While all fruits are delicious, there’s a special place in our hearts for cherries. These stone fruits have a deep, luscious taste, with an intensity that’s sometimes surprising, considering their small size. Cherries have been cultivated since the days of ancient Greece and were introduced to the United States in the 17th century. Their culinary use has been constantly evolving since then. Today, you’re as likely to find cherries flavoring a soda or filling a pastry as you are to find them on a fruit platter.
But while cherries are often combined with large amounts of sugar to make them tastier, they’re incredibly good for you in their base form. Cherries are antioxidant-rich, and they also contain chemicals that can help to promote good rest. They also have an anti-inflammatory function and can be useful in the treatment of specific conditions. “Eating cherries or drinking cherry juice every day can lower uric acid levels and ease the pain and swelling of arthritis,” says registered dietitian Carly Sedlacek, per the Cleveland Clinic.
But despite this, cherries can sometimes be tricky to find in their purest form when out of season. While the convenience of canned and jarred cherries is attractive, some products — especially those designed to be served alongside cocktails or put into pies – can be filled with preservatives, additives, and copious amounts of sweetener. That’s why finding a healthy brand of canned or jarred cherries is so important. If you do, you can enjoy the fruit’s natural benefits.
Oregon Fruit started as a family-run operation in 1935. Unlike larger companies that tend to stock typically-canned fruits like peaches and pineapples, Oregon Fruit’s output is focused on lesser-seen canned goods, like blueberries, boysenberries, and cherries.
Rather than pump those cherry products full of sugar and preservatives, Oregon Fruit keeps them free of anything but the fruit itself. Oregon Fruit Red Tart Cherries in Water contain just, as you might expect, red tart cherries and water. This means it’s free of added sugars or preservatives.
This allows the health benefits of tart cherries to shine through. They’re full of nutrients, including potassium, magnesium, and copper. Both these nutrients, as well as their antioxidants, can help your immune system stay strong, according to Healthline. Eating tart cherries, instead of just drinking the juice (which is often heralded for its health benefits), also supplies useful fiber content to your diet. Each serving of Oregon Fruit’s Red Tart Cherries in Water delivers two grams of fiber, which is approximately 8% of your daily value.
King Orchards is a cherry producer that we’re seriously impressed by. This Northern Michigan-based orchard still runs a decidedly local operation, selling its canned fruits from its own physical location, in farmer’s markets around its part of the state, and nationwide. The family-run company is perhaps best known for its Montmorency cherries, which it grows over 140 acres of land — and for packing and delivering these cherries without any additions.
As such, its Canned Tart Cherries in Water is, quite literally, what you see on the tin. There are no preservatives, sugar, or dye added to these cherries, the latter of which can often be put into the fruit to give them their distinctive bright-red color. This lack of additions is reflected in the product’s nutritional information, with the sugar content coming purely from the cherries themselves. Additionally, there isn’t any fat and there is a minimal amount of sodium.
King Orchards’ cherries are most notable, though, for their iron content. In each serving, there’s 12% of your iron daily value, making them a great food source for the mineral that doesn’t involve eating meat or seafood. Iron is vital for a number of bodily functions. According to the National Institutes of Health, iron helps with the creation of red blood cells. It also helps oxygen move through our system properly and aids in hormone production.
If you find one of Cherry Republic’s products in a store, you’d better snap it up. This Glen Arbor-based company has been producing cherries for decades, with respect for the land that the Montmorency tart cherries that it produces are grown on.
This is reflected in its products, which feel both unfussy and deeply wholesome. Its Ruby Red Morsels of Joy, which consists of Montmorency tart pitted cherries in water, is a great example of this. With no added preservatives, additives, or dye, you get just the cherry here. With it, you get a great amount of vitamin A, with every serving providing approximately 15% of your daily value. This vitamin is used by the body for a variety of reasons and is particularly important for maintaining good eye health and a robust immune system, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Cherry Republic’s cherries also have a notable fiber content, with two grams per serving. Cherries contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, which both help food move through your system more easily. Getting an ample amount of fiber in your diet can help with better overall gastrointestinal health. The fiber in cherries in particular can also assist in preventing any blood sugar spikes that might occur from their natural sugars.
The practice of placing a marinated cherry on top of a cocktail with a garnish has been around since the 19th century. But as modern production methods evolved, so did these cherries’ recipes. Artificial flavorings and colorings quickly started to be added to the cherries to make them as vibrant-looking and bright-tasting as possible, with common additives including Red Dye 40, a food dye that’s been linked with allergic responses and triggering migraines, according to Healthline.
So it’s pretty cool to see a cocktail cherry company like Peninsula Premium that steers clear of those additives. Its Cocktail Cherries are free of preservatives and artificial additives and instead, focus on highlighting the natural flavors of the cherries themselves. The company uses Napoleon, Gold, and Emperor Francis cherries, which have a dark, luscious color and a deep flavor. This flavor is reinforced by the use of elderberry and cherry juice concentrate, with vegetable juice concentrate also used to add color.
Nutrition-wise, these cherries clock in at around 15 calories apiece, with the calories coming mainly from sugar. It should be noted, though, that some of the sugar in these cherries does come from corn syrup, with each cherry providing approximately 5% of your daily value of added sugar. As such, it might be best to enjoy these cherries in moderation.
Named after its founder, the baking-focused brand Duncan Hines is a household favorite. It’s not just dry goods that it offers, either: Duncan Hines also has a range of pie fillings, including several cherry options.
While some of its cherry pie fillings opt for artificial additives and high-energy sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup, you’ll be pleased to hear that others are decidedly more healthy. Its Comstock Simply Cherry Pie Filling and Topping, for example, doesn’t use any artificial ingredients, with its sweetness coming from sugar. It’s useful to bear in mind that artificial food additives aren’t necessarily bad in themselves, and a large amount of them are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and are considered to be totally safe for consumption. However, some of their long-term effects aren’t yet apparent — according to Healthline – so it might be preferable to avoid them.
Duncan Hines also stocks a “no sugar added” option of its cherry pie filling, which as you might expect has a super-low sugar content, with three grams per serving. It is worth noting, however, that this option does contain Red Dye 40, an artificial food coloring.
When some folks think of a sour cherry flavor, they think of those super-intense, fizzy candies that cause their lips to pucker. While these sweet treats do a fun imitation of an actual sour cherry’s flavor, they don’t really hold up to the real thing. Luckily, Marco Polo shows you how it’s done, without any unnecessary additional ingredients. In each jar of the all-natural product, there are just sour cherries, sugar, water, and citric acid.
This makes for a snack that has no fat, a low amount of calories, a pretty negligible amount of sodium, and some fiber. Most importantly, though, it allows you to enjoy the cherries themselves, and enjoy their positive benefits. Cherries are particularly useful for folks who are trying to manage their cholesterol levels, with the fruit helping to lower bad cholesterol in diabetic women, per BBC Good Food.
This may be partly down to the fiber in the fruit, which can help to bring down low-density cholesterol levels, explains Mayo Clinic. Sour cherries like Marco Polo’s are also particularly good as a post-workout snack, thanks to their potential ability to reduce inflammation, and therefore stop you from aching so much after you hit the gym or go for a run.
Cherries are often done a disservice by the amount of sugar added to them. While it can definitely make the sometimes tart fruit much sweeter, it also works to flatten the natural complexity of a cherry’s flavor, which can be nutty, sour, and sweet all at once.
But there’s no such risk with Gefen’s cherries. This company keeps things as natural as they can get, canning its sour cherries in just water and adding nothing else. As a result, Gefen’s sour cherries have a remarkably simple nutritional profile. There are no added sugars to have to consider, no fat or cholesterol, barely any sodium, and of course no preservatives, additives, or flavorings. As well as this, you also get the natural nutrients present in cherries, with a small amount of potassium, iron, and calcium in each serving.
This also means that you get to enjoy the antioxidants naturally present in cherries without having to worry about any additional ingredients. Sour cherries are naturally full of antioxidants that can help to reduce oxidative stress, which occurs when you have too many free radicals in your body, according to a study published in the journal Molecules. This can lead to tissue damage and an increase in the risk of chronic illness, according to Healthline. Canned cherries remain high in antioxidants, making Gefen a fantastic choice if you want a quick boost of nutrition.
The amount of products offered by canned food giant Del Monte is pretty staggering. One look at its website will show you endless options for canned fruit — and so it’s hardly surprising that it has some cherry options too. Unfortunately, though, its sole options for just cherries and cherries alone aren’t exactly healthy. Del Monte’s Pitted Cherries are packed in heavy syrup, which might make them sweet, but also gives you 22 grams of sugar in each cup.
However, if you want a cherry fix without all of that sugariness, go for Del Monte’s Cherry Mixed Fruit. This product combines cherries with peaches and pears, and opts for an extra-light syrup, reducing its sugar content, and keeping the focus more on the fruit instead.
Its additional ingredients also mean that you get some nutritional benefits that you might not get if you were just eating cherries. In each can, there’s 60% of your vitamin C content, as well as some vitamin A and potassium. While vitamin C has long been considered to be helpful for a common cold, it does so much more than that. As well as helping to bolster your immune system, vitamin C is also a potent antioxidant and can help the body maintain hard tissue like your bones and cartilage, according to WebMD. It can also help to maintain skin health and slow signs of aging.
Making a good cherry pie can be quite tricky, and for some people, using a pie filling is a quick way to cut down on work. But pie filling also has its disadvantages. Like many processed foods, cherry pie filling can be crammed full of sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup, which can increase appetite and insulin resistance and may contribute to high blood pressure, in ways that other sugar products may not, according to Cleveland Clinic.
Thankfully, pie filling manufacturer Lucky Leaf has managed to avoid the use of high fructose corn syrup in its Premium Cherry Filling or Topping. This filling has a refreshingly short list of ingredients. It sweetens its product with regular sugar instead. There’s also no sodium or fat in the product.
Importantly, though, while there’s no high fructose corn syrup in the Lucky Leaf Premium Cherry Filling or Topping, there is still a significant amount of sugar in each serving. But Lucky Leaf has that covered, too. If you prefer to keep your carbohydrate count down, Lucky Leaf Lite Cherry Fruit Filling or Topping is an excellent alternative. Providing flavor via sucralose, a zero-calorie sweetener, Lucky Leaf Lite has a grand total of eight grams of carbohydrates per serving, with just four grams of sugar, and zero grams of added sugars.
Everything about the Tillen Farms brand feels wholesome. An extension of the Stonewall Kitchen family of brands, a company that has its roots in farmers’ markets, Tillen Farms’ output seems to embody an ethos of freshness and natural ingredients. This is indicated by its Bada Bing Cherries, a superb choice for folks who want the sweetness of Maraschino cocktail cherries without additives.
Bada Bing Cherries are made using the Bing variety, a cherry that’s known for its natural sweetness. This sweetness prevents the need for excessive amounts of sugars to lighten things up, which is reflected in this product’s nutritional info, containing far less sugar and fewer calories than comparable jarred cherry brands. In each serving, there’s just one gram of sugar and one gram of added sugar. That added amount comes not from ultra-concentrated syrups — or the often-used high fructose corn syrup — but from regular sugar.
As well as this, Tillen Farms Bada Bing Cherries are made from solely natural ingredients, with fruit and vegetable concentrates added to give them color. This all amounts to a kosher, gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO certified product that presents little risk of allergens, and gives you a simple, yet delicious cherry taste in each bite.