Cherries are seasonal fruits that may support health, sleep, and exercise recovery. They contain a range of vitamins and minerals, and they are low in fat and calories. They are also rich in antioxidant compounds.

This article looks at cherries’ nutritional profile and what the research says about their potential health benefits. It also provides some tips on how to consume them.

a punnet of cherriesShare on Pinterest
Westend61/Getty Images

Cherries are low calorie, low fat foods containing a variety of minerals and vitamins. Sweet, raw cherries have the following nutrients per 100 grams (g):

Research suggests that consuming cherries may have a number of health benefits, including the following.

They may help with sleep

Cherries contain melatonin, which is an antioxidant hormone that promotes sleep. Some research suggests that eating melatonin-rich foods can increase blood concentration in humans and have potential health benefits.

One 2018 study indicates that phytomelatonin in plants such as cherries could regulate circadian rhythms and induce sleep. The authors suggest that this may be beneficial for age-related sleep disturbance and insomnia.

A small, placebo-controlled study involving 11 men aged 50 years and above with insomnia suggests that consuming cherry juice for 14 days could improve sleep time and efficiency.

They have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties

Cherries are very rich in phenolic compounds that act as antioxidants, mainly anthocyanins. These active compounds have anti-inflammatory effects that may be beneficial for several health conditions.

They may have anticancer effects

One 2021 review suggests that cherries may have anticancer effects and could potentially be a dietary supplement for treating cancer, alongside other therapies.

However, the existing research primarily relies on animal and laboratory studies, so scientists need to conduct human trials.

They may help with diabetes

The same 2021 review suggests that cherries may promote healthy glucose regulation and may help with some of the symptoms of diabetes.

Researchers need to conduct more studies to confirm the effects of cherries on diabetes. However, it seems that anthocyanins may slow glucose production from carbohydrates and help balance blood sugar.

A laboratory study indicates that tart cherry extract inhibits the enzymes involved in diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The authors suggest that as a dietary supplement, tart cherries may help manage metabolic syndrome, which refers to a group of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

They may help with gout

Gout is a form of arthritis in which urate crystals form in the joints and cause pain and inflammation. According to a 2019 review, cherries may inhibit the inflammatory response to urate crystals in gout.

Additionally, another 2019 systematic review suggests that cherries reduce uric acid levels and gout attacks but notes that more comprehensive studies are necessary to confirm these effects.

They support exercise

The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of cherries can be beneficial for people who exercise.

Some research suggests that consuming tart cherries reduces exercise-induced pain, muscle damage, and loss of strength.

In a 2016 study, 27 endurance athletes consumed powdered Montmorency tart cherries for 10 days before and after a half-marathon. Compared with the placebo, the cherry supplement increased performance and reduced immune and inflammatory stress.

Additionally, smaller studies suggest that cherries may have ergogenic effects in cycling and could support recovery among soccer players.

People can consume fresh, frozen, or dried cherries. They can make a healthy addition to granola, smoothies, and a range of healthy sweet treats.

Cherries complement chocolate flavors well, with a classic recipe being Black Forest gateau. For a healthier twist on this, people can try making Black Forest overnight oats by mixing fresh or frozen cherries with oats, cocoa powder, and milk and leaving the mixture in the refrigerator overnight. The ingredients will solidify slightly by the morning, and the person can add a drizzle of maple syrup to sweeten.

People can also add cherries to savory recipes, salads, fruit pies, and muffins.

In addition, a wide variety of cherry products — including juices, extracts, and powders — are available.

Some research suggests that the Montmorency cherry contains the most phenol compounds and antioxidants. Tart cherry juice has the highest antioxidant capacity, followed by dried cherries, frozen cherries, and canned cherries.

Dried cherries and cherry juice may contain higher amounts of simple or added sugars, so fresh or frozen cherries are often healthier options.

Cherries have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may be beneficial for several health conditions, including diabetes and gout. Additionally, they may help with sleep and support performance in and recovery after exercise.

However, it is important to note that the quantities or concentration of cherries that researchers use in studies may not reflect what the average person may consume.

As part of a healthy diet, people can consume cherries as fresh or frozen and as fruit or juice. Or, they may choose to purchase an extract or supplement in powder or capsule form.