For such a little fruit, cherries are packed full of antioxidants and other key nutrients.
There is so much good to this tiny, pitted fruit. Cherries boast vitamins B, C and K as well as potassium, manganese, magnesium, copper and iron, according to the USDA. They're low in calories, high in fiber, and they may even help you get a better night's sleep.
Even so, this doesn't mean you should be eating cherries by the barrel.
Is Eating Too Many Cherries Bad for You?
While some people may find they're able to eat a whole bushel of cherries in a single sitting, it's always possible to have too much of a good thing.
The good news: Unless you have an allergy or a sensitive stomach, it's unlikely that overeating cherries will cause serious health concerns.
Eating too many cherries at once could potentially lead to uncomfortable gastrointestinal issues, like gas, cramping and abdominal bloating — these are all possible symptoms of eating too much fruit. So, yes, cherries can cause diarrhea if you eat too many.
Fruits — especially cherries —are rich sources of dietary fiber, which comes from the cell walls of plant foods. Your body can't digest dietary fiber, so it moves through the digestive system mainly intact.
The fiber in fruit is generally considered beneficial for your health: It can, for example, improve bowel function and lower cholesterol levels, per the Mayo Clinic.
For some people, however, eating too much fiber at once can increase gas production, which can lead to stomach pain, per the Mayo Clinic.
Choose Organic Cherries if You Can
It's possible that eating too many cherries that are not organic might put you at risk for exposure to toxins in pesticides, which can result in nausea, along with other symptoms, per the University of Missouri.
According to an Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) analysis of data from the Department of Agriculture in 2019, over 225 different pesticides were found on various fruits. After washing, 90 percent of cherries tested were found to contain two or more pesticides.
Cherries are number seven on the EWG's 2021 Dirty Dozen list, an annual document that lists the foods contaminated with more pesticides than other crops. While there are polarizing debates about whether it's necessary to buy all organic produce, the EWG recommends buying foods on its Dirty Dozen list organic to reduce your risk for pesticide exposure.
Are You Allergic to Cherries?
If you experience symptoms of nausea, vomiting, cramping or diarrhea after eating cherries, you may have an intolerance to them. If your symptoms are more severe, you might have a food allergy.
An allergy to food is an abnormal response to a particular protein in food triggered by your body's immune system. It is possible to be allergic to cherries, especially if you are allergic to birch pollen, per the Mayo Clinic.
Symptoms of a food allergy usually develop within a few minutes to two hours after eating the fruit and may include:
- Tingling or itching in the mouth
- Skin rashes such as hives or eczema
- Swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat
- Wheezing, difficulty breathing and nasal congestion
- Abdominal cramps, vomiting, diarrhea and nausea
- Dizziness or fainting
In rare situations, an allergy to cherries might trigger a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening condition.
The Nutritional Profile of Cherries
Cherries contain virtually no fat or cholesterol. Here's a breakdown of the nutrition in 1 cup of cherries (about 22 cherries):
- 97 calories
- 0.3 g fat
- 24.7 g carbohydrates
- 19.7 g sugar
- 3.2 g fiber
- 1.6 g protein
Cherries are also rich in vitamin C: A 1-cup serving has 10.8 milligrams or 12 percent of your Daily Value (DV).
About 91 percent of the total calories in cherries come from healthy carbohydrates, which your body uses for energy. These carbs are needed to fuel many metabolic and physical processes, including your brain, heart and nervous system.
Carbohydrates are the most important source of energy for your body, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. When you eat carbs, your body turns them into glucose, which is then stored and used for energy powering organs, cells and body tissues.
The Health Benefits of Cherries
We've discussed the good (and potentially bad) fiber-rich cherries can have on your GI health. But the little fruit contains health benefits that go beyond the gut.
1. Cherries May Help Relieve Gout Pain
Cherries contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which may be helpful in treating pain associated with gout, an arthritic condition.
Cherry juice may help reduce levels of serum uric acid in the body — and the buildup of this acid leads to gout. An April 2011 study in Natural Sciences found that 100 percent tart cherry juice significantly reduced the level of serum uric acid levels in participants who drank 8 ounces of the juice every day for four weeks.
Similarly, a December 2012 study in Arthritis & Rheumatology looked at more than 600 people with gout, supporting earlier findings that eating at least 10 cherries daily reduced the risk of gout attacks by 25 percent.
The researchers in this study credit anthocyanins, a flavanol in cherries (and other fruits) that give the fruit its vivid color, as what helps reduce the potential for gout attacks. While more research is needed to understand the relationship between anthocyanins and gout, anthocyanins have been found to have anti-inflammatory effects, according to September 2015 research in Advances in Nutrition and an August 2017 review in Food and Nutrition Research.
2. Cherries May Improve Your Digestion
A 1-cup serving of sweet cherries offers 3.2 grams, or 12 percent DV, of daily fiber. Fiber is a front-runner for keeping your digestive system running smoothly and has also been found to aid in weight loss.
Fiber passes through your body relatively intact, absorbing water and adding bulk to help digested food move through your intestines. By increasing the size of your stool and softening it, fiber helps to relieve constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and other gastrointestinal disorders, per the Mayo Clinic.
3. Cherries May Help You Sleep
Choosing cherries for your late-night snack could mean the difference between a restless night and sweet dreams.
Cherries contain melatonin, a substance that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle, according to a small December 2012 study in the European Journal of Nutrition.
Research also suggests that cherries may help you sleep for longer. In a study of adults with insomnia, those who drank 1 cup of tart cherry juice before bed increased their sleep time by 84 minutes, per a small March 2018 pilot study in the American Journal of Therapeutics.
It's important to note that these studies focused on concentrates of the fruit, so more research is needed to understand whether eating fresh cherries could have similar effects.
- Mayo Clinic: Food Allergy
- Environmental Working Group: "EWG: EWG’s 2021 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce"
- JAMA: Association of Frequency of Organic Food Consumption With Cancer Risk
- Mayo Clinic: "Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet"
- Mayo Clinic: "Gas and gas pains"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Carbohydrates"
- Natural Sciences: "The effect of 100% tart cherry juice on serum uric acid levels, biomarkers of inflammation and cardiovascular disease risk factors"
- Arthritis & Rheumatology: "Cherry Consumption and the Risk of Recurrent Gout Attacks"
- Food and Nutrition Research: "Anthocyanidins and anthocyanins: colored pigments as food, pharmaceutical ingredients, and the potential health benefits"
- Advances in Nutrition: "Anthocyanins"
- University of Missouri: "Pesticide Poisoning Symptoms and First Aid"
- European Journal of Nutrition: "Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality"
- American Journal of Therapeutics: "Pilot Study of the Tart Cherry Juice for the Treatment of Insomnia and Investigation of Mechanisms"