How’s this for a cherry jubilee: that cheeky, shiny red berry helps relieve arthritis symptoms, high blood pressure, and insomnia. We’re giving three cheers for cherry nutrition!
There are many great health benefits of cherries. The cherry is so pretty, and so delicious, many Americans associate it with indulgence. We even have incorporated the cherry into our vernacular: “The pay raise was the cherry on the cake of my day.”
But cherries not only are good, they’re also good for you. So, go ahead. Indulge.
Just make sure you wash them first. Cherries landed on a recent list of “The Dirty Dozen” in produce. The list references types of fruits and vegetables that come with high levels of contaminants. You may want to consider buying organic cherries if you have a little extra money in your budget.
And, remember, while relatively low in calories for a fruit, they are sugar calories if you are counting carbs.
Here are a few more things you should know about cherry nutrition.
Vitamins in Cherries
Cherries contain hearty helpings of vitamins C and E. There are trace amounts of other vitamins in cherries.
Cherries are rich in niacin and folate and are bursting with antioxidants.
Vitamin C is a star member of the cherry nutrition team. Vitamin C is important for building bones and cartilage.
The vitamin C content is an added bonus to eating cherries for arthritis sufferers, who also enjoy rich anti-inflammatory effects from the anthocyanins in cherries.
More Cherry Nutrition Facts
The antioxidants in cherries boost the immune system to fend off disease. Just like all colorful fruits and vegetables, cherries keep you healthy with their antioxidant profile.
Folate is important to the reproductive health of women. People who don’t get enough folate in their diets often report feeling tired and weak.
Niacin is good for heart health and is considered an essential nutrient.
And no quick lesson in cherry nutrition would be complete without mentioning cherries’ overall effect on health: they reduce inflammation. The anthocyanins in Bing cherries, in particular, have shown to bring osteoarthritis suffers relief in clinical studies.
Cherry Juice for Inflammation
Cherry juice usually is used for the treatment of inflammation among people who suffer from arthritis. For gout sufferers, cherry juice for inflammation sometimes offers the only relief they can find.
A 2013 paper in Osteoarthritis in Cartilages showed that two 8-ounce tart cherry juice glasses per day improved mobility and function and reduced pain significantly among subjects in a small clinical trial.
More Benefits of Cherries
The journal Nutrients published a March 2018 analysis of all the current medical research on cherries. The authors, hailing from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Research Service and University of California Davis, cited more than 100 studies. The studies showed cherries can help with:
A better night’s sleep. Studies have shown that both tart and sweet cherries help with sleep, according to the Nutrients analysis. Sweet cherries in particular have been shown to reduce anxiety, according to the paper.
Sore muscle relief. A small sample of 10 professional weightlifters who performed intense weight training showed that cherry juice reduced muscle damage and “significantly” speeded up recovery. The study appeared in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
Arthritis relief (even the acutely painful gout form). Numerous studies point to powers of the cherry for arthritis relief, even in seemingly hopeless cases of acute gout. In fact, the Nutrients paper dated research proving treating gout with cherries (even canned cherries) is effective all the way back to 1950.
Cherry consumption can reduce the risk of gout attack by 35%, according to a 2013 paper published in Arthritis Rheumatology. Using allopurinol prescription medication in combination with cherries reduces the risk of gout attack by 75%, the same study determined.
Reduced blood pressure, triglycerides, and HDL “bad” cholesterol in diabetic women and the obese. The small study, conducted in Iran, included 19 women. The paper was published in the journal Nutrition and Food Science.
The authors of the Nutrients paper categorized the quality of the evidence in the study as “strong” or “limited” as it pertains to the various health claims of cherries.
Strong: “Decreased markers for oxidative stress, inflammation, exercise-induced muscle soreness and loss of strength, and blood pressure acutely after ingesting cherries.”
Limited: “Beneficial effects of consuming cherries on arthritis, diabetes, blood lipids, sleep, cognitive functions and possibly mood.”
Red Cherry or Dark Cherry?
The red cherry, also known as the tart cherry, or Montmorency cherry (a common variety), can be consumed dried, frozen, or in a juice.
Darker cherries, known as sweet cherries, usually are eaten fresh. They can be purplish to black in color.
When it comes to disease-fighting nutrients, red and dark cherries are equally stocked overall. But sweet (dark) cherries contain more anthocyanins, while red (tart) cherries contain more phenolic compounds. Both are antioxidants.
Other Cherry Varieties
The University of California at Berkeley has a web page dedicated to varieties of cherries. In addition to the Bing and Montmorency cherries (which also are referred to as sour or pie cherries), cherry varieties include:
Morello cherries: These cherries are tart. They are dark and used in pies and such.
Rainier and Royal Ann cherries: These are sweet and light in color (pinkish or yellow).
Balaton cherries: These cherries are both tart and sweet.
Finally, you may have heard of the Maraschino cherry. It’s that cherry that comes atop the whipped cream on delectable frozen treats. But, it’s not really a unique strain of a cherry. It has been doctored up to the hilt (Sugar! Food coloring! Bad!) and actually originates as a Rainier or Royal Ann cherry.
If for no other reason, buying organic cherries makes good sense because of their inclusion on “The Dirty Dozen” list. Most experts agree organic fruits and vegetables are tastier and healthier because they are grown naturally and without pesticides.
Other than the “Dirty Dozen” factor, the cherry is so very good for you.