What are cherries?

Cherries are small, round, red stone fruits which are typically in season in the UK in June and July. There are hundreds of varieties but they usually fall into one of two categories: sweet or sour. Sweet cherries are usually eaten as they come, while sour cherries are more likely to be used in cooking or juiced. The most familiar varieties include the black stone cherry, the morello and the Spanish cherry. All cherries have a stone which must be removed before eating or cooking.


The health benefits of cherries include:

1. Have a low glycaemic index (GI) score
2. Are heart-healthy
3. May lower blood pressure
4. May lower cholesterol
5. May help manage blood sugar
6. May help with inflammatory conditions
7. May enhance recovery after exercise
8. May help you sleep
9. May help alleviate symptoms of gout
10. May help prevent cancer

Discover more health benefit guides, like the benefits of dates and avocado, then check out some of our favourite cherry recipes, from our cherry almond frangipane galette to our cocoa & cherry oat bake.

Hands holding a box of cherries

Nutritional profile of cherries

An 80g serving of cherries provides:

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  • 38 kcal/162 kJ
  • 0.7g protein
  • 0.1g fat
  • 9.2g carbohydrate
  • 1.0g fibre
  • 168mg potassium
  • 9mg vitamin C

Approximately 14 cherries (80g) counts as one of your five-a-day. Learn more about what counts as five-a-day.

What are the benefits of tart cherry juice?

Unlike sweet cherries, which are usually consumed fresh, tart cherries are typically consumed dried, frozen or, more commonly, juiced. Being rich in protective plant compounds, tart cherries offer a number of health benefits. These include anti-inflammatory properties that may alleviate conditions such as gout, heart disease and high blood pressure. The juice may also be helpful for those involved in endurance exercise because of its ability to enhance muscle function and reduce muscle damage.

Another popular use of the juice is to aid sleep because of its natural melatonin content, this hormone helps time your circadian rhythm and supports the onset of sleep.

Choose 100% unsweetened cherry juice and enjoy in accordance with UK dietary guidelines, limiting your intake to one 150ml glass per day.

What are the health benefits of cherries?

Cherries are nutrient-rich, low in calories and a valuable addition to your diet. Here are some of their benefits:

1. Have a low glycaemic index (GI) score

Cherries initiate a low glycaemic response, which means the carbs they contain are digested slowly, making them a useful addition for those with blood sugar issues including diabetes, as well as those following a low-GI diet.

2. Are a heart-healthy choice

Cherries are rich in heart-friendly nutrients including potassium, vitamin C and fibre; the high levels of protective plant compounds (such as anthocyanins) also promotes the health of the heart and cardiovascular system.

3. May reduce blood pressure

Research by the British Journal of Nutrition found that a combined cherry and berry juice may help manage blood pressure thanks to high amounts of plant compounds called polyphenols, which have numerous health benefits.

Another study which looked at cherry juice reported benefits for blood pressure and cholesterol management.

4. May help manage cholesterol

Consuming either sweet or tart cherries appears to help lower levels of cholesterol, most notably the very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) that contributes to plaque build-up in the arteries. These results were seen in both diabetic women and those classified as obese. The effects were reported after only a short period, and in the case of the addition of Montmorency tart cherry juice, in just six days.

5. May help manage blood sugar levels

Studies suggest that consuming cherries may decrease haemoglobin A1C (HBA1C), a marker that provides an indication of how well managed your blood sugar levels are. In addition to this, consuming the juice of Montmorency tart cherries appeared to lower fasting glucose in just one week.

Cherries in a wooden box

6. May help inflammatory conditions

Well known for their protective antioxidant properties, cherries contain plant compounds called anthocyanins and cyanidin which may have anti-inflammatory effects.

Initial research suggests that these antioxidants may be beneficial in inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, however, more research is needed to replicate these results in human studies.

Read more about the health benefits of anthocyanins.

7. May enhance recovery after exercise

There has been a fair amount of research into cherries, and specifically tart cherries and the role they play in exercise and exercise recovery. Research by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that drinking tart cherry juice (355ml) for seven days before and during a strenuous running event minimised post-run muscle pain. Another small study found that tart cherry juice appears to aid recovery and muscle function after strenuous exercise.

However, these effects seem to relate to weight bearing activity, with those enjoying non-weight-bearing exercise, such as water polo, unlikely to experience the same benefits.

8. May improve sleep

Tart cherries contain high concentrations of phytochemicals including melatonin, which is involved in the regulation of our sleep cycles. There has been mixed research as to whether cherries, and specifically cherry juice, is of benefit to those who have trouble sleeping, but the signs are encouraging. Research by the European Journal of Nutrition found that tart cherry juice is beneficial in improving both the quality and duration of sleep, and may be of benefit to those who have disturbed sleep, while another small study suggests that cherry juice may be beneficial to those with insomnia.

9. May help those with gout

There has been some research into the effects of cherry juice on gout. One study demonstrated that consuming cherries or cherry juice appeared to lower the risk of flare-ups, while another study suggests that cherry juice needs to be consumed for at least four months to reduce acute attacks. Further research suggests that drinking cherry juice lowers blood uric acid levels (which can trigger an attack of gout) in healthy volunteers.

It is important to say that, although encouraging, these results have not been replicated in large-scale studies and many of the studies to date have been observational only. More research is needed before we can say that cherry juice prevents or eases gout.

10. May help prevent cancer

Cherries have a relatively high antioxidant activity and have demonstrated anti-carcinogenic effects both in vitro and in animal studies. The mechanism behind this involves the ability of the phytochemicals in cherries to reduce the oxidative stress and inflammation involved in the development of cancer. However, more studies are needed to substantiate these benefits in humans.

Are cherries safe for everyone?

Some people are allergic to cherries. This can be a primary allergy, whereby you are allergic to the fruit itself, or secondary, when you are allergic to pollens from the same family of plants. A secondary allergy occurs as a result of cross-reactivity, for example, if you are allergic to birch tree pollen you may experience an allergy to fruit such as cherries as well as others including apples, plums and peaches.

So, are cherries healthy?

Cherries are a nutritionally dense fruit, rich in plant chemicals called polyphenols, as well as vitamins and minerals. As long as you do not have an allergy to the fruit, cherries make a valuable addition to the diet. Enjoy fresh when in season, or as a juice, frozen or dried.

Speak to your GP or registered dietician if you experience any concerning symptoms after eating cherries.

Read more from the NHS website about allergy symptoms.

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Get recipe inspiration with these delicious recipes:

Cherry smoothie
Vegan smoothie
Cherry oat squares with chocolate drizzle
Cherry crumble
Roasted squash with sour cherries, seeds and feta
Puy lentils with sour cherries and spinach
Lamb meatballs with sour cherries, pomegranate and pistachios

This article was reviewed on 20 February 2024 by Kerry Torrens.

Kerry Torrens BSc. (Hons) PgCert MBANT is a registered nutritionist with a postgraduate diploma in personalised nutrition & nutritional therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last two decades she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including Good Food.

Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.


All health content on goodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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