Cherry season is just around the corner, but are these super-sweet, bite-sized fruits the kind of good for our bodies? We’ve asked cherry nutrition experts to explain the health benefits of cherries—including sweet and tart—and how to enjoy more cherries in your diet this summer.
Cherries are a great source of vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium, says Jessica Isaacs, an NBA dietitian and NBA recovery advisory board member. Cheribundi. A typical serving of cherries is about a cup of pitted cherries, a quarter cup of dried cherries, or eight 8 ounces of tart cherry juice, he notes.
But what does all this mean for your daily dose? Whatever type of cherries you like to eat, experts break down the health benefits of sweet cherries and even some tart cherries benefits to keep in mind when eating this sweet summer fruit.
A cup of pitted cherries provides a significant source of:
- Calories: 97
- Protein: 2 grams
- Carbs 25g
- Fiber: 3g
- Sugar: 20g
- Magnesium 17mg
- Potassium 342mg
- Vitamin C: 11mg
- Vitamin A: 97 IU
Health benefits of cherries
1. They help you sleep
If you’re looking for a natural sleep aid, research suggests that tart cherry juice or cherry extract can help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Stephanie Nelsonnutrition scientist and registered dietitian for MyFitnessPal says this is because cherry juice can impact your levels of tryptophan, serotonin, and melatonin, which are hormones that manage sleep.
2. Cherries can help fight inflammation
If you’re looking for a plant-based food that fights inflammation, look no further than a bowl full of sweet cherries. Research suggests that consumption of sweet cherries may reduce inflammatory biomarkers in the body and help prevent chronic inflammatory conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, cancer, and heart disease. Isaacs adds that anthocyanins are strongly associated with lower levels of inflammation.
Additionally, Nelson says that cherries contain polyphenols, which are compounds found in plants that have an antioxidant effect. This can protect against damage and slow down the inflammatory process.
3. They can keep your heart healthy
Nelson explains that heart disease is caused by hardening of plaque in the arteries, which forms as part of the inflammatory process. Because cherries can reduce inflammation, they can slow plaque formation and help prevent heart disease. Kelly Pritchetta doctor of health sciences, associate professor of nutrition and exercise sciences at Central Washington University, and a spokesperson for the Northwest Cherry Growers, adds that cherries are high in potassium, so they can also improve high blood pressure.
Also, cherries are one of many foods that can lower cholesterol. Research has been done suggesting that foods rich in anthocyanins (a powerful antioxidant found in brightly colored fruits) increase HDL cholesterol levels and lower LDL cholesterol levels.
4. They can prevent cancer
A recent study has found that dark cherry extracts can be used to treat breast cancer cells in a laboratory and found that they contain anti-cancer agents that can inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
5. They can help you reach your weight loss goals
With 3 grams of fiber per cup (that’s a serving of cherries!), Nelson says that cherries are a solid source of fiber in your diet. This can be especially helpful for someone with a weight-loss goal because high-fiber foods like fruits and vegetables can help with satiety, he adds.
Additionally, Pritchett notes that cherries are a low-glycemic index food, meaning they can help control blood sugar due to their high fiber content. This can generally support your weight loss goals.
6. They can improve the health of your skin
As if the fiber wasn’t enough, cherries are very high in vitamin C, says Nelson, which is needed to make the collagen that forms skin. He points out that a serving of cherries can provide 10 mg of this substance, which is 11% of the daily needs for vitamin C.
7. Cherries can improve training recovery
When experiencing exercise-related muscle damage (such as naturally occurring muscle tears), cherries can help you recover quickly and reduce the pain you experience, says Nelson. Isaacs adds that research indicates that tart cherries can improve endurance exercise performance by increasing oxygen flow to muscles.
8. May promote brain health
Some research also suggests that tart cherries and tart cherry juice contain antioxidants and polyphenols that may have a protective effect on brain cells, says Isaacs. Additionally, Pritchett notes that the anthocyanin in cherries may help improve brain function and vision, as well as memory and cognition in adults.
Should you take cherries fresh, frozen, in juice form, or dried?
The main difference between the type of cherries is that cherry juice lacks the fiber that whole cherries offer, says Nelson. This may limit the benefits of a higher-fiber diet, but cherry juice may provide a higher dose of vitamins and minerals, he says. Isaacs adds that tart cherry juice versus whole cherries may offer more benefits when it comes to maximizing benefits for exercise, sleep, and inflammation.
In general, Nelson says, there’s not much difference between fresh and frozen cherries. You just have to buy what suits you at that time. But Isaacs warns to be careful with dried cherries, which can have added sugar and offer less fiber per serving.
How to enjoy cherries in your diet
- baked. A classic way to enjoy cherries is by incorporating them into some of your favorite candies. We’re always fans of a classic cherry pie, but these Pumpkin Cherry Breakfast Cookies are a total treat.
- sprinkle in your bowl. Whether you like a bowl of cold yogurt or a bowl of hot oatmeal, cherries are an ideal addition to your breakfast bowl.
- in a salad. Summer salads are the perfect opportunity to add your favorite fruits at mealtime. You’ll love a Cherry, Mint, and Pistachio Salad as a side to your next cookout, or try this Roasted Butternut Squash, Pork, and Kale Salad with Cherries as a main course.
- as a side dish. Adding a little sweetness to your classic vegetable side dish can brighten up your seasonal staples. These Cherry Spinach Sautéed Pork Chops are a great way to have a cherry-filled dinner on the table in no time.
- as a sports drink. If whole fruit cherries aren’t for you, Isaacs suggests opting for pure cherry concentrate for on-the-go nutrition during workouts.
- Blend into smoothies. Another option if you want to mix up your cherry drinks is to blend frozen cherries into your favorite smoothie.
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