What are sweet cherries good for?

The Scoop on Sweet Cherries
Botanical name: Prunus cerasus

Sweet Cherries Nutrition Facts

Sweet cherries get their name from the naturally sweet flavor they possess compared to tart or sour berries, which are known for their acidic content. While it’s a common belief that cherries are predominantly red, this characteristic is reserved for tart varieties.1 Sweet cherries can take on a light yellow or even a dark mahogany appearance.2

While sweet cherries are popular in North America, the plant’s progenitors came from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean — Western Asia and Eastern Europe, encompassing the Caspian Sea to the Balkans.3 Like peaches and apricots, these sweet-flavored fruits are drupes, which are characterized by their leathery skin with a single seed inside.4

Most sweet cherry varieties were developed from wild cherries. Bing cherry, one of the most popular sweet cherry varieties, was created by crossing the Black Republican cherry and Napoleon (also known as Royal Ann), a cherry tree from France. Seth Lewelling, the creator of the Bing cherry, named it after his foreman Ah Bing.5 This particular cherry variety is also credited for establishing the sweet cherry industry because its creation coincided with advances in transportation and storage.6

Sweet cherries are best eaten fresh and raw.7 To pick the best cherries, look for shiny skins with juicy flesh. One good tip is to examine the stems, which should be bright green, indicating freshness.8

Growing cherry trees will take some work and prior garden experience. Ideally, they should be planted in early spring in a big garden. According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, prunus avium trees can grow 20 to 30 feet tall when cultivated. Potential diseases to watch out for include brown rot, black knot, bacterial canker and leaf curl. In addition, insect infestations may appear, particularly aphids, fruit flies and saw flies.9

The United States has a long history of cherry production. Seeds were first brought to America by English Settlers, eventually moving westward as the population expanded. Today, states that produce the most sweet cherries include California, Oregon and Washington. Smaller yields are found in Utah, Montana, Colorado, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania.10

Health benefits of sweet cherries

One of the most interesting health benefits of sweet cherries is their unique set of antioxidants. Anthocyanins, which give sweet cherries and other fruits and vegetables their red color, are one of them.11 Research shows that this specific class of antioxidants has a wide range of applications for conditions like diabetes, inflammation, neuronal diseases and cardiovascular health.12

Sweet cherries contain the antioxidant melatonin,13 a hormone also produced by the pineal gland.14 Research shows that melatonin has antioxidant benefits,15 as well as helping managing depression and sleep regulation.16

The health benefits of sweet cherries are multiple. Research shows a connection between eating sweet cherries and the prevention of Alzheimer’s. Between the fiber, vitamin C, carotenoids, and anthocyanins, several types of cancers have been shown to be inhibited, and the cyanidin found in cherries significantly increases the free radical scavenging activity in the body. In fact, this is one of the most important ways cancer is shut down. Research shows that cherries may aid this benefit by blocking cancer cells from accessing the proteins they need to proliferate.

There are various other health benefits you can gain from consuming sweet cherries. Studies show a connection between eating sweet cherries and lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.17 A 2018 study also highlights sweet cherry’s potential in lowering the risk of cancer.18

Sweet cherries are a good source of several minerals, such as potassium (good for the heart and blood pressure19), iron and phosphorus.20 These are all essential for maintaining good health in the long run.

However, be sure to consume sweet cherries in strict moderation, as they contain fructose, which may be harmful to your health in excessive amounts.

Sweet cherries nutrition facts

Serving Size: 3.5 ounces (100 grams), raw21
  Amt. Per
Serving
% Daily
Value*
Calories 63  
Total Fat 0.20 g  
Saturated Fat 0.038 g  
Trans Fat    
Cholesterol 0 mg  
Sodium 0 mg  
Total Carbohydrates 16.01 g  
Dietary Fiber 2.1 g  
Sugar 12.82 g  
Protein 1.06 g  
Vitamin A 64 IU Vitamin C 7 mg
Calcium 13 mg Iron 0.36

Studies on sweet cherries

A study on how sweet cherries might affect blood cholesterol and inflammation involved 18 healthy men and women who consumed the fruit for 28 days. Blood tests were taken before, halfway through, and after the study. Results showed positive anti-inflammatory effects, which the researchers reported should make sweet cherries beneficial for managing inflammatory diseases.22

In another study, scientists determined that anthocyanins like cyanidin and peonidin in sweet cherries, as well as hydroxycinnamic acids (including neochlorogenic acid, chlorogenic acid and p-coumaric acid derivatives) have the ability to protect neuronal cells from damage. Phenols such as quercetin, kaempferol and isorhamnetin were found to protect cells from oxidative stress, giving cherries what researchers termed "antineurodegenerative" abilities.23

Sweet cherries healthy recipes:
Gingery watercress-and-cherry salad

Sweet Cherries Healthy Recipes

Ingredients:

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 shallot, chopped

2 teaspoons finely grated ginger

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons raw honey

1 teaspoon organic Dijon mustard

Himalayan salt

Freshly ground black pepper

4 ounces organic watercress

2 cups sweet cherries, halved and seeds removed

2 Kirby cucumbers

1 large peach, thinly sliced and seed removed

Procedures:

  1. Mix the lemon juice, shallots and ginger in a large bowl, then let the dressing stand for five minutes. Afterward, add the olive oil, honey and mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  2. After seasoning the dressing, add the watercress, cherries, cucumbers and peaches. Serve immediately.

(Recipe adapted from Country Living24)

Sweet cherries fun facts

Sweet cherries have been around the world for centuries. The Greek philosopher Theophrastus described them in his writings.25 He was known for being a student of Aristotle, living from 326 B.C. to 287 B.C.26

The word "cherry" is a derivative of the French word "cerise," which comes from the Latin word cerasum, the classical name for Giresun, a city in present-day Turkey.

Summary

Sweet cherries are loaded with antioxidants and other nutrients that may help lower your risk for various diseases. It also offers anthocyanins that have been found to manage inflammation. In addition to being wildly popular for snacking, or as a component in fruit salads and confections, these little fruits pack quite a nutritional punch.