Benefits of Cherries That Make Them the Bedtime Snack You Didn’t Know You Needed

Photo: Unsplash / Rebecca Matthews
You know the "George Washington chopped down a cherry tree" story you heard a million times in school? Well, turns out that's a total myth.

However, if the former president *did* cut down a cherry tree, it's kind of hard to blame him for it. The fruit is insanely delicious (cherry pie is bae) and actually has bona fide health-boosting properties.

“Cherries supply a good source of fiber and are rich in health-promoting antioxidants,” says Jill Keene, a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified personal trainer in New York City. But you can also use cherries in targeted ways, namely to improve sleep and post-exercise recovery, she says. Here are the biggest benefits of cherries, according to Keene:

1. They can help promote healthy weight management

One cup of fresh cherries has 100 calories and three grams of fiber. While fruit in general—especially higher sugar picks like cherries—has been maligned, there’s no reason to fear fruit. Eating more fiber via fruit is a good thing: ramping up fiber intake is associated with weight loss, research in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

2. They won't mess with your blood sugar

“Cherries are lower on the glycemic index, meaning they spike your blood sugar less than many other fruits,” says Keene. In a review on 29 studies on the benefits of cherries, researchers found that, among other perks, the fruit lowered HbA1c levels (a measurement of average blood sugar over a period of three months) in those who had type 2 diabetes.

3. They may help boost your post-workout recovery

“Cherries contain anti-inflammatory antioxidant compounds that research shows can help support muscle recovery after a hard workout,” says Keene. One small study published in the European Journal of Sports Science in 2019 on 20 women found that cherry concentrate lead to less muscle soreness post-workout. The benefits are better than just being more comfortable—cherries may help you bounce back faster so you’re ready to crush your next spin class or strength sesh.

4. They can help you sleep better

Fun fact about cherries—they’re a natural source of melatonin, a hormone that your body releases at night that helps you wind down and drift off, says Keene. In a small study on older adults, people who drank two eight-ounce glasses of cherry juice per day slept a full 85 minutes longer compared to a placebo.

5. Cherries can fight inflammation

Inflammation is widely considered one of the top threats to your health, increasing the likelihood of developing chronic disease. The fruit packs antioxidants like vitamins C and E as well as carotenoids and polyphenols, all of which help quash damaging free radicals and help neutralize inflammation in your body.

benefits of cherries close up of cherries in a pile
Photo: Getty Images / Filonmar

How to reap the benefits of cherries

Cherry season hits its height from June through August. “This is the best way to enjoy cherries because it supplies you with fiber to slow digestion,” says Keene. You can typically buy two types: sweet (Bing) and tart or sour. Sweet are usually a deep red color, while tart has a lighter red or even yellow hue.

Of course, when it's off-season (ahem, now), you can buy frozen cherries to get the same amount of nutrients for less cost. You can also buy dried cherries all year round—just look for versions without added sugar. If you’re going the cherry juice route, look for unsweetened tart cherry juice. And keep in mind that sipping the juice is going to supply more sugar compared to the fresh fruit (and no fiber).

Now that you’re on board with eating more cherries, here’s how to make it happen:

  • Top overnight oats: Keene recommends making a batch of creamy overnight oats and then topping it with pitted cherry halves in the morning. You can also throw on a few frozen cherries before work—they’ll defrost enough by the time you get to your desk.
  • Pair with almonds: Cherries may be healthy, but the best way to eat them is with other foods, says Keene. “I recommend pairing fruit with a source of protein or fat to stabilize blood sugar,” she says. Cherries and almonds or pistachios are a great match or, if you’re doing dairy, try cherries and a cheese stick.
  • Whirl in a smoothie: Throw frozen cherries into a blender, and you won’t even need ice. Without the risk of watering it down, you’ll get a more flavor-packed sip. Try it with a coconut water or milk base or go with almond milk and a dollop of nut butter for a pb+j-inspired smoothie. Or try Haylie Duff's go-to cherry chocolate smoothie.
  • Eat frozen: Pop frozen cherries straight from the bag, says Keene—yep, similar to your other fave, frozen grapes.
  • Top on toast: Slather a piece of toast with natural nut butter, add pitted cherry halves, and top with Greek yogurt. So yum.

When all else fails...just eat them as they are. Your bod will thank you!

Other produce with surprising benefits: sweet potatoes (yup!) and cacao.

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