Cherry season is upon us, but are the super sweet, bite-sized fruits even doing our body any good? We asked cherry nutrition experts to break down the health benefits of cherries—including sweet and tart cherries—and how to enjoy more cherries in your diet this summer.
Cherries are one of the most loved fruits. The small, sweet, and tart fruit is not only a delight to the taste buds, but is also packed with umpteen health benefits.
Cherries: A Healthy Choice
Whether you like them sweet or tart, these deep red fruits pack a healthful punch. Cherries are low in calories and chock full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and other good-for-you ingredients. You’ll get vitamins C, A, and K. Each long-stemmed fruit delivers potassium, magnesium, and calcium too. They also bring antioxidants, like beta-carotene, and the essential nutrient choline.
May benefit heart health
Increasing your intake of nutrient-dense fruits like cherries is a tasty way to protect your heart.
Many studies show that diets rich in fruits are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease (12Trusted Source).
Cherries are particularly beneficial in this regard, as they’re rich in nutrients and compounds that are known to promote heart health, including potassium and polyphenol antioxidants.
Just 1 cup (154 grams) of pitted, sweet cherries provides 10% of the DV for potassium, a mineral that is essential for keeping your heart healthy.
It’s needed to maintain a regular heartbeat and helps remove excess sodium from your body, regulating your blood pressure.
Soothe sore muscles
Studies of long-distance runners indicate that tart cherries and tart cherry juice may ease inflammation and soothe sore muscles after a workout. “The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of cherries work like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen for reducing or preventing pain. However with cherries, you don’t have the risk of harmful side effects such as potential gastrointestinal, kidney and possible heart issues,” says Sedlacek.
Benefits of Sweet Cherries
Thanks to their inflammation-fighting anthocyanins, much of the research involving sweet cherries has looked at their potential impact on chronic inflammatory diseases.
In studies that have shown benefits of cherries, the possibilities are promising. An early study by Kelley and colleagues at the USDA, published in the Journal of Nutrition, found that a daily dose of 45 sweet cherries reduced levels of C-reactive protein (an inflammatory marker) in the blood by 25 percent after 28 days.
May help prevent or manage diabetes
Research shows that antioxidants called anthocyanins in cherries may decrease blood sugar levels by slowing how sugar is broken down from complex carbohydrates and affecting hormones that help regulate blood sugar and insulin.1
Cherries rank lower than many fruits on the glycemic index.1 That means they don’t trigger spikes and crashes in your blood sugar and insulin levels.
Can Cherries Help You Lose Weight?
It’s unclear if noshing on cherries directly leads to weight loss, but they can fit into a weight loss diet, says Kirby Walter, RDN, of The Nourish RD in Chicago. Cherries are a good source of fiber, and high-fiber diets have been linked to weight loss, per a study.right up arrow
Fiber has a satiating effect, helping you feel fuller for longer and preventing overeating.
Additional characteristics make fresh cherries weight loss friendly.
Benefits for sleep
According to a 2013 studyTrusted Source, cherries are a rich, natural source of melatonin, which is a neurotransmitter that influences sleep and mood. Melatonin can be useful for those who have insomnia, as it is the chemical that induces sleepiness.
Another 2013 studyTrusted Source involved participants aged between 20 and 85 years. Among other outcomes, the researchers studied the effects on sleep of those who ate a cherry-based product and those who had a placebo.
Maintain brain function
Anthocyanins present in cherries have been associated with improved cognitive function and memory. These powerful antioxidants help protect brain cells from oxidative stress and reduce the risk of age-related neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
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When consuming cherries, it is important to keep in mind portion sizes. While cherries are healthy, they do contain natural sugars and should be enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.
What are the side-effects of cherries?
If you have a sensitive stomach, then excess consumption of cherries may lead to diarrhea, gas, or bloating. Moreover, eating too many cherries can also lead to allergic reactions. Experts also warn that people with diabetes should consume cherries cautiously.