Cherries Nutritional Profile
Energy value (calories per serving): Low
Saturated fat: Low
Sodium: Low (except for maraschino cherries, which are high in sodium)
Major vitamin contribution: Vitamin A (sour cherries), vitamin C
Major mineral contribution: Potassium
About the Nutrients in Cherries
Cherries have moderate amounts of fiber, insoluble cellulose and lignin in
the skin and soluble pectins in the flesh, plus vitamin C.
A serving of 10 fresh red sweet cherries has
1 g dietary fiber and 5 mg vitamin C (8 percent of the RDA), but virtually
no vitamin A. An equal serving of canned water packed sour cherries has
the same amount of fiber, half the vitamin C, plus a bonus: 522 IU vitamin
A (10 percent of the RDA for a man, 13 percent of the RDA for a woman).
Like apple seeds and apricot, peach, or plum pits, cherry pits contain
amygdalin, a naturally occurring cyanide/sugar compound that breaks down
into hydrogen cyanide in the stomach. While accidentally swallowing a
cherry pit once in a while is not a serious hazard, cases of human
poisoning after eating apple seeds have been reported. NOTE:
Some wild cherries are poisonous.
The Most Nutritious Way to Serve Cherries
Sweet cherries can be eaten raw to protect their vitamin C; sour
("cooking'') cherries are more palatable when cooked.
Diets That May Restrict or Exclude Cherries
Low-sodium diet (maraschino cherries)
Look for: Plump, firm, brightly colored cherries with glossy skin whose
color may range from pale golden yellow to deep red to almost black,
depending on the variety. The stems should be green and fresh, bending
easily and snapping back when released.
Avoid: Sticky cherries (they've been damaged and are leaking), red
cherries with very pale skin (they're not fully ripe), and bruised
cherries whose flesh will be discolored under the bruise.
Store cherries in the refrigerator to keep them cold and humid, conserving
their nutrients and flavor. Cherries are highly perishable; use them as
quickly as possible.
Handle cherries with care. When you bruise, peel, or slice a cherry you
tear its cell walls, releasing polyphenoloxidase—an enzyme that converts
phenols in the cherry into brown compounds that darken the fruit. You can
slow this reaction (but not stop it completely) by dipping raw sliced or
peeled cherries into an acid solution (lemon juice and water or vinegar
and water) or by mixing them with citrus fruits in a fruit salad.
Polyphenoloxidase also works more slowly in the cold, but storing sliced
or peeled cherries in the refrigerator is much less effective than bathing
them in an acid solution.
What Happens When You Cook Cherries
Depending on the variety, cherries get their color from either red
anthocyanin pigments or yellow to orange to red carotenoids. The
anthocyanins dissolve in water, turn redder in acids and bluish in bases
(alkalis). The carotenoids are not affected by heat and do not dissolve in
water, which is why cherries do not lose vitamin A when you cook them.
Vitamin C, however, is vulnerable to heat.
How Other Kinds of Processing Affect
Canning and freezing. Canned and frozen cherries contain less vitamin C
and vitamin A than fresh cherries. Sweetened canned or frozen cherries
contain more sugar than fresh cherries.
Candying. Candied cherries are much higher
in calories and sugar than fresh cherries. Maraschino cherries contain
about twice as many calories per serving as fresh cherries and are high in