Cherries Are Hands Down The Best Food of Summer—Here’s Why
With summer produce hitting the farmer’s market, you might be wondering, “Are cherries good for you?” Below, a registered dietitian explains what to know about the benefits of cherries, cherries nutrition, and cherries calories.
With warmer weather, many people start looking forward to their favorite foods that come into season. Spring and summer are full of incredibly tasty and nutritious fruits and vegetables. One of our personal favorites? Cherries.
Cherries are generally in season starting around the end of April until August, with June being peak cherry season in many states. When produce is in-season, it tastes better because it’s fresher and perfectly ripe. And it tends to be cheaper when it’s in season.
Not only are cherries delicious and currently in season, but they’re also loaded with good-for-you nutrients. Let’s take a closer look at the cherry nutrition facts and health benefits.
Cherry Calories and Nutrition
Cherries are small fruits with pits that come in various colors, like white, yellow, red, and deep purple. The two main types of cherries on the market today are sweet and tart cherries.
All cherries are loaded with beneficial nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
One cup of raw cherries with the pits removed provides about:
- 97 calories
- 2 grams (g) of protein
- 25 grams of carbohydrates
- 3 grams of fiber
- 17 milligrams of magnesium
- 342 milligrams of potassium
- 11 milligrams of vitamin C
- 99 IU of vitamin A
- 6 micrograms of folate
What Are the Benefits of Cherries?
In addition to the delicious flavors and versatile ways cherries can be used, they also provide some amazing health benefits.
Here are eight health benefits of eating cherries.
1. Cherries are nutrient-dense.
You may have heard about empty calories, meaning foods that provide a lot of calories with very few vitamins and minerals. Well, cherries are a great example of a food opposite of an empty calorie.
Cherries are considered a nutrient-dense food, meaning they provide large amounts of vitamins and minerals for a smaller number of calories.
A cup of pitted cherries provides only 97 calories while providing fiber and micronutrients like magnesium, antioxidants, vitamin C, and more.
2. Cherries protect cells from oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress is caused by substances like free radicals that can lead to cell damage.
Antioxidants are compounds found in foods that help protect against free radicals and damage caused by oxidative stress. Getting enough antioxidants to fight off oxidative stress can help lower your risk of several chronic diseases, like heart disease and diabetes.
The type and amount of antioxidants vary based on the variety of cherry. Common antioxidants in cherries are anthocyanins, quercetin, ascorbic acid, and flavanols.
3. Cherries boost exercise and muscle recovery.
Eating cherries could help your muscles recover better after exercise.
A 2021 review of research found that supplementing with tart cherries may improve muscle soreness and the recovery of muscle strength and jump height.
These benefits to exercise and muscle recovery could be related to antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
Exercise places stress on the body and can cause some oxidative stress. Exercise is generally considered a healthy type of stress when done at recommended levels because of the benefits to the body.
Still, finding ways to counteract this stress with things like antioxidants may improve muscle recovery. Consider drinking some tart cherry juice or eating tart cherries after exercise to see how it influences your recovery.
4. Cherries reduce inflammation.
There is a lot of talk about inflammation’s influence on health. In some cases, like swelling after an injury, inflammation can be a sign of healing.
But when you have high levels of inflammation for a long time, it starts to negatively impact your health. Chronic inflammation increases the risk of diseases like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and kidney disease.
Research suggests eating cherries may lower the risk of a few of these inflammatory conditions, including:
- Heart disease
Researchers believe cherries may help lower inflammation because of the nutrients they provide like vitamin E, vitamin C, polyphons, melatonin, and carotenoids.
This means adding cherries to your diet could help keep you feeling healthy long-term and help prevent several health problems.
5. Cherries are heart-healthy.
As mentioned above, cherries may help protect your heart health and lower your risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Eating more fruits and vegetables has long been associated with keeping your heart healthier. And cherries are a great choice for heart health.
Some research suggests drinking tart cherry juice for 4 weeks helped lower “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides in overweight and obese people.
And cherry juice could help with blood pressure levels for a few hours. Two studies found blood pressure levels decreased for 1-2 hours after drinking cherry juice.
6. Cherries may help arthritis and gout symptoms.
Several types of arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and gout, are considered inflammatory diseases.
Both tart and sweet cherries may help with gout and arthritis symptoms.
Many studies show eating cherries helps lower inflammatory markers and proteins in the body, which helps arthritis symptoms.
Cherries appear to help with gout symptoms by lowering inflammation, oxidative stress, and uric acid levels. A study with 633 people who have gout found eating cherries lowered the risk of gout flares by 35 percent.
7. Cherries can help you sleep better.
Eating cherries or drinking cherry juice could provide a boost to your sleep quality. One possible explanation for this is cherries contain a phytochemical called melatonin.
Melatonin helps regulate your body’s sleep-wake cycle. It can be produced by the body and consumed in foods like cherries. The extra melatonin provided in foods could help improve sleep quality, especially for people with trouble sleeping.
One study found tart cherry juice helped increase time in bed and time spent sleeping. Another small study found cherry juice improved sleep quality in older adults with insomnia.
8. Cherries boost brain health.
Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation are a few risk factors for cognitive decline and changes in brain health during aging. So finding ways to lower these factors could keep your brain healthier for longer.
A 2019 study found drinking tart cherry juice daily may improve brain functions like memory and learning.
Another study linked anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant found in cherries, with improved cognitive function in older adults with dementia. After 12 weeks of drinking cherry juice daily, the participants had improved verbal skills, short-term memory, and long-term memory.
Tips for Getting Your Cherry Fix
Both sweet and tart cherries were linked with health benefits. And there are a variety of ways you can add both types to your diet.
Plus, you can add cherry products like unsweetened dried cherries, canned cherries, and cherry juice as a snack or to many different recipes.
Here are some of the ways to add cherries to your diet:
- Enjoy them fresh as a snack or paired with other foods like nuts
- Add to yogurt or oatmeal for added flavor
- Incorporate into a fruit salad
- Freeze cherry juice or blended cherries in popsicle molds for a frozen treat
- Add to fruit smoothies
- Add dried cherries to baked goods or other desserts
- Create a cherry salsa or barbecue sauce
Still curious if cherries are good for you? It’s a resounding yes! Cherries provide a wide range of health benefits and make a delicious addition to many recipes.
And if you like buying fruit in season, now is the perfect time to pick some cherries up.
You could even consider buying them in bulk while they’re in season, pit them, and freeze some to use in recipes in the future.