Cherries are a popular addition to desserts due to their natural sweetness and dense flavour profile. But their sweetness is also what makes them a highly debatable topic when it comes to adding them to the diabetes diets. Unsurprisingly, it is a common belief that consuming cherries will cause a spike or fluctuation in sugar levels. However, there is a lot more that one needs to be aware of before completely cutting off cherries from their daily diets.
Multiple animal studies have shown how consuming cherries are, in fact, beneficial to treating complications in type 2 diabetes. Cherries contain certain chemicals that give them a vibrant red hue, carrying many health benefits. It helps keep your blood glucose levels under control and also helps prevent diabetes-related health complications.
From preventing cardiovascular ailments to aiding the recovery from diabetes, cherry is a wonder fruit with a lot to offer. However, not all types of cherries provide you with the same benefits, and thus it becomes even more important to be aware of each type’s nutritional benefits and effects.
Cherries: Types, Nutritional Info and Consumption Tips
People with diabetes need to know which type of cherries they are consuming. Each kind of cherry has unique nutritional properties and offers different quantities of sugars, carbohydrates, and vitamins.
1. Sour Cherries
Sour cherries offer a unique tartness and retain their cherry flavour throughout a high-heat cooking process.
Nutritional Info (per 100 g)
- Calories: 50 kcal
- Carbohydrates: 12.2 g
- Fibre: 1.6 g
- Vitamin C: 10 mg
Sour cherries have the lowest amounts of carbohydrates compared to the other types. Therefore, it contains a very minimal amount of sugar, making it safe and healthy for consumption by people with diabetes. You can start by consuming ½ a cup of sour cherries daily and monitor your sugar levels to determine the optimal quantity you can safely consume without compromising your blood sugar levels.
2. Sweet Cherries
Because sweet cherries are so flavourful and juicy, they make a perfect summer snack.
Nutritional Info (per 100 g)
- Calories: 63 kcal
- Carbohydrates: 16 g
- Fibre: 2.1 g
- Vitamin C: 7 mg
Although sweet cherries contain a slightly higher quantity of carbohydrates or natural sugars than sour cherries, people with diabetes must eat them in very controlled portions. Start by eating a small cup or 1/4 cup of sweet cherries. Then, monitor their effect on sugar levels to determine the optimal quantity one can safely consume without compromising the blood sugar levels.
3. Canned Cherries
Canned Cherries are cherries packed in water or sugar solution. They are softer and sweeter.
Nutritional Info (per 100 g)
- Calories: 73 kcal
- Carbohydrates: 18.8 g
- Fibre: 1.4 g
- Protein: 0.71 g
- Vitamin C: 2 mg
Canned cherries have the highest carbohydrates due to sugar syrup and juices in their packaging. Therefore, individuals with diabetes must strictly avoid canned cherries as they might cause a sudden spike in sugar levels and lead to unnecessary weight gain.
4. Maraschino Cherries
Maraschino cherries are sweet cherries with artificial colours and come in flavoured syrup. They are preserved, bleached, dyed, and sweetened with sugar.
Nutritional Info (per 100 g)
- Calories: 165 kcal
- Carbohydrates: 42 g
- Vitamin C: 1 mg
- Calcium: 5% of DV
Maraschino cherries undergo preservation in sugary solutions, which infuse a bulk load of sugars into the cherries. Consuming this variety of cherries must be strictly avoided both by diabetics and non-diabetics as they’ll lead to health deterioration in the long term. Diabetes patients must strictly stick to either sour or sweet fresh cherries in measured portions.
Beneficial Effects of Cherry on Diabetes
It is a widespread belief that people with diabetes must avoid sweet fruits like cherries as they might cause a spike in sugar levels, but it is only partially true. This delicious fruit has much to offer if you’re trying to keep your diabetes under control. For example, research shows that including polyphenolic compounds like anthocyanins lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes and improves insulin resistance. And cherries are excellent sources of anthocyanins.
Here are some other features that make cherries suitable for diabetes.
Low GI Fruit
Cherries are well known for having a low GI or Glycemic Index level. The GI level tells us how carbohydrate-rich food is according to how they affect your blood sugar levels. For example, sour cherries have a GI score of 22, indicating that it belongs to the ‘Low GI’ category, making them safe for consumption. On the other hand, sweet cherries have a GI score of 62, which puts them in the ‘Medium GI’ category. However, this does not mean that one should avoid consuming them. Instead, sweet cherries should be consumed in moderate portions as advised by your dietician or doctor. These low and medium GI foods are suitable for diabetes patients as they prevent spikes in blood sugar levels.
Abundance Of Antioxidants
Studies have shown that cherries are a powerhouse of antioxidants which are anti-diabetic. The chemical named anthocyanin present in cherries gives it the rich red colour, helps in increasing insulin production and helps in regulating the blood sugar levels in patients affected by Type-2 diabetes. Additionally, these antioxidants also help in preventing health complications arising from diabetes.
Cherries are very rich in fibre, and just ten cherries can provide you with 1.4 – 1.5 g of fibre which is almost a tenth of an adult’s recommended dietary allowance. In addition, the presence of fibres delays the digestion process and prevents the sugars from getting metabolised too fast in the body. As a result, there is no rapid blood sugar rise, making it safe for consumption by diabetes patients.
Cherries For Diabetes: How Much Is Too Much?
While cherries are entirely safe for consumption by diabetes patients, one must be aware of the portion sizes. Although you can eat sour cherries in a more significant portion due to their Low GI levels, sweet cherries require caution as they are of moderate GI score. Additionally, you should avoid consuming canned or maraschino cherries due to their excessive sugar content.
You can start by including about ⅓ to ½ cup of cherries in your daily diet. Then, if the blood sugar levels stay stable, you can try increasing the portion size if you want to. However, if the blood sugar levels are fluctuating, reduce the portions.
When cherries are out of season, frozen cherries without added sugars are a good substitute for fresh cherries. Dried cherries are another option, but you need to reduce portion size due to the high concentration of sugars. However, you can eat 5-10 dried cherries.
Other Benefits of Cherries
Cherries offer anti-inflammatory properties due to a high concentration of polyphenols and vitamin C. These substances make pro-inflammatory factors inactive and help reduce inflammatory biomarkers. In addition, the polyphenols in cherries are potent antioxidants. They protect against metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Other health benefits of eating cherries are:
Aid in Exercise Recovery
Athletes can use cherry for muscle recovery after workouts. Sour cherries accelerate muscle recovery and prevent exercise-induced inflammation. A study shows that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory polyphenol compounds in tart cherry juice accelerate strength recovery after exercise and reduce pain.
Improve Brain Power
Cherries contain plant compounds that have brain-boosting capabilities. For example, the anthocyanins in cherries boost cognitive function, protect against Alzheimer’s Disease and prevent memory loss. On top of that, cherries are a healthy source of tryptophan which is essential for the production of serotonin, a hormone responsible for regulating mood and anxiety.
Improve Sleep Quality
The melatonin helps you fall asleep. Cherries are rich in tryptophan—an amino acid which can induce sleep. The melatonin and tryptophan in cherries work to produce serotonin to regulate your circadian rhythm. As a result, it helps to achieve better sleep quality.
Delicious Diabetes-Friendly Recipes Using Cherries
Michigan Cherry Salad
Preparation Time: 15 mins
Calories: 172 kcal
- Spinach (coarsely chopped): 9 cups
- Romaine lettuce: ⅓ cup
- Iceberg lettuce: ⅓ cup
- Oakleaf or butter lettuce: ⅓ cup
- Apple (chopped): 1 whole
- Toasted pecans or walnuts (coarsely chopped): ½ cup
- Sour cherries (chopped): ½ cup
- Feta cheese (crumbled): ¼ cup
- Fresh raspberries: ¼ cup (you can also use any fresh local berries)
- Apple cider vinegar: 3 tbsp
- Sweet cherries (mashed): 3 tbsp
- Olive oil: 1 tbsp
Method of Preparation
- Combine all the greens, chopped up apples and sour cherries in a large bowl.
- Blend up all the raspberries, mashed cherries, and vinegar, and gradually add the olive oil for the dressing.
- Pour the salad dressing and top it up with feta cheese, toasted chopped nuts, and olive oil to serve.
Nutritional Value (per serving)
- Fats: 3 g
- Carbohydrates: 6 g
- Protein: 2 g
Cherry Almond Bars
Servings: 16 bars
Preparation Time: 35 mins
Calories: 130 kcal
- Whole Grain flour: 2 cups
- Baking powder: 2 tsp
- Low fat cream: ⅔ cup
- Almonds (grounded): ⅔ cup
- Sweet fresh cherries (finely chopped): ⅓ cup
- Egg: 1 whole
- Low-fat milk: ¾ cup
- Vanilla essence (optional): 1 tsp
Method of Preparation
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
- Mix the flour and baking powder. Then add the cream to it until light and fluffy. Further, stir in the ground almonds and chopped up cherries.
- Mix the beaten egg with the milk and gradually add this to the mixture made in the previous step. Don’t combine both the mixtures at once as it may lead to the milk splitting up.
- Ensure no lumps, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, and bake for about 30 minutes.
- Remove the baking paper and let the cherry almond bar cool down to room temperature. Then, cut it into 16 smaller bars before serving.
Nutritional Value (per bar)
- Fat: 5 g
- Carbohydrates: 18 g
- Protein: 3 g
Side Effects of Eating Cherries
Cherries have a long list of benefits for your body, but they might cause some side effects too. For example, if you have a sensitive stomach, you may want to limit the number of cherries you eat as they can cause digestive distress. In addition, some people might be allergic to the salicylates present in cherries. Eating too many cherries trigger salicylate sensitivity, leading to diarrhoea, gas, or bloating.
Cherries are somewhat high in fibre. If you drastically increase your fibre intake over a short period, you can experience intestinal gas, abdominal cramps or bloat. While eating one cup of cherries is unlikely to cause these side effects, it might cause problems if you eat more cherries as part of a very high-fibre diet. However, unless you’re allergic to cherries, eating them in recommended amounts is unlikely to cause serious side effects.
Cherries are wonder fruits when it comes to coping with diabetes. Although their sweetness might raise concerns over whether people with diabetes should consume it or not, it is perfectly safe and even recommended in specific diabetic diets. While affected individuals must avoid consuming canned cherries and maraschino cherries altogether due to their high added sugar and carbohydrate contents, the fresh sour and sweet cherries provide essential benefits to people with diabetes.
Sour and sweet cherries are abundant in anti-diabetic antioxidants, which help increase insulin production in the body. In addition, their fibre-rich pulp ensures slower digestion, preventing the body from absorbing too much sugar. The cherry antioxidant extract is essential for keeping blood sugar levels under control throughout the day. Hence individuals affected by Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes should consume fresh sour or sweet cherries in controlled portions as advised by the doctor or the dietician.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. Do cherries raise your blood sugar?
A. Eating cherries in moderation will not raise blood sugar because they have a chemical called anthocyanins. These chemicals increase insulin production and help the body keep blood sugar levels under control. But it is important to note that while there is no harm in consuming fresh sour cherries, you must consume limited portions of sweet ripened cherries as they have sugar content.
Q. What is the miracle fruit that cures diabetes?
A. Miracle fruit or ‘Miracle Berry’ is an evergreen shrub whose fruits, leaves and seed oils produce medicines for type-1 and type-2 diabetes medicines. This fruit contains antioxidants and phytonutrients, which is the critical component that helps in regulating blood sugar levels. Many studies show how the miracle fruit helps in decreasing insulin resistance in the patients and help improve insulin sensitivity
Q. What fruits to avoid if you have diabetes?
A. Diabetic individuals must avoid fruits with a high Glycemic Index (GI Index). Therefore, you must restrict canned, dried fruits, ripe pineapples, figs, mangoes, tangerines, lychees and overly ripe bananas.
Q. How many cherries should you eat a day?
A. A diabetic individual can consume ½ a cup (95 grams) of sour or sweet cherries per day. However, check your sugar levels before and after eating cherries to find the optimum portion for your body.
Q. Are cherries good for kidneys?
A. Fresh cherries contain a moderate amount of potassium, making them perfectly fine to consume. It reduces the risks of gout attacks and prevents the development of gout. However, consuming cherry extract must be avoided by individuals who have a restriction on potassium intake and are at a later stage of any kidney disease.
Q. Are cherries high carb?
A. One cup of raw cherries with pits contains 12.6 g of carbs. The low carb per serving value makes cherries fall under low to medium carb fruits. Hence individuals who have diabetes must consume measured portions of cherries as recommended by doctors or dieticians.
Q. How can I get rid of diabetes permanently?
A. While there is no cure for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, you can reverse Type 2 diabetes to a certain extent through healthy dietary habits and lifestyle changes. However, even though this might lead to remission, and you might not need any medications to keep blood sugar levels under control, it might come back at any time.
Q. What time should people with diabetes stop eating?
A. The main aim of diabetics should be to keep their sugar levels under control throughout the day. Therefore, meal timings should be well-charted out. Eat breakfast within 90 to 120 minutes after waking up, followed by well-rounded meals every 4 to 5 hours. Healthy snacking between meals is highly encouraged as it keeps blood sugar levels even.
Q. What fruit is highest in sugar?
A. Mangoes and pomegranates contain the highest amounts of sugar among all the fruits. Others include oranges, bananas, grapes, lychees, and overly ripe sweet cherries. Although these fruits contain higher amounts of sugars, they provide vital health benefits and can be consumed in measured portions by diabetes patients as recommended by the dietician or doctor.
Q. What happens if you eat cherries every day?
A. Eating cherries every day not only aids weight loss but also provides us with numerous health benefits. For example, it acts as an anti-ageing agent and provides a natural cure for insomnia, lowers hypertension and prevents cardiovascular diseases. Adding to this, it helps maintain the body’s pH balance and gives us healthy skin and hair. First, however, eat them in moderation.
Q. Are cherries good for fatty liver?
A. An inflamed liver often shows characteristics of fatty liver disease due to fat stored in liver cells. Cherries are full of antioxidants and vitamin C, which help reduce inflammation. Hence cherries can protect you from nonalcoholic fatty liver diseases.