want to make!