8 Science-Backed Benefits of Cherries

Medically Reviewed By Sade Meeks, MS, RD
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Cherries contain many compounds that may benefit health. Some research suggests that cherries may help reduce inflammation, improve sleep, support heart health, and more. Cherries are stone fruits that come in a variety of colors and flavors. There are more than 100 different types of cherries, but experts typically group them into two main categories: tart or sour cherries (Prunus cerasus) and sweet cherries (Prunus avium).

The nutritional composition and health benefits of cherries depend on several different factors, including the type of cherry and how it is consumed.

This article will discuss some of the evidence-based health benefits of cherries, their nutritional value, and how to incorporate them into your diet effectively.

1. Rich in nutrients

A person holds fresh cherries in their hands with the leaves still attached.
Vradiy Art/Stocksy United

Cherries are a relatively low calorie fruit with significant amounts of important nutrients, such as:

  • antioxidants, such as vitamin C and polyphenols
  • amino acids, such as tryptophans
  • hormones, such as serotonin and melatonin
  • iron
  • potassium

Polyphenols or phenolic compounds are a variety of plant compounds that may offer anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and other important health benefits. A 2018 review suggests that tart cherries have total higher concentrations of different types of phenolic compounds. By comparison, sweet cherries may be higher in one specific type of polyphenol, known as anthocyanins.

As a result, cherries may help you meet your recommended daily intake or recommended daily value (DV) of nutrients. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 1 cup or 140 grams (g) of tart cherries contains the following nutrients:

Nutrient typeAmount
Energy (calories)57.4 kcal
Sugars10 g
Protein0 g or 0% of DV
Carbohydrates13 g or 4% of DV
Fiber0.98 g or 4% of DV
Vitamin C4.76 milligrams (mg) or 8% of DV
Potassium141 mg or 4% of DV
Iron 0.364 mg or 2% of DV
Calcium19.6 mg or 2% of DV
Cholesterol0 mg or 0% of DV
Trans fats0 g or 0% of DV
Saturated fats0 g or 0% of DV

2. Reduces inflammation

Inflammation is the body’s natural defense mechanism against illness or injury. In the short term, it can be helpful. However, research — including this 2019 study — indicates that chronic inflammation may contribute to the development of many chronic diseases.

Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance of antioxidants and free radicals in the body, which can cause cell damage. It is one of the factors that may contribute to inflammation in the body.

Cherries are a rich source of polyphenols and vitamin C, which have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

In fact, a 2019 trial suggests that consuming tart cherry juice regularly over a 12-week period significantly lowers signs of DNA damage, inflammation, and oxidative stress in adults between the ages of 65–80.

Additionally, a 2018 review of multiple clinical trials observed that both kinds of cherries can decrease signs of oxidative stress and inflammation.

3. Helps you recover from exercise

Numerous studies suggest that tart cherries may benefit exercise recovery.

Researchers suggest these effects may be due to their high concentrations of polyphenols. These phytochemicals may reduce oxidative stress and control inflammation and pain similarly to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

For example, researchers from a 2020 meta-analysis observed that tart cherry concentrate in juice or powdered form significantly improved endurance exercise performance among the 10 studies analyzed. Participants took the concentrate anywhere from 7 days to 1.5 hours before testing.

Furthermore, a 2016 trial showed that Montmorency tart cherry concentrate helped recovery for 16 male soccer players after prolonged sprint activity.

4. Improves sleep

According to research, cherries are a good source of melatonin, a hormone that helps control the sleep-wake cycle. Cherries also contain serotonin, another hormone that helps with sleep.

A 2018 pilot study found that cherry juice increased sleep time and sleep efficiency in adults older than 50 with insomnia.

5. Improves joint pain

A 2019 study including participants with knee osteoarthritis showed that consuming 16 ounces (oz) of tart cherry juice daily contributed to:

  • relief of painful symptoms
  • improvement of mobility
  • improved quality of life
  • indications of improved cartilage health

6. Protects cardiovascular health

Inflammation and oxidative stress contribute to the development of many cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Additionally, high blood pressure and high levels of low-density lipoprotein or “bad” cholesterol (LDL) are risk factors for CVD.

However, a 2018 trial observed reduced systolic blood pressure and LDL in adults between the ages of 65–80 who drank 480 milliliters of tart cherry juice daily for 12 weeks. 

7. Addresses gout

Gout is a common form of inflammatory arthritis characterized by severe pain and tenderness in joints. It occurs due to high levels of uric acid in the blood.

A 2019 trial asked 25 adults who were overweight or had obesity — and at risk for gout — to consume 8 oz of tart cherry juice every day for 4 weeks. The results suggested that participants who consumed the juice had lower markers of inflammation and lower uric acid levels compared to the placebo group.

Furthermore, the authors of a 2018 review suggest that cherries can help you maintain moderate uric acid levels in the body, reducing gout flare-ups.

The anti-inflammatory compounds in cherries may also help with gout.

However, some research is conflicting. Researchers from a 2020 study investigated the effects of tart cherry juice and reported that study participants had no changes in their uric acid levels after 28 days. As a result, further research may be necessary to confirm the effects of cherry juice and gout, and what dosage may be effective and safe.

8. Protects against diabetes

Some research suggests that cherries may reduce the risk of diabetes and offer anti-diabetic properties.

Inflammation can promote resistance to the insulin hormone, which may lead to developing type 2 diabetes (T2D). However, anti-inflammatory compounds and other nutrients may help reduce the risk for T2D when a part of a healthy lifestyle.

A 2018 review stated that the nutrients and polyphenols found in both sweet and tart cherries can decrease inflammation and oxidative stress. Additionally, authors of a 2017 study reported that the dietary anthocyanins in cherries may help increase insulin sensitivity, which could potentially help manage diabetes.

Learn more about how to reduce inflammation with an anti-inflammatory diet.

Risks of cherries

Cherries are naturally high in compounds called salicylates. Some people may have allergies or a sensitivity to salicylates. Contact your doctor if you suspect you may have an allergy or sensitivity to salicylates or cherries, or if you experience any new symptoms after eating products that contain cherries, salicylates, or salicylic acid.

Some cherry products such as dried cherries and cherry juice also contain a lot of added sugars, which can negatively impact health when consumed in high amounts. Check the label for sugar content to get the most health benefits from cherries and make sure to wash any fresh produce before eating.

Additionally, the stones in cherries, and the fruit of the cherry itself, can present a choking hazard, particularly for young children or other people at risk of choking.

How many cherries should you eat?

Although cherries contain many healthy compounds, eating a variety of whole foods for an overall balanced diet is the most effective way to support health.

A serving size of cherries for an adult is around 1 cup of cherries. A serving size for children starts at around a quarter cup.

Check with your doctor or a licensed nutrition professional for more personalized advice about what is right for your diet pattern and health. Additionally, contact your doctor before making any significant changes to your diet or before consuming any food in excess amounts.

Summary

Cherries are a rich source of nutrients and phytochemicals that may offer anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties. Some research suggests the bioactive compounds in cherries may help manage various conditions such as inflammation, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Cherries may also improve sleep quality and exercise performance and recovery, as well as contributing to alleviating joint symptoms.

Avoid cherry products that contain high amounts of added sugar for maximum health benefits.

If you believe that cherries may benefit an underlying health condition, talk with your doctor about how to incorporate diet as part of your overall treatment plan.

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Medical Reviewer: Sade Meeks, MS, RD
Last Review Date: 2022 Oct 24
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