Cherries and Cholesterol?: Cherries May Lower Your “Bad” Cholesterol

Cherries are an especially luscious fruit that possess characteristics that can help lower cholesterol and improve one’s cardiovascular health. Cherries themselves have zero cholesterol, but compounds in cherries can affect cholesterol levels in the body and contribute to improved health of the circulatory system.

Antioxidants in Cherries, Including Flavonoids and Vitamin C

cholesterol antioxidant

Cherries have experienced a renaissance in the marketplace because of their strong antioxidant profile. They are used in juice combinations, snacks, and even in nutritional supplements to help improve the antioxidant content of the diet. One measure of how strong an antioxidant food is in the human body is the ORAC value. Raw, sweet cherries have an ORAC value of 3,747, which, as the graph to the right shows, is quite a high level of antioxidant power. However, it is not quite high enough to make the top ten list of antioxidant fruits.

The antioxidant type that cherries are especially high in is polyphenols (of which flavonoids are a class). Cherries rank at 28 on the list of the 100 foods highest in polyphenols [1]. Cherries are high in flavonoids, specifically anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidins, which give cherries their rich color.

Polyphenols and flavonoids specifically have been linked to cardiovascular health. Epidemiological studies have shown flavonoid consumption to be associated with a lower rate of mortality from heart disease [2] and a lower rate of heart attack [3].

Sweet cherries are also high in the antioxidant Vitamin C. One hundred grams of cherries contain 7 milligrams of Vitamin C, equivalent to 12% of the recommended daily amount for someone with a 2,000-calorie diet. (One cup of cherries, with pits, weighs about 138 grams.) (See the nutritional data tables below.)

Research studies have shown Vitamin C intake to be related to a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and to lower total cholesterol in the bloodstream (the latter in people who had high blood serum cholesterol levels and whose tissues were not completely saturated with cholesterol) [4].

Phytosterols in Cherries

Cherries have a fairly high level of phytosterols, with 12 milligrams in 100 grams of the fruit. Phytosterols, a naturally-occurring compound in plants, have been shown to lower the level of LDL cholesterol (the “bad cholesterol” that contributes to clogged blood vessels) in the blood without impacting the level of HDL cholesterol (the “good cholesterol” that helps counteract the process of arterial blockage) [5].

Fiber in Cherries

cholesterol fiber

Raw sweet cherries contain 2.1 grams of fiber per 100 grams of fruit, which amounts to 8 percent of the recommended daily intake. This is a moderate but solid amount of dietary fiber. Moreover, 46% of this fiber is soluble fiber, i.e., soluble in water.

The importance of soluble fiber is that research has shown it, like phytosterols, to lower LDL cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”) levels in the blood without affecting levels of HDL cholesterol (“good cholesterol”) [6]. It is extremely easy to eat 100 grams of fresh cherries right off the tree, giving you a great combination of soluble fiber and antioxidant power.

Macronutrients and Cholesterol in Cherries

These tables display information on raw sweet cherries. Cherries contain a nice mix of vitamins and minerals but particularly shine in their content of vitamin C, manganese, and potassium.

Component
Amount
% Daily Value*
Calories
63
Protein
1.06 g
2%
Carbohydrate
16.01 g
5%
Fat
.2 g
0%
Fiber
2.1 g
8%
Sugar
12.82 g
Water
82.25 g
Ash
.48
*The daily value is based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet.

Fat Types In Cherries

Fat Type
Amount
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat
.04
0%
Monosaturated Fat
.05 g
*The daily value is based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet.

Vitamins In Cherries

Vitamin
Amount
% Daily Value*
Vitamin C
7 mg
12%
Vitamin E
.07 mg
0%
Vitamin A – IU
64 IU
1%
Vitamin D – IU
0 IU
0%
Thiamin – B1
.03 mg
2%
Riboflavin – B2
.03 mg
2%
Niacin – B3
.15 mg
1%
Vitamin B6
.05 mg
2%
Vitamin B12
0 mcg
0%
Folic Acid
0 mg
Food Folate
4 mg
*The daily value is based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet.

Minerals in Cherries

Mineral
Amount
% Daily Value*
Calcium
13 mg
1%
Magnesium
11 mg
3%
Iron
.36 mg
2%
Zinc
.07 mg
0%
Sodium
0 mg
0%
Phosphorus
21 mg
2%
Potassium
222 mg
6%
Manganese
.07 mg
4%
Copper
.06 mg
3%
Selenium
0 mg
0%
*The daily value is based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet.

Fun Ways To Enjoy Cherries in Your Diet

Cherries, I find, are just wonderful raw and by themselves. I like simply to pop them in my mouth and chew them, discreetly removing the pit afterwards. I absolutely love their sweet, rich flavor. The juice is tasty and is often found mixed with other juices, due to the generally high cost of cherries. Chocolate-coated chocolates are a fine treat. Cherries are most often found in desserts, such as pies, cheesecakes, tarts, cookies, and, of course, cherries jubilee. But they are also a fine ingredient in salads. Cherries pair well with chicken, making for a delicious chicken salad. You can also make a nice ham glaze with cherries as well as delectable chutney and salsa. Cherries also make delightful ice cream, frozen yogurt, and smoothies.

Works Referenced

[1] Pérez-Jiménez J., Neveu V., Vos, F., and Scalbert A. “Identification of the 100 Richest Dietary Sources of Polyphenols: an Application of the Phenol-Explorer Database.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 64, no. 3s (2010): S112-S120.

[2] Hertog MG, Kromhout D, Aravanis C, et al. “Flavonoid Intake and Long-Term Risk of Coronary Heart Disease and Cancer in the Seven Countries Study.” Archives of Internal Medicine 155, no. 4 (February 27, 1995): 381–386.

[3] Hirvonen T, Pietinen P, Virtanen M, et al. “Intake of Flavonols And Flavones and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Male Smokers.” Epidemiology 12 (2001): 62–67.

[4] Simon, JA. “Vitamin C and Cardiovascular Disease: a Review.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition 11, no. 2 (April 1992): 107-125

[5] Katan MB, Grundy SM, Jones P, Law M, Miettinen T, Paoletti R. “Efficacy and safety of plant stanols and sterols in the management of blood cholesterol levels.” Mayo Clin Proceedings 78, no. 8 (August 2003): 965–978.

[6] Glore, S., van Treeck, D., Knehans, A., and Guild M. “Soluble Fiber and Serum Lipids: A Literature Review.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 94, no. 4 (April 1994): 425-436.

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