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Cherries are small stone fruits that come in a variety of colors and flavors. There are two major categories — tart and sweet cherries, or Prunus cerasus L. and Prunus avium L., respectively.
Their colors can vary from yellow to deep blackish-red.
All varieties are highly nutritious and packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
One cup (154 grams) of sweet, raw, pitted cherries provides (1Trusted Source):
These nutrients, particularly fiber, vitamin C, and potassium, benefit health in many ways.
Vitamin C is essential for maintaining your immune system and skin health while potassium is needed for muscle contraction, nerve function, blood pressure regulation, and many other critical bodily processes (2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source).
Cherries are also a good source of fiber, which helps keep your digestive system healthy by fueling beneficial gut bacteria and promoting bowel regularity (4Trusted Source).
Plus, they provide B vitamins, manganese, copper, magnesium, and vitamin K.
The high concentration of plant compounds in cherries may be responsible for this fruit’s many health benefits.
Though the amount and type can vary depending on the variety, all cherries are packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.
This high antioxidant content may help combat oxidative stress, a condition that is linked to multiple chronic diseases and premature aging (5Trusted Source).
In fact, one review found that eating cherries effectively reduced inflammation in 11 out of 16 studies and markers of oxidative stress in 8 out of 10 studies (6Trusted Source).
These stone fruits also contain carotenoid pigments like beta-carotene and vitamin C, both of which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties as well (6Trusted Source).
Tart cherries and their juice seem to be more effective than sweet varieties, though both may aid athletes.
Tart cherry juice and concentrate have been found to accelerate muscle recovery, decrease exercise-induced muscle pain, and prevent strength loss in elite athletes, such as cyclists and marathon runners (6Trusted Source).
Additionally, some evidence suggests that cherry products may enhance exercise performance.
A study in 27 endurance runners demonstrated that those who consumed 480 mg of powdered tart cherries daily for 10 days before a half-marathon averaged 13% faster race times and experienced less muscle soreness than a placebo group (10Trusted Source).
Though most studies exploring the links between cherries and exercise involve trained athletes, tart cherry juice may benefit non-athletes as well.
A study in 20 active women noted that those who drank 2 ounces (60 ml) of tart cherry juice twice daily for 8 days recovered quicker and had less muscle damage and soreness after completing repeated sprint exercises, compared to the placebo group (11Trusted Source).
Though promising, these findings are related to concentrated cherry products, such as juice and powder. It’s unclear how many fresh cherries you would need to eat to produce similar results.
Increasing your intake of nutrient-dense fruits like cherries is a tasty way to protect your heart.
Many studies show that diets rich in fruits are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease (12Trusted Source).
Cherries are particularly beneficial in this regard, as they’re rich in nutrients and compounds that are known to promote heart health, including potassium and polyphenol antioxidants.
Just 1 cup (154 grams) of pitted, sweet cherries provides 10% of the DV for potassium, a mineral that is essential for keeping your heart healthy.
This is why higher intakes of potassium have been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke (14Trusted Source).
What’s more, cherries are rich in powerful polyphenol antioxidants, including anthocyanins, flavonols, and catechins, which may help keep your heart healthy by protecting against cellular damage and reducing inflammation (15Trusted Source).
In fact, a study in 84,158 people found that higher intakes of polyphenols — especially anthocyanins, flavonols, and catechins — were associated with a significantly decreased risk of heart disease over 5 years (16Trusted Source).
Due to their potent anti-inflammatory effects, cherries may reduce symptoms of arthritis and gout, a type of arthritis caused by a buildup of uric acid that can lead to extreme swelling, inflammation, and pain in your joints.
Many studies show that cherries help inhibit oxidative stress and decrease inflammation by suppressing inflammatory proteins, which can help reduce symptoms related to arthritis.
Plus, they can decrease uric acid levels in your body, making them especially beneficial for those with gout.
A study in 10 women found that eating 2 servings (10 ounces or 280 grams) of sweet cherries after an overnight fast lowered levels of the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP) and significantly reduced uric acid levels 5 hours after consumption (17Trusted Source).
Another study in 633 people with gout demonstrated that those who ate fresh cherries over 2 days had 35% fewer gout attacks than those who did not consume the fruit.
Additionally, the study revealed that when cherry intake was combined with the gout medication allopurinol, gout attacks were 75% less likely than during periods when neither cherries or allopurinol were consumed (18Trusted Source).
Eating cherries or drinking tart cherry juice may help improve your sleep quality.
These sleep-promoting benefits may be attributed to the fruit’s high concentration of plant compounds. Additionally, cherries contain melatonin, a substance that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle (19Trusted Source).
A study in 20 people showed that those who drank tart cherry juice concentrate for 7 days experienced significant increases in melatonin levels, sleep duration, and sleep quality, compared to a placebo (19Trusted Source).
Similarly, a 2-week study in older adults with insomnia found that drinking 1 cup (240 ml) of tart cherry juice before bed increased sleep time by 84 minutes (20Trusted Source).
However, these studies use concentrated cherry products. It’s unclear whether eating fresh cherries before bed would have the same effect.
Ultimately, more studies are needed to better understand how consuming cherries and cherry products may benefit sleep.
Cherries are versatile and incredibly delicious.
Both sweet and tart varieties pair well with many foods. Plus, related products, such as dried cherries, cherry powder, and cherry juice, make interesting additions to many recipes.
Here are some ways to incorporate cherries into your diet:
The possibilities for using cherries in your kitchen are endless, so don’t be afraid to experiment.