Cherries: Nature’s Secret Superfood

Published by Rebecca Baron on

Summertime means peak cherry season, and we’re here to tout all the reasons to enjoy these treetop candies. Mouthwatering and sweet, cherries can stand alone or be great additions in the kitchen. The benefits of cherries are numerous, with phytochemicals that work synergistically to improve your health and help live a long life.

These pitted pretties usually fall into two categories, sweet and tart. Cherries are very nutrient-dense, and not too high in sugar. Seasonal through late spring to early summer, cherries can be enjoyed year-round through canning, drying, or freezing. Bing cherry is one of the most popular cherries grown in the United States, but nearly a thousand different varieties exist.

Here are seven reasons to pick up a bag of seasonal cherries the next time you visit the market.

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Cherries: Nature’s Secret Superfood

1. Cherries are rich in vitamins and minerals

Cherries are rich in vitamins A, C, and K. Besides being an essential vitamin for multiple bodily functions, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant—a building block for collagen, and vital for a healthy immune system. In fact, one cup of pitted cherries contain 25% of your DRI of Vitamin C!

Minerals such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium can also be found in most varieties of cherry.

Other good sources of vitamin C: broccoli, citrus, and kiwi.

2. Cherries can help reduce inflammation and muscle recovery

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to sickness or injury. While helpful here and there, chronic inflammation can lead to a host of health problems and diseases. Unfortunately, a Westernized consumption culture of stress and highly processed foods leaves many Americans in a constant state of inflammation. Cherries can help combat inflammation, reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease.

Cherries contain vitamins A & C, which also work as antioxidants. A diet regularly exposed to antioxidants has favorable benefits throughout the body, by protecting cell membranes or donating electrons to stabilize free radicals.

Free radicals are molecules that contain one or more unpaired electrons, and antioxidants either help protect the cell or donate a spare electron without becoming a free radical itself.

Research using runners showed positive benefits to cherry extract on muscle recovery and pain management. Cherry juice has been shown to have similar results that NSAIDS provide, without the same negative side effects. This is partly due to the high antioxidant content in cherries, and their impact neutralizing oxidated stress. Another study was done on water-polo athletes that did not offer similar results, but the study concluded it was the less-weight bearing exercise of being in the water than the cherry extract. Certain activities will benefit from cherries more than others.

3. Cherries can help reduce arthritic pain

Do Cherries Help With Gout? Gout is an arthritis issue due to high levels of uric acid. More familiar with individuals who consume large amounts of sugar, alcohol, and purines. Obesity is another risk factor. Gout causes pain and swelling of the joints, often targeting the feet.

A study performed in 2011 with obese patients with high CVD risk showed the 70% of participants with cherry juice extract had lower gout-related inflammation markers such as serum uric acid levels (sUA) and lower erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), than placebo.

Another study conducted in 2014 showed that cherry juice concentrate helped temporarily reduce uric serum levels. Cherry extract is not a cure-all, but an useful tool in easing arthritis. The best way to keep gout and general joint pain at bay is to manage your weight with a well-balanced diet. Keep some tart cherry juice extract around if you frequently experience joint pain or gout.

My grandfather would use cherry juice for his gout flare-ups, and it worked! There have even been times where I have experience pain in my fingers and toes, and cherry juice did relieve the issue. More than a mere coincidence? I think not!

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4. Cherries are a good source of fiber

On top of all the nutritional benefits of cherries, they are a good source of fiber. Cherries contain soluble and insoluble fiber, both necessary for a healthy digestive system. Insoluble fiber found in cherries help bulk, bind, and flush out toxins; reducing the risk of colon cancer. Insoluble fiber is also used as a pre-biotic, which functions as food for the gut microbiome.

Soluble fiber is excellent for the cardiovascular system. These fibers not only bind in the digestive system but bind and remove excess LDL cholesterol from the blood. Soluble fiber has also been found to help regulate blood sugars, which helps manage diabetes and waistline.

A diet rich in both fibers help provide a healthy environment for good gut flora. So much of our food these days provide refined foods that feed the bad bacteria, hijacking your brain to make you crave more sugary processed foods. Incorpating several servings of fruits and vegetables everyday will help maintain the good bacteria balance. The better they are, the better you tend to be!

Recommended Reading: The Best Prebiotics for Weight Loss

5. Cherries can help maintain cardiovascular health.

Anthocyanins have been shown to have great benefits for the heart. By reducing inflammation, cherries help protect the cardiovascular system. The anthocyanins in cherries have also been found to reduce LDL and raise HDL cholesterol levels. Cherries in their natural form, are a win-win for the heart!

Cherries are a good source of potassium, which is crucial for many cellular exchanges in the body. Nearly all bodily functions result from an exchange of sodium and potassium, as a “lock and key” system.

Bonus: Montmorency cherries have shown to contain melatonin. Consuming juice or extract from this kind of cherry before bedtime may help with occasional insommnia.

6. Eating cherries can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Anthocyanins for the win again!

A recent study conducted in 2021 showed sour cherry juice helps improve type 2 diabetes. The high levels of anthocyanins and other compounds found in cherries helped mitigate insulin resistance and protect pancreatic cells. The anthocyanins found in cherries were shown to improve glucose levels and help offset insulin resistance forming into type II diabetes. While a bit higher in sugar than other fruits, diabetics can enjoy cherries in moderation.

Anthocyanins have been found to target fat and muscle tissue, as well as the liver and pancreas.

7. Cherries contain melatonin which can help regulate sleep patterns and help fight insomnia.

The cherry is one of the few foods that uniquely contain melatonin. It’s used in the fruit to help the ripening process and helps us by providing exogenous melatonin. I’m not talking about “helps increase melatonin production” but actually has melatonin. Very few foods can provide melatonin, making cherries even more of a superfood. Melatonin not only helps you sleep, but is involved in several roles in maintaining a healthy body and mind, such as metabolism and immune function.

Combining magnesium glycinate with cherry juice extract can be useful in times of insomnia and restlessness. This combination provides the body with melatonin from cherries, and magnesium glycinate is known to help the muscles and nervous system. Try this nightcap next time you have difficulty falling asleep!

How to Get More Cherries Into Your Diet

When most people think of cherries, what often comes to mind is a garnish for drinks or desserts. Cooked down, soaked in corn syrup and red dye- these are only remnants of our secret superfood. It’s time to embrace cherries in all their glory whether you enjoy them:

  • Whole cherry fruit
  • Pure cherry juice (Cherry Bay Orchards is one of my favorite 100% cherry juice brand)
  • Cherry Extract
  • Dried or freeze-dried cherries
  • Canned cherries

Cherries go great with a broccoli slaw. Check out my recipe for Summer Slaw.

You want to consume cherries in a less adulterated form. Avoid foods that contain artificial dyes and high-fructose corn syrup. You might need to look a little harder to find brands with better quality ingredients, but the benefits are worth it. One cherry pie filling I like to keep on hand is from Amish Buggy. Their no-sugar added cherry pie filling only contains five ingredients: Cherries, grape juice concentrate, water, modified food starch, and almond flavoring. It also comes in a jar, instead of a canned.

You can also make cherry desserts from scratch! Check out my classic recipe for Cherry Berry Crumble.

Final Thoughts

Cherries are deliciously dense superfoods that can offer various health benefits. Packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, cherries can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle and help prevent certain diseases. Whether you enjoy them fresh, frozen, or dried, cherries are a great addition to your diet.

We’ve said it time and time again, getting your vitamins for food is better than supplement form. Not only do they work better, whole food sources are more bio-available and collaborate with other compounds in the food. That way you are getting real vitamins and minerals, bound in fiber and other phytochemicals working in harmony.

From boosting immunity to aiding in weight loss and reducing inflammation, the health benefits of cherries are far-reaching. Not only do cherries provide a range of health benefits, but they are also a delicious and versatile snack. So if you’re looking for a nutritious and tasty treat, cherries are the way to go!

Recommended Reading: 4 Ways to Reduce Your Colon Cancer Risk

For the Love of Food


1. Wei Ding, Huimin Liu, Ziqi Qin, Meihong Liu, Mingzhu Zheng, Dan Cai, and Jingsheng Liu Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry Dietary Antioxidant Anthocyanins Mitigate Type II Diabetes through Improving the Disorder of Glycometabolism and Insulin Resistance 202169 (45), 13350-13363 DOI: 10.1021/acs.jafc.1c05630

2. D. R. Hooper, T. Orange, M. T. Gruber, A. A. Darakjian, K. L. Conway & H. A. Hausenblas(2021)Broad Spectrum Polyphenol Supplementation from Tart Cherry Extract on Markers of Recovery from Intense Resistance Exercise,Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition,18:1,DOI: 10.1186/s12970-021-00449-x

3. Xia H, Shen Y, Shen T, Wang X, Zhang X, Hu P, Liang D, Lin L, Deng H, Wang J, et al. Melatonin Accumulation in Sweet Cherry and Its Influence on Fruit Quality and Antioxidant Properties. Molecules. 2020; 25(3):753.

4. Keith R. Martin, Jennie Bopp, Lacey Burell, Ginger Hook (2011)The effect of 100% tart cherry juice on serum uric acid levels, biomarkers of inflammation and cardiovascular disease risk factors

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