Baked in a pie or freshly picked off the tree, cherries are popular for their distinctive taste. But flavor is not the only benefit these fleshy stone fruits bring to the table: Cherries are packed with valuable nutrients that can protect your skin, heart and digestive system.
You may not think to add cherries to your grocery bag until you see them fresh at a farmers' market, but they're worth incorporating into your everyday meals.
"Cherries are a great addition to any diet, so be sure to add them to your shopping list when they are in season," says Mia Syn, RDN. "I encourage eating a rainbow of produce to vary your intake of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Eating with the seasons is one easy way to do that."
Here are the delicious perks you can expect when you dig into a bowl of cherries.
Nutritional Value of Cherries
One cup of sweet cherries with pits (about 21 cherries) is equal to a single serving. One cup of sweet cherries contains:
- Calories: 87
- Total fat: 0.3 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
- Sodium: 0 mg
- Total carbs: 22.1 g
- Dietary fiber: 2.9 g
- Sugar: 17.7 g
- Added sugar: 0 g
- Protein: 1.5 g
Minerals and Vitamins in Cherries
Sweet cherries are packed with vitamins and minerals that can benefit your health. One cup of sweet cherries contains:
- Vitamin C: 11% of your Daily Value (DV)
- Copper: 9% DV
- Potassium: 7% DV
- Vitamin B5: 5% DV
- Magnesium: 4% DV
- Manganese: 4% DV
- Riboflavin (B2): 4% DV
- Thiamin (B1): 3% DV
- Vitamin A (IU): 3% DV
- Iron: 3% DV
Vitamin C in Cherries
Cherries are particularly rich in vitamin C, which plays a role in healing wounds and controlling infections, and acts as an antioxidant that can neutralize harmful free radicals, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Free radicals are highly unstable molecules that are created when you digest food, exercise or are exposed to environmental factors like air pollution, sunlight and cigarette smoke, per the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
These free radicals cause oxidative stress, which can trigger cell damage and is believed to play a role in several diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and eye diseases, per the NIH.
Vitamin C is also required to form collagen. Low levels of collagen can lead to wrinkles, crepey skin, less flexible tendons, joint pain, osteoarthritis, weakening muscles or even gastrointestinal problems due to the thinning of the digestive tract lining, per the Cleveland Clinic. Collagen declines naturally with age, but another main reason people don't get enough is a poor diet.
Copper in Cherries
Like vitamin C, copper is required for collagen production, per the Cleveland Clinic. Your body also needs copper to carry out essential functions like creating energy, connective tissues and blood vessels, and this mineral also helps maintain your nervous and immune system, per the NIH.
Although copper deficiency is rare in the United States, it can cause extreme fatigue, lightened patches of skin, high cholesterol levels and connective tissue disorders.
Potassium in Cherries
One cup of cherries provides 7 percent of your DV for potassium, an electrolyte that keeps your heartbeat regular and helps to offset some of sodium's negative effects on your blood pressure, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).
Potassium is found in fruit like cherries, plus leafy greens and root vegetables.
B Vitamins in Cherries
These vitamins help you make energy from the food you eat and create red blood cells, per the NLM. Even though B vitamins are largely found in animal products, you'll find B1, B2, B3 and B5 in certain plant foods like cherries. In particular, this sweet fruit provides 5 percent of the DV for vitamin B5.
Pantothenic acid, or vitamin B5, is critical for the creation of sex- and stress-related hormones in the adrenal glands, per Mount Sinai. It also helps the body use other vitamins, especially vitamin B2.
Iron in Cherries
Although a cup of cherries only contains 3 percent of the DV for iron, it's worth highlighting because your body needs this mineral for many functions.
Iron makes up hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen throughout our bodies — and helps your muscles store and use oxygen, per the NLM. With too little iron, you may develop iron deficiency anemia.
Fiber in Cherries
One of the main benefits of this delicious fruit is fiber: One cup has 2.9 grams, which can help you reach the daily recommended amount of 25 to 38 grams per day (or 14 grams for every 1,000 calories you eat), per the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Most Americans fall short of fiber, even though it's an essential nutrient that packs impressive benefits. Fiber helps you feel full, lower your cholesterol, prevents constipation and keeps blood sugar within a healthy range.
Research shows that getting enough fiber intake is linked to a lower risk of heart disease, which is the top cause of death in the U.S. Every 10 grams of fiber per day is linked to a 15 percent lower risk of death from ischaemic heart disease in a large May 2012 study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Sterols in Cherries
Cherries contain 12 milligrams of phytosterols per 100 grams, according to a November 2013 review in the Journal of Environmental Science. In comparison, pears contain 8 milligrams per 100 grams and bananas contain 16 milligrams per 100 grams.
Plant sterols are known for their ability to lower LDL "bad" cholesterol and may also have anti-cancer properties, note the authors of the review.
Antioxidants in Cherries
What's more, this fruit is rich in anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant. "Research suggests sweet cherries contain more anthocyanins than tart cherries," Syn says.
Anthocyanins are linked to lower heart disease risk and cancer cell growth, per an October 2015 report in the Journal of Food Processing & Technology.
- MyFoodData: "Cherries (Sweet)"
- Cleveland Clinic: "The Best Way You Can Get More Collagen"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Vitamin C"
- National Institutes of Health: "Antioxidants: In Depth"
- National Institutes of Health: "Copper"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Potassium"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "B Vitamins"
- Mount Sinai: "Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Iron"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Easy Ways to Boost Fiber in Your Daily Diet"
- The University of Sydney: "Glycemic Index Research and GI News"
- European Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Dietary fibre intake and ischaemic heart disease mortality: the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition-Heart study"
- Journal of Environmental Science: "The Role of Phytosterols Enriched Foods-A Review"
- Journal of Food Processing & Technology: "Health benefits of anthocyanins"