Cherries have a long, lush history. They were a favorite fruit among the ancient Romans and Greeks, and there are even historical records that reveal that cherries first arrived in North America in the 17th century. They’re not just popular because of the taste; cherries are a bite-sized superfood, offering many health benefits!
Cherries give you a big boost of essential vitamins and nutrients, namely Vitamin C, potassium, copper, and polyphenols. Cherries also help fight free radicals and can help your body manage stress. They’re rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds as well.
What other magical health benefits do cherries hold? Let’s dig in.
What Types of Cherries Are There?
Tart and sweet cherries are the two main types of cherries produced and eaten in the USA. All varieties of cherries are seriously good for you— nutrient dense and packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
Are Cherries Good for You?
Let’s look at one cup (about 154 grams) of sweet cherries when consumed raw:
Cherries are low in calories and give a big dose of Vitamin C. As we all know, Vitamin C is an important nutrient and a powerful antioxidant that helps to protect your cells against the effects of free radicals. As free radicals play a role in cancer, heart disease, and other diseases it’s important to guard our bodies against them! Vitamin C is also necessary for the growth, development, and repair of all of our body’s tissues and helps to strengthen our immune system.
Knocking 10% of your daily value of potassium out with just one cup of cherries is a big deal as well. The main function of potassium is to help our bodies to maintain normal levels of fluid inside our cells— it aids in supporting normal, healthy blood pressure and helps our muscles to contract.
It’s quite impressive that cherries contain 3 grams of fiber in just 97 calories. Fiber plays a big role in a healthy digestive system and fuels beneficial gut bacteria.
Cherries Are Rich in Antioxidants
Cherries are a great source of antioxidants like beta carotene, zeaxanthin, and lutein— all of which support your health and immune system.
With such a high amount of antioxidants, cherries help to battle oxidative stress. Never heard of oxidative stress? We got you covered. Oxidative stress is a condition linked to multiple chronic diseases. To get a little bit more specific, oxidative stress is an imbalance between the antioxidants and the free radicals inside a body.
Can cherries really help? Well, one scientific review reported that eating cherries reduced the markers of oxidative stress in 8 out of 10 studies and reduced inflammation in 11 out of 16 studies. That’s the power of cherries!
Cherries are especially high in polyphenols. Another big science-y word. Polyphenols are naturally occurring, most abundant in plants— fruits and vegetables mainly. Polyphenols are reducing agents that serve to protect our tissues against oxidative stress (you already got that word down!) and cancers, inflammation, and heart disease.
Studies have shown that a polyphenol-rich diet may guard you against a plethora of chronic conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, mental decline, and certain cancers.
It isn’t a secret or a surprise, that diet impacts the health of your body— and, of course, diet can impact the risk of developing cancer. There are specific foods that researchers and scientists have studied to figure out if there are any foods that are beneficial to the body in the risk reduction, treatment, and recovery of cancer.
In fact, there have been many studies have shown that the antioxidants found in cherries may actually help to slow the growth of cancer cells. There was one study that showed that cherry extract killed and stopped the spread of breast cancer cells. There was another study, conducted on mice, found that certain compounds found in tart cherries were able to reduce the growth of colon cancer cells. Both studies are from highly reputable sources, as published in the National Library of Medicine.
We wouldn’t have guessed it ourselves, but the researchers did— and they proved it! Cherries’ anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds play a role in relieving exercise-induced muscle pain and inflammation. In fact, tart cherry juice has been proven to prevent strength loss, decrease exercise-induced muscle fatigue and pain, and accelerate muscle recovery,
Moreover, there is evidence that points to the ability of cherries to enhance exercise performance. There was a study in 27 endurance runners, some of whom consumed 480 mg of powdered tart cherries daily for 10 days prior to running a half-marathon. Those who consumed the tart cherry powder actually had 13% faster race times and were reported to have experienced less muscle pain and soreness than those who did not consume any cherry products and were in the placebo group.
As bizarre as it sounds, cherries actually help improve sleep quality. There was a small study, that involved just 20 people. These 20 people drank tart cherry juice for 7 days and all reported significant increases in melatonin levels, sleep duration, and sleep quality, compared to those in the placebo group.
There was another small study that occurred over a two-week duration involving older adults with insomnia. The study revealed that drinking one cup of tart cherry juice right before bed actually increased sleep time by approximately 84 minutes. If you struggle with insomnia, you might want to give cherries a try!
The Multitude of Health Benefits of Cherries
Cherries are powerful little superfoods that have powerful health and heart-protective qualities. What’s even better? They’re delicious. They’re well worth adding to your diet— whether you’re looking to boost your immune system, guard against cancer, improve exercise recovery, or sleep better.
Since cherries have a very short growing season, it’s hard to find them fresh year-round. That’s why we put organic cherries into our cherry EatToHeal Real Food Bars. We wanted to put the health-protective benefits of cherries into your hands day in and day out, whenever you need a boost. Now… someone pass the cherries!