There are few fruits as satisfying as fresh, sweet cherries eaten straight out of your hands for a nutritious snack. The calories in cherries are minimal in comparison to the wealth of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and health benefits that a handful of cherries provides.
A handful of cherries, which equates to about half a cup, contains 43 calories, with 91 percent carbohydrates, 6 percent protein and 3 percent fat, according to the USDA.
Macronutrients and Calories in Cherries
A typical serving of fresh cherries is about 21 fruits or the equivalent of one cup, according to the Produce for Better Health Foundation. The number of cherries in a handful depends on the size of your hand, but it would likely average about 10 cherries, or half a cup. According to the USDA, a half cup of cherries provides 43 calories, which accounts for 2 percent of the recommended daily value (DV).
The low number of calories in cherries makes them an ideal snack if you're trying to manage your weight. They don't contain cholesterol and provide an insignificant amount of fat. However, like most fruits, cherries are not a particularly good source of protein. The protein in cherries supplies 1 percent of the DV per handful, according to the USDA.
Most of the calories in cherries come from carbs. Carbohydrates are the body's main source of energy and provide the fuel needed to carry out its metabolic functions.
The amount of carbs in one cherry is 1.3 grams. This includes sugar, with the total content in a handful of cherries being 8.8 grams, which accounts for 18 percent of the DV. As the International Food Information Council Foundation points out, experts agree that carbohydrates and sugars in foods can be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet and active lifestyle.
Read more: What Nutritional Value Do Cherries Have?
Cherries and Weight Management
You might assume that such a high content of simple sugars in cherries and other fruits would contribute to weight gain. However, an October 2016 review published in Nutrients found that whole fruit consumed in moderation may actually help prevent obesity and reduce body weight.
The scientists investigated previous research to understand the role of fruit in weight management. They have found that fruits may help prevent obesity and its complications, such as diabetes and coronary heart disease. Furthermore, higher fruit consumption was associated with a lower risk of death from all causes.
Many of these potential benefits are associated with the dietary fiber in fruit. Cherries contain 6 percent of the DV for fiber per half cup, so they provide plenty of this nutrient.
Fiber creates a viscous gel-like substance in your small intestine, which slows digestion and increases the production of satiety hormones. By curbing your appetite, the fiber in cherries may help prevent you from overeating, a major contributor to weight gain. Plus, fiber adds bulk to undigested food and reduces the number of calories absorbed into the body, according to the above review.
Other Nutritional Benefits
Fresh cherries are rich in many vitamins and minerals as well as important antioxidants. The vitamin C in a handful of cherries — about 4.8 milligrams, or 5 percent of the DV, according to the USDA — is necessary for the maintenance of your immune system.
As an antioxidant, vitamin C helps control the formation of damaging free radicals, which are byproducts of metabolism and can also result from environmental factors, such as pollution. These harmful molecules may play a role in life-threatening conditions like cancer and heart disease, warns the Mayo Clinic.
In addition to vitamin C, cherries also contain beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A, which your body needs for a strong immune system, healthy skin and good vision. As a source of some B vitamins — thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, B6 and folate — cherries may support the health of your blood, nerves, brain and other body tissues.
These tiny fruits are a good source of potassium, providing 3 percent of the DV per 10 cherries. Potassium is important for regulating the fluid balance in your body and may help reduce blood pressure, which could protect you against heart attacks and strokes, according to Harvard Health. This mineral is also essential for proper muscle function. Other minerals that contribute to fresh cherries nutrition, per handful, include:
- Calcium: 1 percent of the DV
- Iron: 1 percent of the DV
- Magnesium: 2 percent of the DV
- Phosphorus: 1 percent of the DV
- Copper: 5 percent of the DV
Read more: 5 Health Benefits of Eating Cherries
To sum up, a handful of cherries provides many nutrients and a host of health benefits. When consumed in moderation, these fruits won't cause weight gain. Instead, they will give you a boost of energy and help curb hunger pangs.
- Produce for Better Health Foundation: "How Many Cherries, Strawberries, and Raspberries Are in a Serving?"
- MyFoodData: "Nutrition Facts for Cherries (Sweet)"
- International Food Information Council Foundation: "Background on Carbohydrates & Sugars"
- Nutrients: "Paradoxical Effects of Fruit on Obesity"
- Mayo Clinic: "Antioxidants"
- Harvard Health: "Potassium Lowers Blood Pressure"