For such a little fruit, cherries are bursting with antioxidants and other key nutrients. Even so, this doesn't mean you should be eating them by the barrel.
Here's what can happen if you eat a lot of cherries, plus what to keep in mind about serving size.
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Unless you have a food allergy, it’s unlikely that eating too many cherries will cause serious health concerns.
1. You Could Have Digestive Issues
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. In this case, eating cherries can make you poop and lead to gastrointestinal issues.
Eating too many cherries can cause a stomachache and other digestive symptoms, including:
These are all possible symptoms of eating too much fruit high in fiber, like cherries, apples or pears, per the Cleveland Clinic. So, while you likely won't get sick from eating too many cherries (unless you have an allergy — more on that in a minute), overdoing it can leave you with some uncomfortable side effects.
Cherries Are High in Fiber
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 great for your health: It can help improve bowel function and lower cholesterol levels, per the Mayo Clinic. For some people, though, eating too much fiber at once can increase gas and lead to stomach pain as well as diarrhea, per the Mayo Clinic.
They Contain Sorbitol
What's more, cherries contain sorbitol, a natural sugar alcohol that can cause gastrointestinal discomfort, including gas, bloating and diarrhea when eaten in excess, per Food Insight.
Some People May Have a Cherry Intolerance
Symptoms of a food intolerance include stomachache, bloating, gas and diarrhea as well as heartburn and nausea, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Cherries aren't one of the more common food intolerances (those are lactose, gluten, eggs and nuts), but it's possible to have a cherry intolerance.
If that's the case for you, though, you would experience these symptoms whenever you eat cherries, not just when you eat a lot of them.
If you are dealing with digestive upset from eating too many cherries, you can try taking an anti-gas pill like Gas-X ($13.29 for 72 tablets, Amazon) or an anti-diarrheal medication like Immodium ($11.98, Amazon). You could also try drinking water slowly or doing gentle movement like walking or stretching to relieve symptoms, per the Mayo Clinic.
2. Your Blood Sugar May Spike
If you have trouble regulating your sugar, whether you have diabetes or hyperglycemia, eating foods high in sugar can cause blood sugar spikes.
While both natural sugars (like those in cherries) and processed sugars (like those in baked goods) release glucose into the body, it's the rate at which they do so matters more, per UCLA Health.
Natural sugars in fruit tend to release more slowly because of their fiber content, which helps keep blood sugar levels rather steady. This is why it's OK for people with diabetes to eat fruit as an essential part of their diet. Processed sugars, on the other hand, will release glucose quickly and cause a rapid spike in blood sugar (not what we want), per UCLA Health.
So, if your blood sugar does spike after eating cherries, it could mean you ate them with sugars that break down quickly (like in a cherry pie, for example).
Note: Cherries have about 13 grams of sugar per 1-cup serving, according to the USDA. And they have a glycemic index (GI) of anywhere from 22 to 41. Anything from zero to 55 on the chart is considered low, per The University of Sydney.
A good way to determine if foods will cause a blood sugar spike is with the glycemic index (GI) chart, per Harvard Health Publishing. Aim to eat foods lower on the glycemic index scale, ideally, foods with fiber and other essential nutrients. If you test your blood sugar after eating cherries and it is high, try taking a brisk walk or getting another form of exercise, as this can help regulate blood glucose levels, per UCLA Health.
3. You Might Have an IBS Flare
Unfortunately, if you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), eating certain foods like cherries could cause a flare in symptoms, resulting in bloating, gas, diarrhea and abdominal cramping, per the Mayo Clinic.
Cherries are high in FODMAPs — a group of carbohydrates (sugars) that can trigger IBS symptoms. FODMAPs are not absorbed properly in the small intestine in those with IBS, leading to digestive distress, per Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Other foods high in FODMAPs include the following, per the Cleveland Clinic:
- Onions and garlic
- Dairy products
- Sugar alcohols found in some fruits
Additionally, fruits that are high in fructose — like apples, pears and dried fruit — can also trigger uncomfortable IBS symptoms, per Johns Hopkins Medicine. Fortunately, cherries only have about 4 grams of fructose per serving, according to the USDA, so they may be fine in smaller quantities. But eating a lot of cherries at once may make you uncomfortable.
Try eating a low-FODMAP diet and avoid eating cherries to see if your symptoms subside. If you do eat cherries and experience an IBS flare, take any medication that's been prescribed by your doctor, or over-the-counter medication to reduce diarrhea like Immodium, or a laxative if your IBS causes constipation, like Miralax ($16.89, Amazon), per Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Or, you can try taking a digestive enzyme, like Beano ($11.98, Walmart), prior to eating cherries and other IBS-triggering foods to reduce symptoms.
4. Rarely, You Could Have an Allergic Reaction
If you experience symptoms of nausea, vomiting, cramping or diarrhea after eating cherries, you might be allergic to them.
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 causes swelling of the face, mouth and throat, hives and difficulty breathing. This is a life-threatening condition; call 911 or visit your nearest emergency room as soon as possible if you have these symptoms.
Is It Food Poisoning?
Sometimes, if you eat bad cherries, rotten fruit or other foods that contain bad bacteria, you can get food poisoning, which will lead to symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. Some common germs that are found on raw fruits and vegetables include listeria, salmonella and E. coli, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Always make sure your produce is thoroughly washed, and make sure you're not eating rotten or moldy fruit.
If you do get food poisoning from cherries, the best thing to do is ride out the symptoms and stay hydrated with plenty of water and electrolytes like potassium and sodium — which can be found in Pedialyte ($5.46, Walmart). If symptoms persist, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic if the poisoning is caused by a bacteria, per the Mayo Clinic.
How Many Cherries Should You Eat a Day?
A typical serving size of cherries is 5 ounces, or about 21 cherries. This amount serves up 90 calories, 3 grams of fiber and a healthy dose of potassium and vitamin C, per the USDA.
For some people, eating anything more than the serving size per day could cause stomach upset, diarrhea or an increased frequency of poop.
If you are going to eat a serving of cherries per day, make sure you are not chewing or swallowing the pits, as they can be toxic when eaten in large amounts.
The Bottom Line
Eating too many cherries is not necessarily bad for you, but it can cause digestive upset, a blood sugar spike, an IBS flare or an allergic reaction in some people, depending on your health history.
While eating a serving size per day might not cause digestive upset, eating even a small amount can trigger symptoms in some people if they have conditions like IBS or allergies.
If you do experience any of the symptoms mentioned when eating cherries, talk to your doctor to rule out an allergy or intolerance. They can refer you to an allergist for a skin prick test or blood test for proper diagnosis, or to a gastroenterologist if you suspect you have an irritable bowel.
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