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7 Impressive Health Benefits of Cherries

Health + Wellness
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By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

Cherries are one of the most beloved fruits, and for good reason.


They're not only delicious but also pack vitamins, minerals and plant compounds with powerful health effects.

Here are 7 impressive health benefits of cherries.

1. Packed With Nutrients

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 (1):

  • Calories: 97
  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Carbs: 25 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams
  • Vitamin C: 18% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Potassium: 10% of the DV
  • Copper: 5% of the DV
  • Manganese: 5% of the DV

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 (2 Trusted Source, 3 Trusted 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 (4 Trusted Source).

Plus, they provide B vitamins, manganese, copper, magnesium, and vitamin K.

Summary

Cherries are a good source of vitamin C, potassium, fiber, and other nutrients that your body needs to function optimally.

2. Rich in Antioxidants and Anti-inflammatory Compounds

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 (5 Trusted 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 (6 Trusted Source).

Cherries are especially high in polyphenols, a large group of plant chemicals that help fight cellular damage, reduce inflammation, and promote overall health (6 Trusted Source, 7 Trusted Source).

In fact, polyphenol-rich diets may protect against many chronic conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, mental decline, and certain cancers (8 Trusted 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 (6 Trusted Source).

Summary

All cherries are high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which may reduce chronic disease risk and promote overall health.

3. Can Boost Exercise Recovery

Research shows that the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds in cherries may help relieve exercise-induced muscle pain, damage, and inflammation (6 Trusted Source, 9 Trusted 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 (6 Trusted 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 (10 Trusted 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 (11 Trusted 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.

Summary

Consuming cherries, especially tart cherry products like juice and powder, may improve athletic performance and reduce exercise-induced muscle damage and soreness.

4. May Benefit Heart Health

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 (12 Trusted 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.

It's needed to maintain a regular heartbeat and helps remove excess sodium from your body, regulating your blood pressure (13 Trusted Source).

This is why higher intakes of potassium have been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke (14 Trusted 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 (15 Trusted 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 (16 Trusted Source).

Summary

Cherries are packed with potassium and polyphenol antioxidants, which have powerful heart-protective properties.

5. May Improve Symptoms of Arthritis and Gout

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 (17 Trusted 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 (18 Trusted Source).

Summary

Research indicates that the powerful anti-inflammatory properties of cherries may benefit those with arthritis and gout.

6. May Improve Sleep Quality

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 (19 Trusted 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 (19 Trusted 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 (20 Trusted 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.

Summary

Cherries contain anti-inflammatory compounds and melatonin, which may help improve sleep quality in some people.

7. Easy to Add to Your Diet

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:

  • Enjoy them fresh as a sweet snack.
  • Pair dried cherries with dark chocolate chips, unsweetened coconut flakes, and salted almonds for a delicious homemade trail mix.
  • Make a cherry compote out of frozen tart or sweet cherries and spoon on yogurt, oatmeal, or chia pudding.
  • Add halved, pitted cherries to a fruit salad.
  • Incorporate dried cherries into baked goods for a kick of natural sweetness.
  • Add a bit of tart cherry juice to sparkling water and top with a lemon wedge for a fun mocktail.
  • Add fresh or cooked cherries to ice cream, pies, crumbles, and other desserts.
  • Make a homemade cherry barbecue sauce to use with meat or poultry dishes.
  • Whip up a cherry salsa with diced cherries and fresh herbs like basil to serve alongside savory meals.
  • Add frozen cherries to your favorite smoothie.

The possibilities for using cherries in your kitchen are endless, so don't be afraid to experiment.

Summary

Cherries can be used in many ways in both sweet and savory recipes.

The Bottom Line

Cherries are highly nutritious and offer a host of health benefits.

Not only do they contain an array of powerful plant compounds that can help reduce inflammation, but eating them may improve sleep, boost heart health, and speed recovery after exercise.

What's more, both sweet and tart varieties are absolutely delicious and can be used in diverse recipes.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Protestors marched outside the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on Monday, August 26, during the MTV Video and Music Awards to bring attention to the water crisis currently gripping the city. Karla Ann Cote / NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Will Sarni

It is far too easy to view scarcity and poor quality of water as issues solely affecting emerging economies. While the images of women and children fetching water in Africa and a lack of access to water in India are deeply disturbing, this is not the complete picture.

The city of Flint, Michigan, where dangerous levels of pollutants contaminated the municipal water supply, is a case in point — as is, more recently, the city of Newark, New Jersey.

The Past is No Longer a Guide to the Future

We get ever closer to "day zeros" — the point at when municipal water supplies are switched off — and tragedies such as Flint. These are not isolated stories. Instead they are becoming routine, and the public sector and civil society are scrambling to address them. We are seeing "day zeros" in South Africa, India, Australia and elsewhere, and we are now detecting lead contamination in drinking water in cities across the U.S.

"Day zero" is the result of water planning by looking in the rear-view mirror. The past is no longer a guide to the future; water demand has outstripped supplies because we are tied to business-as-usual planning practices and water prices, and this goes hand-in-hand with the inability of the public sector to factor the impacts of climate change into long-term water planning. Lead in drinking water is the result of lead pipe service lines that have not been replaced and in many cases only recently identified by utilities, governments and customers. An estimated 22 million people in the US are potentially using lead water service lines. This aging infrastructure won't repair or replace itself.

One of the most troubling aspects of the global water crisis is that those least able to afford access to water are also the ones who pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income for it. A report by WaterAid revealed that a standard water bill in developed countries is as little as 0.1 percent of the income of someone earning the minimum wage, while in a country like Madagascar a person reliant on a tanker truck for their water supply would spend as much as 45 percent of their daily income on water to get just the recommended daily minimum supply. In Mozambique, families relying on black-market vendors will spend up to 100 times as much on water as those reached by government-subsidized water supplies.

Finally, we need to understand that the discussion of a projected gap between supply and demand is misleading. There is no gap, only poor choices around allocation. The wealthy will have access to water, and the poor will pay more for water of questionable quality. From Flint residents using bottled water and paying high water utility rates, to the poor in South Africa waiting in line for their allocation of water — inequity is everywhere.

Water Inequity Requires Global Action — Now.

These troubling scenarios beg the obvious question: What to do? We do know that ongoing reports on the 'water crisis' are not going to catalyze action to address water scarcity, poor quality, access and affordability. Ensuring the human right to water feels distant at times.

We need to mobilize an ecosystem of stakeholders to be fully engaged in developing and scaling solutions. The public sector, private sector, NGOs, entrepreneurs, investors, academics and civil society must all be engaged in solving water scarcity and quality problems. Each stakeholder brings unique skills, scale and speed of impact (for example, entrepreneurs are fast but lack scale, while conversely the public sector is slow but has scale).

We also urgently need to change how we talk about water. We consistently talk about droughts happening across the globe — but what we are really dealing with is an overallocation of water due to business-as-usual practices and the impacts of climate change.

We need to democratize access to water data and actionable information. Imagine providing anyone with a smartphone the ability to know, on a real-time basis, the quality of their drinking water and actions to secure safe water. Putting this information in the hands of civil society instead or solely relying on centralized regulatory agencies and utilities will change public policies.

Will Sarni is the founder and CEO of Water Foundry.

Note: This post also appears on the World Economic Forum.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Circle of Blue.

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