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However short-lived the cherry season may be, these vibrant and sumptuous berries are always in demand. Often regarded as a dessert fruit, cherries are popular worldwide due to their unique flavor, which strikes the perfect balance between sweet and tart.
To say that cherries are celebrated solely for their taste would be a gross understatement though. If we come down to counting the various health benefits that cherries have to offer, we are likely to run out of fingers.
The Healthy Perks of Adding Cherries to Your Diet
Here are 10 health benefits of cherries.
1. Eases pain and inflammation
Those who suffer from pain, such as arthritis pain, should add cherries to their diet. This is because cherries contain high levels of anti-inflammatory flavonoids and anthocyanins that help reverse oxidative damage, which is often the cause of pain and inflammation in the body. (1)
It can even reduce painful inflammation by decreasing the amount of C-reactive proteins produced in the body.
A 2012 study published in Medicine and Sports Science reports that tart cherries have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, which can be helpful in the prevention, treatment, and recovery of soft tissue injury and pain. (2)
Plus, cherries help reduce excess uric acid in the blood, which is often culpable for tenderness and inflammation in the body as well as the excruciating pain that accompanies it.
2. Helps you sleep better
Tart cherries are one of the few dietary sources of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the body’s internal clock and, consequently, the sleep-wake cycles.
Thus, cherries work as natural sleep aids by increasing exogenous melatonin in the body, which helps induce sleep. Moreover, it has been found to improve the quality and increase the duration of sleep as well. Thus, the melatonin derived from cherries might be just the thing you need to shake off a pesky case of jet lag.
Furthermore, a 2010 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food suggests that tart cherry juice can modestly improve sleep in older adults with insomnia. (3)
Another 2012 study published in the European Journal of Nutrition states that consumption of tart cherry juice promotes better and longer sleep in healthy men and women and can be used to effectively manage disturbed sleep patterns. (4)
If you are having a problem in sleeping, aim to drink ½ to 1 cup of tart cherry juice twice daily.
3. Reduces muscle soreness
Cherries, especially tart cherries, exhibit a mitigating effect on muscle pain. Rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, tart cherries are highly beneficial for people suffering from muscle pain, arthritis, or fibromyalgia.
These cherries are particularly helpful against post-workout cellular wear and tear and help offset muscle damage in athletes and regularly active individuals.
A 2010 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition reports that intake of 24 ounces of tart cherry juice for seven days prior to and during a strenuous running exercise can help reduce the post-race muscle pain. (5)
Another 2010 study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, highlights that tart cherries can aid the recovery of muscle function following strenuous exercise by increasing total antioxidative capacity and reducing inflammation and lipid peroxidation. (6)
4. Lowers gout attack risk
Both sweet and sour cherries are beneficial in treating gout due to their antioxidant properties. Plus, they help reduce inflammation and minimize gout flare-ups.
A 2003 study published in the Journal of Nutrition shows consumption of cherries lowers plasma urate in healthy women, which supports the reputed anti-gout efficacy of cherries. (7)
A 2012 study published in the Arthritis & Rheumatism found that patients with gout who consumed cherries over a two-day period showed a 35% lower risk of gout attacks than those who did not eat the fruit. (8)
Furthermore, the study went on to suggest that the risk of gout flare-ups was 75% lower when cherry intake was combined with a uric acid-reducing drug.
For gout patients, eating 15 to 20 cherries a day is highly recommended.
5. Decreases belly fat
Belly fat, the most stubborn fat in the body, is hard to burn off. Cherries, however, make the task a tad easier. They have high concentrations of antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins that help regulate genes involved in fat and glucose metabolism.
Plus, owing to their high fibrous content, supplementing your diet with cherries can keep you feeling full longer and save you from unwanted binge eating and mid-meal snacking.
Also, they contain many B vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, and vitamin B6, which boost metabolism and aid in converting food into energy. To top it all, cherries have a low-calorie count, which makes them the perfect snack when you’re looking to shed that rigid abdominal flab.
A study by the University of Michigan Health System reports that obese rats fed with tart cherry powder mixed into a high-fat diet for 90 days had lower-weight retroperitoneal fat, a type of belly fat that has been associated with high cardiovascular risk and inflammation in humans. (9)
In addition, they had significantly lower blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides than rats that were not given the tart cherry powder.
6. Supports heart health
Cherries also provide several cardiovascular benefits, which can be traced back to the high levels of antioxidants, known as anthocyanins, present in them.
The anthocyanins help regulate genes involved in fat and glucose metabolism, serve as free-radical scavengers to fight oxidative stress, and lower bad cholesterol, all of which help your heart remain in good shape. Plus, cherries are very high in potassium, which helps to regulate heart rate and blood pressure and reduces the risk of hypertension. (10)
A 2013 study by The University of Michigan Health System suggests that the cardiovascular benefits of tart cherries are similar to those engendered by prescribed medications in reducing the risk of strokes, even when taken with pharmaceutical options. (11)
Another study published in Circulation in 2013 suggests that bioactive compounds in red and blue fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack) in young and middle-aged women. (12)
7. Improves memory
The antioxidant-rich composition of cherries makes them especially helpful in keeping your memory intact and may even enhance your memory recall.
Antioxidants play a key role in improving memory, learning, and various other cognitive functions. They protect the brain from free radicals, which can harm healthy tissue and are associated with memory decline. They also protect against age-related cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
A 2017 study published in the European Journal of Nutrition reports that consumption of anthocyanin-rich cherry juice for 12 weeks resulted in improvement of memory and cognition in older adults with mild to moderate dementia. (13)
Enjoy a handful of cherries daily for a snack to keep your memory sharp and intact for years to come.
8. Slows the aging process
As you grow older, your body’s ability to fight off oxidative damage dissipates, leaving you more vulnerable to signs of aging. Cherries can work as a safeguard against wrinkles, fine lines, and other reminders of advancing age as they are loaded with free-radical-fighting antioxidants.
The oxidative damage wreaked by these free radicals leads to an acceleration of the aging process. The damage entails removing electrons from cells, thereby creating weak, unhealthy cells in the process.
As cherries contain an abundance of 17 antioxidants including anthocyanins and melatonin (an efficient antioxidant), try to drink at least 1 glass of cherry juice daily.
9. Lowers blood sugar
Cherries also aid in controlling blood glucose level. They score a 22 on the glycemic index (GI), which means the fruit does not significantly raise blood sugar levels and is safe for diabetic people.
In a 2004 study published in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers found that in animal pancreatic cells, anthocyanins increased insulin production by 50%. (15)
Thus, cherries are recommended as a preferable munchie for patients with diabetes as these fruits may even end up lowering their blood sugar levels.
Another 2008 study published in Nutrition & Food Science reports that consumption of 40 g/day of concentrated sour cherry juice decreases body weight, blood pressure, and HbA1c in women with type 2 diabetes after six weeks and improves blood lipids in patients with diabetes alongside hyperlipidemia. (16)
They also help fight heart disease, cancer, and other diseases common among people with diabetes. If you have diabetes, enjoy ½ cup of cherry juice every day.
10. Reduces the risk of cancer
Along with high levels of antioxidants, cherries possess one of the most potent anti-cancer flavonoids called quercetin, which protects the body against cancer by fighting free radicals in the body.
Anthocyanins even help keep cancerous cells from growing out of control. They also contain numerous phytochemicals and nutrients that can help reduce the risk of cancer.
Plus, the high dietary fiber in cherries lowers the risk of colorectal cancer. Fiber also helps in maintaining optimum body weight. This is important in reducing cancer risk, as excess body fat increases the risk of several cancers.
A 2003 study published in Cancer Letters shows that tart cherry anthocyanins inhibit tumor development in mice and reduce proliferation of human colon cancer cells. (17)
Nutritional Content of Cherries
Abundantly supplied with antioxidants and several other health-promoting polyphenols and phytosterol compounds, cherries are one of the healthiest fruits to exist. (18)
They are also a good source of dietary fiber, potassium, protein, and vitamins A and C. In addition; they contain copper, manganese, magnesium, iron, calcium, phosphorus, and zinc.
Nutritional value of cherries per 100 grams:
- Water – 82.25 g
- Energy – 63 kcal
- Protein – 1.06 g
- Total lipid – 0.20 g
- Carbohydrate – 16.01 g
- Fiber – 2.1 g
- Sugars – 12.82 g
- Calcium, Ca – 13 mg
- Iron, Fe – 0.36 mg
- Magnesium, Mg – 11 mg
- Phosphorus, P – 21 mg
- Potassium, K – 222 mg
- Zinc, Zn – 0.07 mg
- Copper, Cu – 0.06 mg
- Manganese, Mn – 0.07 mg
- Fluoride, F – 2.0 mcg
- Vitamin C – 7.0 mg
- Niacin – 0.154 mg
- Folate – 4.0 mcg
- Choline, total – 6.1 mg
- Vitamin A – 64 IU
- Lutein + zeaxanthin – 85 mcg
- Vitamin K – 2.1 mcg
Precautions With Cherries
- Consuming sweet cherry in food amounts is generally considered safe for most adults. The same holds true for the medicinal intake of cherry, so long as it does not extend beyond a short-term period of 3 months. As far as the long-term medicinal use of sweet cherry is considered, the jury is still out on that one.
- People who are sensitive to sweet cherry can occasionally experience allergic symptoms.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women should limit their intake of sweet cherry to food amounts in the interest of their own health as well as their baby’s. There is still a lot of ambiguity regarding the safety of consuming larger medicinal amounts in this vulnerable state, and therefore should be avoided.
Cherries boast a nutritional composition that can be the envy of all other items in your fruit basket. Adding them to your daily diet can help improve your health in different ways.
Sweet cherries are best eaten fresh, while sour cherries are often used in cooking or for garnishing as well as to make juice concentrates.