6 Benefits of Cherries, a Bite-Sized Superfood

By: Molly Apel
April 15, 2020

6 Benefits of Cherries, a Bite-Sized Superfood

  • Cherries are a nutrient-dense superfood loaded with vitamins and minerals.
  • Studies show cherries can help your body manage stress, improve your sleep, speed up recovery after a workout and even help balance your mood.
  • Fresh, dried or frozen, cherries can be added to smoothies, meals or eaten frozen as a sweet, satisfying dessert. Find delicious and nourishing recipes below.

Cherries are packed with delicious nutrition. They give you a bite-sized boost of essential vitamins and nutrients, including potassium, copper, vitamin C and polyphenols. Cherries also support workout recovery, help fight free radicals and even help you sleep better, among other benefits. Plus, they’re just as great frozen as they are fresh. Who knew this little fruit was so good for you? Read on to learn the health benefits of cherries, plus delicious recipes to put cherries to work.

What do cherries do for your body?

Cherries scattered on pink background

Instead of reaching for a potassium-packed banana to balance your electrolytes and eliminate muscle cramps after a run, grab two handfuls (1 1/2 cups) of cherries to get the same boost of potassium. Just 1 cup of cherries delivers more copper than Chinook salmon, more than half the magnesium of raw spinach and the vitamin C of half a lemon.

In addition to satiating fiber, cherries are also loaded with polyphenols, melatonin, carotenoids and vitamins E and C. These vitamins and nutrients have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers that reduce many plasma serum levels (blood markers) for oxidative stress and inflammation.

Translation: Cherries are a nutrient-dense superfood that give your body a dose of beneficial antioxidants. Keep reading to learn the unique benefits of cherries for your workout, sleep quality and mood.

6 health benefits of cherries

1. Speed up exercise recovery

Man doing pushups

Looking for a boost to speed recovery after your workout? Pass the cherries — specifically, tart cherries. Research shows that tart cherry juice helps reduce sore muscles and supports recovery after workouts.

  • A scientific review of the human health benefits of cherries, focusing on marathoners, triathletes and water polo players, overwhelmingly showed that tart cherry juice reduced the pain of sore muscles recovering from exercise.[1]
  • Another study of 54 marathon runners drank either a glass of tart cherry juice or a placebo every day for a week before running a race. Those given the cherry juice reported significantly less muscle pain after the race.[2]
  • In several studies, athletes who drank tart cherry juice showed lower levels of creatine and lactate, the blood markers that indicate post-exercise muscle damage.[3]
  • Another study showed athletes recovered their strength faster with the help of the antioxidant power of of the juice of Montmorency cherries, a particular variety of tart cherry.[4]

2. Support a healthy inflammation response

Two glasses of tart cherry juice

Cherries contain polyphenols, micronutrients that give many fruits and vegetables their color and make those foods powerful antioxidants. One type of polyphenol, anthocyanin, which gives dark cherries their color, has been found to suppress the body’s release of inflammatory proteins that causes pain and soreness.[5] Studies have also shown that tart cherry juice was effective in reducing the painful uric acid build up in the extremities, like the feet or ankles, experienced by people with gout.[6] [7]

3. Help your body fight free radicals

Bowl of whole and pitted cherries

Cherries pack a powerful antioxidant punch. You want antioxidants in your diet to help fight free radicals, which your cells produce when they use energy or get exposed to oxidative stress. Too many free radicals can damage cells and contribute to inflammation. Antioxidants help support a healthy inflammation and immune response.

Studies have found that cherry polyphenols help protect your body from disease.[8] Monoterpenes, substances that give cherries their smell, may have the ability to stop cancer cells from successfully multiplying.[9] Pretty impressive for such a tiny fruit.

4. Help you sleep better

Woman sleeping in bed

Want more restful sleep? Add cherry juice to your diet. Cherries contain melatonin, a hormone that synchronizes your body’s adrenal and digestive systems, balancing your circadian rhythms and helping your body regulate sleep.[10] [11] In a study of volunteers who drank tart cherry juice concentrate for a week, participants reported that they slept longer and better than participants who were given a placebo.[12]

5. Support mood

Woman smiling at laptop

Cherries can have the same relaxing effect as a turkey dinner. The tryptophan in turkey is an essential player in your body’s process of making serotonin, a neurotransmitter that can help improve your mood and memory. Cherries contain both tryptophan and serotonin, giving them extra power to balance brain function and your overall mental health. A study of cherries grown in Spain’s Jerte Valley found this variety to be a particular good source of tryptophan.[13]

6. Help balance blood sugar

Person holding bowl of cherries over laptop

Of all fruits, cherries rank as one of the lowest fruits on the glycemic index and in glycemic load. Cherries have a glycemic index of 22, which will raise your blood sugar about half that of an apple or orange. In comparison, pure sugar ranks at 100. This means cherries won’t spike your blood sugar as much as other fruits. Maintaining stable blood sugar is a lifestyle factor that reduces your risk of insulin resistance, the precursor to diabetes.[14]

Related: This Is Your Brain on Sugar (Trust Us, It’s Not Pretty)

Cherries make a satisfying, healthful dessert

Smoothie bowl with cherries

Fresh, dried or frozen, you can keep cherries in your kitchen all year round. Canned cherries, while convenient, often contain added sugar or fewer vitamins and minerals. Instead, try cherries in these forms:

  • Fresh: Get them at your farmer’s market for the best flavor straight off the tree. To keep them longer, store them in a paper bag in the fridge. Don’t wash them until you’re ready to eat them.
  • Dried: Find dried cherries in your grocery store’s bulk foods section. The flavor is concentrated and gives a sweet-tart pop to salads, trail mix or cookies. It’s easy to go overboard with dried fruits. Watch out for added sugars or oils, such as vegetable or canola oil, and limit your serving size.
  • Frozen: For a popular, simple, satisfying dessert, try a cup of frozen cherries. As they melt in your mouth, the flavor fills your tongue with sweet-tart goodness. You can find frozen cherries at your local grocery store, or freeze them yourself — find out how to do it below.

Delicious cherry recipes

However you add cherries to your diet, you can do it with the confidence that you’re packing in more vitamins and nutrients your body needs. That’s one sweet benefit.

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