Learn about 15 top health benefits of sweet cherries and why you should be sure to add this amazing fruit to your diet.
While sweet cherries are often a frequent flyer in beach coolers and summer fruit salads, we’re here to tell you that you should be eating this fruit all year round!
Cherries have a delightfully sweet taste. They’re firm on the outside and juicy on the inside. There are many types of cherries, but we’re excited to share the health benefits of sweet cherries! Sweet varieties grown in the Pacific Northwest include Rainier, Bing, and Chelan — to name a few.
Their great taste, nutrient composition, versatility, and endless health benefits make sweet cherries a great addition to any diet.
Nutrition Information Of Sweet Cherries
*Per 1 Cup, No Pits (1)
- Energy | 97 kcal
- Carbohydrates | 25 g
- Sugar | 20 g
- Protein | 2 g
- Fiber | 3 g
- Vitamin C | 11 mg (18% DV)
- Potassium | 342 mg (10% DV)
- Manganese | .1 mg (5% DV)
- Copper | .1 (5% DV)
- Vitamin K | 3.2 mg (4% DV)
- Vitamin B6 | .1 mg (4% DV)
- Magnesium | 16.9 (4% DV)
If you need a refresher on Percent Daily Value (DV) and what it means, you can find that right here.
15 Health Benefits Of Sweet Cherries
This small stone fruit deserves its time in the spotlight, so let’s dive right in!
1. Antioxidant Power House
So, we hear about antioxidants all the time, but what exactly are they?
Well, we all have these molecules called free radicals in our bodies. They’re essentially incomplete molecules. Free radicals are produced during the digestion process or when we’re exposed to harmful environmental factors such as radiation or air pollutants. An excessive amount of free radicals is associated with cell damage, illness, and aging – this is referred to as oxidative stress.
In comes antioxidants! Antioxidants find the free radicals in the body and fix or complete them, so they no longer are able to cause any damage.
Antioxidants In Cherries
Thankfully, sweet cherries are a powerful source of antioxidants. The presence of polyphenols, melatonin (yes, this is an antioxidant, too!), carotenoids, vitamin E and vitamin C all perform wonders in the body.
Because of this, cherries have been proven to protect the body from various disease states such as heart disease, cancer and type II diabetes (2).
2. Promotes A Restful Night Of Sleep
We often hear of melatonin in supplement form, where those struggling to fall asleep will use it to ‘hit the hay’ sooner. Yet contrary to popular belief, we don’t necessarily need a supplement to reap the benefits of melatonin. You can find melatonin in sweet cherries and various other food items!
Studies have shown that both the quality of sleep and the number of hours obtained can be significantly increased with the consumption of sweet cherries (3, 4).
The presence of serotonin, melatonin, and tryptophan are to thank for the regulation of sleep cycles (5).
3. Reduces Effects Of Chronic Inflammation
Inflammation isn’t new and it’s something many of us experience! Cherries have the ability to significantly decreased nitrous oxide concentrations and pro-inflammatory factors (6).
Consuming cherries was found to decrease plasma concentrations of eight biomarkers associated with inflammatory diseases (7).
The polyphenols in cherries may minimize or prevent inflammation and oxidative stress, which may be risk factors for diseases like arthritis, diabetes, cancer, and hypertension (8).
4. Relief From Gout Attacks
Arthritis is a result of inflammation, making anti-inflammatory agents a must for recovery. Gout is a specific form of arthritis that causes bouts of joint pain. The pain is a result of an excessive amount of uric acid in the blood. While this pain often occurs in the joint of the big toe, it may present itself in other joints as well.
The anti-inflammatory properties of cherries can significantly reduce the symptoms of gout. Daily consumption of cherries has been proven to reduce the amount of uric acid in the blood to normal, resulting in relief from gout attacks (9, 10).
They have actually been compared favorably to NSAID controls using ibuprofen and naproxen to alleviate gout symptoms (11)!
5. Lowers Cholesterol
One of the many health benefits of cherries includes the ability to lower cholesterol. Cherries have been specifically proven to reduce VLDL (bad) levels and improve triglyceride to HDL (good) cholesterol ratios in humans (13).
To further prove the positive impact of cherries on heart health, mouse and rat models have been used. Cherry extract decreased liver triglycerides and even prevented the development of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease with a high-fat diet in mice and rats (14,15).
6. Reduces Blood Pressure
Cherry consumption has also been proven to reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in young and elderly adults (16).
Research suggests that the phenolic acids found in cherries and produced by anthocyanin metabolism have vasorelaxant and antihypertensive properties that help reduce and prevent blood pressure (17).
Our heart health is heavily dependent upon both our cholesterol and blood pressure. In order to help keep things in check, add some sweet cherries to your diet!
7. Prevents & Helps Treat Type II Diabetes
Cherries are an ideal carbohydrate source for those with type II diabetes. As far as fruit goes, cherries are naturally low on the glycemic index. This essentially means they do not cause a significantly high blood sugar spike or insulin response when consumed.
Ultimately, current evidence suggests that cherries can promote healthy blood sugar regulation!
8. Boosts Mood
Not only are they great for physical health, but cherries have also been associated with improved mental health. Sweet cherries, in particular, have been shown to decrease cortisol levels and therefore anxiety (19). They have also been associated with an overall improved mood (20).
By adding cherries to your usual diet, you can potentially boost your mood and reduce mild anxiety.
9. Reduces Symptoms Of Arthritis
The anti-inflammatory properties of cherries that diminish gout symptoms work just as well to inhibit symptoms of other forms of arthritis.
Just as we mentioned above, their powerful antioxidant presence has the ability to significantly reduce oxidative stress. This, therefore, reduces the presence of inflammatory proteins that may exacerbate symptoms of arthritis (21).
10. Enhances Memory
Who doesn’t need a boost in memory retention? Various human studies have shown a correlation between cherry consumption and improved memory and cognitive function in adults with dementia (22, 23).
To further understand the connection between cherries, their nutrient composition, and memory, trials have also been conducted on rats and animal models. Anthocyanins were able to improve memory in animal models and even prevent Alzheimer’s disease (24, 25, 26).
11. Decreases Chances of Cancer Development
There is also a connection between cherry consumption and decreased cancer development.
More specifically, research has shown that cherries reduce the chances of developing pancreatic, breast, liver, colon, skin and lung cancers. Their perillyl alcohol content in addition to their phenolic compounds are to thank for this (27,28,29)!
12. Reduce Risk of Heart Disease
It’s important to also mention their anthocyanin content in this regard. Anthocyanins found in cherries inhibit lipid peroxidation and interfere with inflammation, which ultimately can reduce cardiovascular risk factors (31).
In combination with their cholesterol and blood pressure-lowering capabilities, cherries are a particularly heart-friendly fruit.
13. Vitamin C and Heart Health
With just 1 cup containing 15% of the DV of Vitamin C, sweet cherries are an excellent source of vitamin C. In recent years, Vitamin C intake has been associated with reduced risk of heart disease and even early death (30).
14. Aids Weight Maintenance
The fiber content in addition to the low glycemic properties of cherries makes them excellent for aiding weight maintenance.
The fiber in cherries helps us to stay full longer, while the naturally low glycemic load of cherries prevents any significant spikes or drops in blood sugar. This combination is ideal for weight maintenance (32)!
15. Reduces C-reactive Protein
The anti-inflammatory properties of cherries go beyond gout and arthritis relief.
Cherries have been specifically shown to reduce C-reactive protein (CRP) (33). C-reactive protein is the major blood marker for inflammation. High CRP levels may lead to a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.
Thankfully, there are some great compounds in cherries that specifically target CRP. Anthocyanins, vitamin C and other phenolic acids help to minimize the impact of and prevent high CRP levels.
Plus, 5 Ways To Enjoy!
There are so many different ways you can add sweet cherries to your diet.
First, they’re great fresh as a snack on their own during the summer months — just be careful of the pits!
Second, you can reap the health benefits of sweet cherries beyond the summer season by enjoying them frozen, dried, or naturally preserved. I recommend stocking up on extra sweet cherries during the summer months and freezing them to use throughout the year.
Third, try sweet cherries in smoothies, oatmeals, baked goods, and desserts.
Fourth, get creative and use sweet cherries as an addition to savory recipes as well like a Massaged Kale Salad.
Lastly, you can use sweet cherries in compotes and sauces.