Sweet or sour, cherries bring a burst of flavor to any dish. A stone fruit from the genus Prunus, cherries have been a popular food for thousands of years. A favorite fruit among the ancient Greeks and Romans, historical records suggest cherries arrived in North America as early as the 17th century.
Commercial cultivation and distribution of cherries took off in the late 19th century. Many of the cherries produced in the U.S. today are grown in Michigan. They are also commonly grown in Wisconsin, Oregon, Washington, and California.
Today, cherries belong to three main categories: sweet, sour, and dukes. Appropriately-named sweet cherries are juicy with a low acid content. These heart-shaped cherries can range in color from red or yellow to black. Sour cherries have a tart flavor because of their higher acid content. Dukes are a mix of the two, but tend to be more sweet than sour.
Because of their brief growing season and ability to thrive in most temperate regions, cherries are harvested throughout the year and can be found all around the world. In the Northern Hemisphere, cherry trees blossom around April and produce fruits from June to August. In the Southern Hemisphere, cherries are associated with Christmas and other winter holidays.
No matter where they're grown, cherries can be a tasty, healthy addition to a well-rounded diet.
Many of the health benefits of cherries stem from the fact they are rich in vitamin C. Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C plays an important role in iron absorption, collagen formation, and several other critical functions in your body.
Additional health benefits provided by cherries include:
Reduced Pain After Workouts
Exercise is a key part of a healthy lifestyle, but some people avoid working out because they worry about the soreness or pain they might experience later on. Cherries may help ease this discomfort. In one study, runners who drank tart cherry juice daily before running a major race felt fewer aches and pains afterward.
Research suggests that eating Bing cherries on a regular basis may reduce inflammation. Inflammation plays a key role in the development of many diseases, including some types of cancer. Studies found that cherries help reduce inflammation without reducing blood sugar or insulin levels.
Experts have identified a variety of polyphenols present in sweet and sour cherries. Polyphenols are a type of antioxidant found in plants. Multiple studies suggest that people who eat diets rich in these compounds are less likely to develop cardiovascular disease.
Cherries are rich in many important vitamins and minerals. A serving of sweet cherries has 18% of the recommended daily value of vitamin C. Red cherries provide an even greater boost, delivering 25% of the recommended daily amount.
Cherries are also a good source of:
Nutrients per Serving
Without pits, 1 cup of sweet cherries contains:
- Calories: 97
- Protein: 2 grams
- Fat: Less than 1 gram
- Carbohydrates: 25 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Sugar: 20 grams
Risks to Consider
Cherries are a healthy addition to any diet when eaten in moderation. Because they are eaten whole, be sure to thoroughly wash cherries before eating to remove any pesticides or other contaminants.
Cherry pits contain small amounts of compounds that can be toxic if the pits are eaten after being crushed. You would have to swallow many crushed cherry pits for it to be dangerous, but it’s best to avoid eating fruits with damaged or crushed pits.
How to Prepare Cherries
Cherries can be found at most grocery stores, health food stores, co-ops, and farmers markets. Some farms allow visitors to pick their own cherries and pay for them by the pound.
When selecting cherries, the stems should be bright green. Ideally, the fruit will be plump and firm to the touch. Depth of color also matters and darkly saturated cherries typically have the best flavor.
Often enjoyed as a snack or used in fruit salads, cherries are a versatile ingredient.
Try these fun ideas to add them to your diet:
- Include cherries with chicken, pineapple, and sugar snap peas in a unique stir fry.
- Enjoy a frozen yogurt sundae with a cherry on top.
- Create a yogurt parfait with rolled oats, agave syrup, and cherries.
- Blend frozen cherries with banana, yogurt, and milk to make a delicious smoothie.
- Add cherries to pico de gallo with onion, tomato, and jalapeño.
- Include cherries in tacos with chicken, lime, and sour cream.
- Mix sour cherries with basmati rice and coriander to make the Persian dish albaloo polo.
- Prepare a cherry compote and enjoy with balsamic vinegar and goat cheese.