Cherries: Sweet, Delicious And Healthy

Cherries taste fantastic and sweeten our summer. They are particularly rich in phytochemicals, work against free radicals and inflammation, and can be helpful for conditions such as high blood pressure, gout, and dementia. Read everything about the cherry, its nutritional value, its ingredients, and how to prepare it in the kitchen.

Cherries are related to the almond tree

Cherries bring back childhood memories for many people. Some of them turned the shapely red fruits into edible earrings, others climbed the neighbor’s cherry tree and stole one sweet cherry after the other. Maybe that’s why the cherry tree in the myths is a magical place where elves and fairies live.

The cherry belongs to the plant genus Prunus. In addition to the cherry, this includes 200 other species, such as the plum, the peach, the apricot, and the almond tree. Although these fruits all look very different, they have one thing in common: the pulp contains a relatively large stone, which is why they are classified as drupes.

In the following text, the sweet cherry will be the sole protagonist. But there are many other plants and their fruits that are also called cherries.

There are such types

A cherry is by no means the same as a cherry. To avoid confusion, we would like to briefly introduce some of them to you. The genus Prunus includes numerous cherry species. For example, consider the following:

  • As the name suggests, the sweet cherry (Prunus avium) is characterized by sweet, mostly red fruits that are best eaten raw. It is also called bird cherry because feathered animals are crazy about sweet cherries.
  • The sour cherry or sour cherry (Prunus cerasus) also has red, but smaller fruits, which taste quite sour and are primarily used in the kitchen – e.g. B. in the production of cakes or jams – but also in medicine.
  • The Japanese cherry (Prunus serrulata) is native to China, Korea, and Japan. Since its purple-colored fruits are neither sweet nor particularly juicy, it is mainly used as an ornamental plant. It is one of the most important symbols of Japanese culture (cherry blossom).
  • Bird cherry (Prunus padus L.) is a wild plant. Their black fruits taste bitter, look quite similar to elderberries, and are processed into jams or juices. The bird cherry is also a great bee pasture and provides food for numerous caterpillars. It is therefore an extremely recommendable tree for the natural garden. So before you plant exotics or cypresses, choose the bird cherry!

The ancestors of today’s cherry

In the beginning, there was the wild bird cherry, which is native to Europe and Africa (not to be confused with the rowan berry (Sorbus aucuparia), which belongs to the rose family). According to archaeological finds, wild cherries have been eaten for thousands of years. However, the cherry trees were only cultivated around 800 BC, in Asia Minor and later in Greece. In this way, the sweet cherry emerged from the wild bird cherry.

The delicious fruits are said to have been brought to the Roman Empire by the general Lucullus, who went down in history as one of the first gourmets. Starting from the south, the cultivated cherry spread in a relatively short time throughout Europe and up to the far north.

Heart cherries and heart cherries

A distinction is made between two cultivated forms of the sweet cherry, both of which include countless varieties:

  • Cherries:

The cartilaginous cherries (also called cracker cherries) are usually black and red in color, but there are also light yellow specimens. Their diameter is more than a centimeter. The pulp is red or yellow and has a gristly and firm structure. The varieties include B. the eagle cherry from Bärtschi, the big princess, and Donissens yellow cartilage cherry.

  • Heart Cherries:

The fruits are very large and black-red, but can also have a yellow or light red color. The flesh is red or black-red, extremely juicy, and soft compared to the cherries. The varieties include B. the Kesterter Black, Annabella, and Valeska.

The nutrients contained

Like almost any other fruit, the sweet cherry is rich in water and sugar and contains hardly any fat or protein. Our nutrient table reveals the corresponding values ​​in detail.

The calories contained

Compared to other fruits, cherries have a fairly high-calorie content of 60 kcal per 100 grams. Blackberries have half as many calories, while bananas have 95 kcal.

But keep in mind that other foods have a much higher calorie content than fruit in general: 100 grams of baguette have 248 kcal, 100 grams of crisps have 539 kcal and 100 grams of bacon have 645 kcal! As a snack between meals or as a dessert, cherries are wonderful, even for overweight people.

The vitamins of the cherry

Cherries do not have a particularly high vitamin content, but they can still help to cover vitamin requirements. With 200 grams of cherries, you can still meet the recommended daily dose of 30 percent of vitamin C and 13.6 percent of folic acid. While vitamin C is a valuable antioxidant, folic acid contributes to the formation of red and white blood cells and to the protection of blood vessels.

All other vitamin values ​​of cherries (per 100 g of fresh cherries) can be found in the following PDF of our vitamin table: Vitamins in cherries

The minerals and trace elements of the cherry

Although cherries contain many different minerals, their respective content is not particularly high. The copper content stands out somewhat: 200 grams of cherries can cover 16 percent of your needs.

The glycemic load of cherries

100 grams of cherries have a low glycemic load of 2.5 (values ​​up to 10 are considered low). The glycemic load indicates how much food can affect blood sugar levels.

Cherries in diabetes

Since cherries are one of the carbohydrate sources with a low glycemic load, they are also suitable for diabetics. Because the fruits only have a minor effect on insulin and blood sugar levels. Nevertheless, it still happens that diabetics are generally warned against fruit because it contains sugar.

However, this warning is considered obsolete. A 7-year study with 500,000 subjects showed that diabetics who regularly eat fresh fruit develop secondary diseases less often and live longer. Additionally, some in vitro and animal studies have found that cherries have anti-diabetic effects.

Cherries in the low carb diet or ketogenic diet

Both low-carb and ketogenic diets are about reducing carbohydrate intake. But while with low carbs between 50 and 130 grams of carbohydrates per day can be consumed, with the ketogenic diet it is a maximum of 50 grams.

With 100 g of cherries you would have already ingested almost a third of the maximum amount of carbohydrates on a ketogenic diet, so cherries are not really suitable for this type of diet. If you eat low carb, it is better to use low-sugar fruits such as avocados and blackberries.

Cherries in alkaline nutrition

Cherries are characterized on the one hand by their sweet taste and on the other hand by their sour note. Not only sour cherries but also sweet cherries are rich in fruit acids. With sweet cherries, only the ratio between the sugar and the fruit acids is more balanced, so that they are eaten raw more often than sour cherries.

It is not uncommon to assume that sour-tasting fruit is one of the acid-forming foods. But no matter how high the content of fruit acids may be: fruit is generally metabolized as a base and thus has a deacidifying effect on the organism.

However, it depends very much on personal tolerance. Because if the fruit is not tolerated, cooked, or combined in an unfavorable way (e.g. in the form of fruit cake, bread with jam, etc.), it can certainly have an acid-forming effect.

Cherries and their effect on digestion

According to a Polish study, the fruit acids in cherries include malic acid, quinic acid, shikimic acid, and fumaric acid, with the former clearly setting the tone. Fruit acids promote appetite and digestion and accelerate metabolism.

In combination with the fiber they contain, cherries are therefore a good remedy for constipation. However, people who suffer from gastrointestinal problems often do not tolerate fruit acids particularly well and should therefore use fruit that is low in fruit acids, such as bananas, mangoes, or pears.

It is better not to eat cherries if you have a fructose intolerance

Unfortunately, people who suffer from fructose intolerance are not well advised to eat sweet cherries. The ratio between fructose and glucose is quite balanced, which improves tolerability. However, the high fructose content of 6.3 grams per 100 grams of cherries usually leads to symptoms in the case of fructose intolerance.

Sour cherries taste a lot less sweet in comparison, but with 4 grams of fructose per 100 grams, they are not a real alternative to sweet cherries if you have fructose intolerance.

Avoid cherries if you have a sorbitol intolerance

Cherries can also lead to diarrhea, abdominal pain, or nausea if there is no proven fructose intolerance. Because cherries not only contain a lot of fructose, but also sorbitol (sugar alcohol). It is therefore possible that a sorbitol intolerance triggers the symptoms. Here, the utilization of sorbitol in the small intestine is partially or completely abolished.

This is why it was believed that cherries and water caused stomach pains
Maybe your grandmother or mother warned you as a child not to drink water after eating cherries and other stone fruit. However, it seems to be a myth that cherries in combination with water lead to stomach aches. In any case, there is not a single scientific study that would prove this.

According to the nutritionist Claus Leitzmann, the legend could be based on the drinking water that was contaminated during and after the war. The yeast and bacteria on the cherries, along with the germs in the water, may have caused the sugar to ferment in your stomach, leading to abdominal pain and diarrhea.

The health benefits of cherries

Sweet cherries are neither low-sugar fruits nor are their vitamin and mineral content breathtaking. Nevertheless, red delicacies are considered very healthy. This is because cherries are a particularly good source of phytochemicals. According to analyzes at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, these primarily include the following phenolic compounds:

  • Chlorogenic Acids: Numerous studies have shown that these natural compounds have antioxidant effects, inhibit the absorption of sugar into the blood after meals, and counteract diabetes. In addition, chlorogenic acids have a blood pressure-lowering and anti-cancer effect, can be helpful in stomach ulcers and liver inflammation, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
  • Flavonoids such as B. anthocyanins, catechin, quercetin, and kaempferol work against free radicals, inflammation, bacteria, and viruses and protect the heart. A review at the University of Jaen showed again in 2019 that foods rich in flavonoids are associated with various tumor diseases such as e.g. B. gastric, intestinal, breast and prostate cancer have a preventive effect.

The bioavailability of secondary plant substances

The question is often raised as to whether secondary plant substances can be absorbed by the body in sufficient quantities when fruit and vegetables are eaten. Or can these natural substances only develop a medical effect in the form of isolated active ingredients?

Researchers from the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia have determined using an in vitro method that the bioavailability of the phytochemicals in cherries is efficient and they, therefore, have an antioxidant effect and can inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

The skin of cherries is even more valuable than the flesh

Fortunately, unlike other fruits such as apples or pears, the question of whether to remove the peel from cherries does not even arise. According to a published study, while both the flesh and skin of cherries are rich in phytochemicals, the skin is even more valuable in this regard.

Like the taste of cherries, the content of secondary plant substances depends primarily on the variety. 100 grams of sweet cherries of the Brooks variety contain an average of 60 milligrams of phenolic compounds, while the Hartland variety contains around 150 milligrams. In addition, the degree of maturity also plays an essential role in this regard. Because ripe cherries have a higher content of secondary plant substances than unripe ones.

That’s why cherries are red

Every young cherry is green. The fruits only turn red when they ripen. In this process, the leafy green is gradually overlaid with pigments defined as anthocyanins. They are among the most important secondary plant substances in cherries.

Turkish researchers examined 12 types of cherries and found that red cherries are particularly rich in anthocyanins, while yellow cherries (e.g. the Starks Gold variety) have extremely low levels. In addition, the following applies: the darker the red, the higher the anthocyanin content and thus the antioxidant power.

Analyzes (at the Polytechnic University of Marche in Italy have shown how much the presence of anthocyanins can vary depending on the variety. While the content in 100 grams of sweet cherries of the Brooks variety was only around 10 milligrams, the Cristalina variety scored with 80 milligrams.

The contained anthocyanins

In the plant kingdom, anthocyanins take on a wide variety of tasks. For example, they protect the fruit from UV light and free radicals. When humans or animals eat cherries, they too can benefit in many ways from the effects of the coloring agents.

Studies have shown that anthocyanins are among the most powerful antioxidants and e.g. B. against inflammation, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and cancer are effective. Moreover, according to a study conducted in 2019 at Zhejiang University, the anthocyanins of cherries have a therapeutic effect on non-alcoholic fatty liver.

The cherry for health

The cherry has been used medicinally since time immemorial due to its laxative, anti-inflammatory, refreshing and diuretic properties. The cherry tree still plays an important role in folk medicine.

So e.g. For example, tea is prepared from the young leaves and blossoms of the cherry tree – often combined with blackberry, strawberry, or raspberry leaves – to drain and purify the body. The cherry stalks are considered a proven home remedy for stubborn coughs due to their expectorant effect. The powdered cherry tree bark is used as a rub or poultice for rheumatic diseases.

The cherry stone oil is used to alleviate spleen and urinary disorders and cherry stone pillows are used as a heat source for tension and joint pain. Fresh cherries, on the other hand, serve to stimulate the appetite and aid digestion. The cherry juice is considered the elixir of life that can support young and old in recovery and has a preventive effect in relation to gout attacks.

Sour cherries and sweet cherries: the differences

Most cherry studies have been done with tart cherries. This is because certain varieties of this species, e.g. B. the morello or the Montmorency have an exceptionally high content of phenolic compounds. According to the review mentioned above, sweet cherry varieties such as Cristalina or Moretta often convince with higher anthocyanin content.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s sour or sweet cherries: Ultimately, it always depends on the variety and how healthy they are. Analyzes of 10 sweet cherry varieties showed a range of 82 to 297 milligrams per 100 grams of fresh fruit with regard to the anthocyanin content, while the content of 5 sour cherry varieties was only between 27 and 76 milligrams. The scientists came to the conclusion that both tart cherries and sweet cherries promote health.

This is how cherries work against inflammation

Chronic inflammations are particularly insidious because they often progress without symptoms and are therefore only diagnosed at a late stage. Inflammation is a key factor in many ailments such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression.

Fruit, which, like cherries, is rich in secondary plant substances, has an anti-inflammatory effect. A study at the University of California at Davis involved 10 healthy women between the ages of 22 and 40. They ate 2 servings of cherries in one day, totaling 280 grams.

As a result, the researchers found that the inflammation levels were lower. In addition, the uric acid level had decreased. This confirmed that cherries can counteract gout.

This is how they help with gout

Gout attacks are particularly painful and, if not treated properly, are associated with damage to the kidneys. It has long been known that a change in diet – e.g. B. a carbohydrate-reduced diet – has a positive effect on the disease. In addition, certain foods such as B. cherries serve very well.

A 7-year study by the Boston University School of Medicine involved 633 gout patients. It found that subjects who ate cherries reduced their risk of gout attacks by 35 percent compared to those who did not eat the fruit.

How cherries help with dementia

People who eat healthily are less likely to develop dementia. Here, too, the secondary plant substances in fruit and vegetables play an important role. In the meantime, some studies have already shown that cherries can be helpful even in the case of existing dementia.

In 2017, a 10-week study enrolled 49 subjects with mild or moderate dementia who were older than 70 years. They were given either 200 milliliters of anthocyanin-rich cherry juice or a low-anthocyanin placebo juice daily.

The scientists then found that the subjects in the cherry juice group had improved language skills and short-term and long-term memory. In addition, the blood pressure of the patients had decreased significantly.

This is how they work against high blood pressure

In industrialized countries, up to 50 percent of the total population suffers from high blood pressure. The causes include inflammation, stress, stimulants, and medication. A study was conducted at the University of Wollongong in Australia in 2016, in which 13 subjects took part.

They were all given 300 milliliters of cherry juice and then 3 times 100 milliliters of cherry juice on another day. Only the single dose was able to lower blood pressure, albeit in a significant way. The effect lasted for 6 hours.

Cherries are grown in these countries

Cherries are cultivated worldwide in temperate zones, more than 2 million tons of cherries are harvested per year. Turkey is the most important growing country, accounting for around 20 percent of world production, followed by the United States, Iran, Spain, and Italy.

In terms of acreage, sweet cherries are the most important tree fruit in Germany after apples, but the yields are significantly lower in comparison. While around 32,000 tons of sweet cherries are harvested annually, the figure is around 600,000 tons of apples. In Switzerland and Austria, on the other hand, less than 3,000 tons of sweet cherries are harvested.

Since the demand cannot be met in the German-speaking area, cherries are imported from other countries. Germany is even the third largest importer of cherries worldwide: imports vary between 45,000 and 70,000 tons per year.

They are in season during these months

In Central Europe, the main season for sweet cherries lasts from June to August. The red fruits are imported from Turkey, Italy, and Spain in May, August, and September. while e.g. For example, strawberries can now be found in every supermarket all year round, and cherries are rarely available during the winter months. They come primarily from South America and Australia.

That’s why in-season cherries are better

We recommend that you use seasonal cherries from your region, not only in terms of the ecological balance. Spanish researchers from the Universitat Rovira I Virgili reported in 2018 that in-season cherries are much healthier.

They found that cherries eaten out of season have a negative effect on the metabolism of adipose tissue and can therefore promote obesity.

The pesticide load on cherries

Year after year, research clearly shows that organic fruit and vegetables should be preferred. In 2018, analyses at the Chemical and Veterinary Investigation Office in Stuttgart showed again that conventionally grown stone fruit contained almost 100 percent pesticide residues. Unfortunately, the cherry is no exception.

All 23 sweet cherry samples were contaminated: 22 contained multiple residues and in three the following substances were even above the legally permitted maximum level:

  • Chlorate: According to the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, it can inhibit iodine absorption and, in higher concentrations, damage red blood cells.
  • Dimethoate: Toxic to bees, butterflies, and small mammals. This insecticide was already banned in France in 2016 because it can damage the nervous system. Even imports of cherries treated with dimethoate are no longer permitted. The Federal Office for Risk Assessment announced that an extension of the approval for dimethoate beyond 2019 would be problematic.
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Written by Madeline Adams

My name is Maddie. I am a professional recipe writer and food photographer. I have over six years of experience developing delicious, simple, and replicable recipes that your audience will be drooling over. I’m always on the pulse of what’s trending and what people are eating. My educational background is in Food Engineering and Nutrition. I am here to support all of your recipe writing needs! Dietary restrictions and special considerations are my jam! I’ve developed and perfected more than two hundred recipes with focuses ranging from health and wellness to family-friendly and picky-eater-approved. I also have experience in gluten-free, vegan, paleo, keto, DASH, and Mediterranean Diets.

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