Benefits of Cherries: 8 Science-Based Health Effects
The nutritional composition and health benefits of cherries depend on several different factors, including the type of cherry and how it is eaten.
This article will discuss some of the evidence-based health benefits of cherries, their nutritional value, and how to effectively incorporate them into your diet.
Cherries are a relatively low calorie fruit with significant amounts of important nutrients, such as:
- antioxidants, such as vitamin C and polyphenols
- amino acids, such as tryptophans
- hormones, such as serotonin and melatonin
- the iron
Polyphenols or phenolic compounds are a variety of plant compounds that may offer anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and other important health benefits. A 2018 report suggests that tart cherries have higher total concentrations of different types of phenolic compounds. In comparison, sweet cherries may be higher in a specific type of polyphenols, called anthocyanins.
Therefore, cherries can help you reach your recommended daily allowance or recommended daily value (DV) of nutrients. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 1 cup or 140 grams (g) of tart cherries contains the following nutrients:
Inflammation is the body’s natural defense mechanism against disease or injury. In the short term, this can be useful. However, research – including this one study 2019 — indicates that chronic inflammation can contribute to the development of many chronic diseases.
Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance of antioxidants and free radicals in the body, which can damage cells. This is one of the factors that can contribute to inflammation in the body.
Cherries are a rich source of polyphenols and vitamin C, which have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
In fact, a Trial 2019 suggests that regular consumption of tart cherry juice over a 12-week period significantly reduces signs of DNA damage, inflammation and oxidative stress in adults aged 65-80.
Additionally, a 2018 report Several clinical trials have observed that both types of cherries can reduce signs of oxidative stress and inflammation.
Numerous studies suggest that tart cherries may benefit physical recovery.
Researchers to suggest these effects may be due to their high concentrations of polyphenols. These phytochemicals can reduce oxidative stress and control inflammation and pain similar to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
For example, researchers from a Meta-analysis 2020 observed that tart cherry concentrate in juice or powder significantly improved endurance exercise performance among the 10 studies analyzed. Participants took the concentrate between 7 days and 1.5 hours before the test.
Additionally, a test 2016 showed that Montmorency tart cherry concentrate helped the recovery of 16 male soccer players after prolonged sprinting activity.
According to research, cherries are a good source of melatonin, a hormone that helps control the sleep-wake cycle. Cherries also contain serotonin, another hormone that helps with sleep.
A study 2019 including participants with knee osteoarthritis showed that consuming 16 ounces (oz) of tart cherry juice daily helped:
- relief of painful symptoms
- improved mobility
- improved quality of life
- signs of improved cartilage health
Inflammation and oxidative stress to contribute to the development of many cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Additionally, high blood pressure and high levels of low-density lipoprotein or “bad” cholesterol (LDL) are risk factors for CVD.
However, a Trial 2018 observed a reduction in systolic blood pressure and LDL in adults aged 65 to 80 who drank 480 milliliters of tart cherry juice daily for 12 weeks.
Gout is a common form of inflammatory arthritis characterized by intense pain and tenderness in the joints. It occurs due to high levels of uric acid in the blood.
A Trial 2019 asked 25 overweight or obese adults — and at risk for gout — to consume 8 oz of tart cherry juice every day for 4 weeks. The results suggest that participants who consumed the juice had lower inflammation markers and uric acid levels compared to the placebo group.
Moreover, the authors of a 2018 report suggest that cherries can help you maintain moderate levels of uric acid in the body, thereby reducing gout flare-ups.
However, some research is conflicting. Researchers from a study 2020 studied the effects of tart cherry juice and reported that study participants had no change in their uric acid levels after 28 days. As a result, more research may be needed to confirm the effects of cherry juice and gout, and what dosage may be effective and safe.
Some research suggests that cherries can reduce the risk of diabetes and offer anti-diabetic properties.
Inflammation can promote resistance to the hormone insulin, which can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes (T2DM). However, anti-inflammatory compounds and other nutrients can help reduce the risk of T2DM when part of a healthy lifestyle.
A 2018 review stated that the nutrients and polyphenols found in sweet and tart cherries can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. Moreover, the authors of a study 2017 reported that the dietary anthocyanins in cherries may help increase insulin sensitivity, which could potentially help manage diabetes.
Learn more about how to reduce inflammation with an anti-inflammatory diet.
Cherries are naturally bred in compounds called salicylates. Some people may have allergies or sensitivity to salicylates. Contact your doctor if you think you have an allergy or sensitivity to salicylates or cherries, or if you experience any new symptoms after eating products containing cherries, salicylates, or salicylic acid.
Some cherry products, such as dried cherries and cherry juice, also contain a lot of added sugars, which can have a negative impact health when consumed in large quantities. Check the label for sugar content to get the most health benefits from cherries, and be sure to wash all fresh produce before eating.
Additionally, the pits of cherries and the cherry fruit itself can pose a choking hazard, especially to young children or others at risk of choking.
Although cherries contain many healthy compounds, eating a variety of whole foods for an overall balanced diet is the most effective way to promote health.
Consult your doctor or a licensed nutrition professional for more personalized advice on what is right for your diet and health. Also, contact your doctor before making any significant changes to your diet or before consuming foods in excessive amounts.
Cherries are a rich source of nutrients and phytochemicals that may offer anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Some research suggests that the bioactive compounds in cherries can help manage various conditions such as inflammation, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Cherries may also improve sleep quality, exercise performance, and recovery, while helping to relieve joint symptoms.
Avoid cherry products that contain high amounts of added sugar for maximum health benefits.
If you think cherries may benefit an underlying health condition, talk to your doctor about how to incorporate the diet into your overall treatment plan.