It’s no wonder that making something already good even better is described as putting a “cherry on top.” Indeed, cherries make everything taste better and are one of those fruits that are loved by both adults and kids (once they figure out how to safely spit the pit, that is). Though they can be expensive, they are well worth the price, not just because they taste great, but because they actually contain higher concentrations of many health-promoting compounds than many types of berries, which for some reason are more famous for their phytonutrient content!
Cherries are the fruit of many plants in the Prunus genus, belonging to the Rosaceae or rose family. Within this genus are many other popular fruits including peaches, nectarines, apricots, and plums – which are all considered stone fruits (also known as drupes) meaning they are fruits containing a single pit (or stone) surrounded by edible flesh. There are two main types of cherries – sweet and sour (also called tart). Sweet cherries are the ones enjoyed by the handful, while tart cherries are smaller and are typically not eaten raw but are used in baking.
Cherries were domesticated earlier than recorded history, and were named after the Turkish town of Cerasus, from which cherries were first thought to have been exported to Europe. Interestingly, Turkey still produces more sweet cherries than any other region in the world, while Russia is the top producer of sour cherries. In the United States, most sweet cherries are grown in Washington, California, Oregon, Wisconsin, and Michigan and Americans consume an average of 1.25 pounds of fresh cherries every year. Not only is this fruit delicious to eat, cherry trees are also famous for the spectacular white or pink blossoms that adorn trees in the spring-time. In Japan, cherry blossom season is so famous that ~63 million people travel there every year to experience this breath-taking phenomenon (unfortunately these trees are purely ornamental and don’t produce fruit!).
Nutrivore Score for Cherries – 171
Cherries have a Nutrivore Score of 171, making them a medium nutrient-dense food! Plus, they are a low-calorie-density food; the calorie count of cherries is 87 calories per cup!
Per serving, cherries are a best source (>50% daily value) of polyphenols; and a good source (10-20% daily value) of dietary fiber and vitamin C.
Cherry Nutrition Facts
One serving of cherries is standardized to 1 cup, whole or about 138 grams (4.9 ounces). One serving is roughly equivalent to 17 cherries.
|Sweet cherries, raw||Nutrivore Score: 171||Nutrient Density: Medium!|
|Serving Size: 1 cup, whole (138 grams)||Protein: 1.5 grams||Net Carbohydrates: 19.2 grams|
|Calories: 87||Total Fat: 0.3 grams||Dietary Fiber: 2.9 grams|
|Vitamin A||4.1 μg RAE||0% DV|
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)||37.3 μg||3% DV|
|Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)||45.5 μg||4% DV|
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin)||0.2 mg||1% DV|
|Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)||0.3 mg||5% DV|
|Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)||67.6 μg||4% DV|
|Vitamin B7 (Biotin)||1.0 μg||3% DV|
|Vitamin B9 (Folate)||5.5 μg||1% DV|
|Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)||0.0 μg||0% DV|
|Vitamin C||9.7 mg||11% DV|
|Vitamin D (D2 + D3)||0.0 μg||0% DV|
|Vitamin E||0.2 mg||1% DV|
|Vitamin K||2.9 μg||2% DV|
|Choline||8.4 mg||2% DV|
|Calcium||17.9 mg||1% DV|
|Copper||82.8 μg||9% DV|
|Iron||0.5 mg||3% DV|
|Magnesium||15.2 mg||4% DV|
|Manganese||96.6 μg||4% DV|
|Phosphorus||29.0 mg||2% DV|
|Potassium||306.4 mg||7% DV|
|Selenium||0.0 μg||0% DV|
|Sodium||0.0 mg||0% DV|
|Zinc||0.1 mg||1% DV|
|AMINO ACIDS & PEPTIDES|
Cherry Nutrition Varies With Processing
The Nutrivore Score of cherries varies based on processing. Conveniently canned cherries are available year-round!
|Cherries, sweet, canned, water pack, solids and liquids||184|
|Cherries, sweet, raw||171|
Cherry Nutrition Varies With Variety
The Nutrivore Score of cherries varies depending on variety of which there are two main types – sweet and sour (also called tart). Sour cherries are typically used in baking.
|Cherries, sour, red, raw||1701|
|Cherries, sweet, raw||171|
Health Benefits of Cherry Nutrients
Let’s take a closer look at all of the best and excellent source of nutrients found in a 1-cup serving of cherries and see how they benefit our health.
Cherries Provide 467.8 mg of Polyphenols
Cherries are a best source of polyphenols, providing 467.8 mg of polyphenols per 1-cup serving!
Polyphenols play a huge role in protecting against cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, osteoporosis, neurodegenerative diseases, and other conditions associated with oxidative stress. In fact, a major reason foods like red wine and olive oil (as well as diets rich in both, such as the Mediterranean diet) show up as so beneficial may be due to their high polyphenol content! Along with chronic diseases, supplementing with polyphenols has been shown to protect against infections and reduce the signs of aging. Polyphenols exert their most potent effects by acting as antioxidants—preventing cellular damage by neutralizing hazardous oxygen radicals and improving cellular health as a result (which, in turn, benefits virtually every system in the body). As a result of their antioxidant properties, polyphenols also boost the immune system and protect against both chronic and acute diseases. In addition, polyphenols can help regulate enzyme function, stimulate cell receptors, modulate the functions of inflammatory cells (including T and B lymphocytes, macrophages, platelets, and natural killer cells), alter adhesion molecule expression, affect nerve cells and cardiac muscle cells, and exert antiviral effects. Learn more about polyphenols here.
How Much Cherries Should We Eat Per Day?
Believe it or not, cherries actually contain higher concentrations of polyphenols than many type of berries, which are arguably way more famous for these nutrients!
Consuming 800 grams of vegetables and fruits daily reduces all-cause mortality by 31% compared to eating less than 40 grams daily. A 2017 systemic review and meta-analysis looked at how all-cause mortality was impacted by varying intakes of 12 different food groups: whole grains and cereals, refined grains and cereals, vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, eggs, dairy products, fish, red meat, processed meat, and sugar-sweetened beverages. This analysis revealed non-linear relationships between how much of a particular food group we eat and how it impacts our health. While the results revealed no upper limit to the benefits of vegetable intake, the sweet spot for fruit intake was 300 grams daily. Intakes of fruit over 400 grams per day were not as beneficial as 300 grams, but the good news is that even intakes of 600 grams of fruits per day was superior to no fruit at all! This sweet spot for fruit intake translates to 2 to 3 servings of fruit daily.
Thus, a good rule of thumb is to aim for at least 500 to 600 grams of vegetables (5 to 8 servings, depending on the vegetable, and as much as you want above that) and about 300 grams of fruit (2 to 3 servings, depending on the fruit) per day. Fruit makes a convenient snack, a healthy dessert, a whimsical addition to salads, and a sophisticated flavoring agent in the form of salsas, jams, and chutneys. A serving is standardized to 1 cup chopped for raw vegetables and fruits (typically translates to 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup once cooked). Learn more in Importance of Vegetables and Fruit
Cherry antioxidants have been shown to possess anti-cancer activities, along with reducing inflammation!
It’s always best to mix up the foods you eat day to day (aiming for a wide variety of different vegetables and fruits throughout the week), and cherries definitely have a place at the table.
Expand to see all scientific references for this article.
Clements RS Jr, Darnell B. Myo-inositol content of common foods: development of a high-myo-inositol diet. Am J Clin Nutr. 1980 Sep;33(9):1954-67. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/33.9.1954. PMID: 7416064.
Fineli Finnish Food Composition Database: Cherry Without Stone
Phenol-Explorer: Sweet cherry, raw
USDA Food Central Database: Cherries, sweet, raw
Watanabe T, Kioka M, Fukushima A, Morimoto M, Sawamura H. Biotin content table of select foods and biotin intake in Japanese. Int J Anal Bio-Sci. 2014. Vol 2(4):109-125.