Cherry plums are a type of stone fruit that is a hybrid between plums and cherries. They have become increasingly popular in recent years due to their unique flavor and potential health benefits. But are cherry plums actually good for you? Here is a detailed look at the nutritional profile and health effects of cherry plums.
What are cherry plums?
Cherry plums, also known as cherry plums or plumcots, are a cross between plums and apricots. They have a smooth, reddish-purple skin with a pit in the middle. The flesh inside can be yellow, green, red, or even black depending on the variety.
There are over 50 varieties of cherry plums grown around the world. Some popular types include:
- Flavor Grenade – Sweet, juicy flesh
- Flavor Queen – Sweet, perfumed flavor
- Flavor Supreme – Tart, firm flesh
- Dinosaur Egg – Large, speckled skin
Cherry plums are smaller and rounder than regular plums. They also have a unique flavor profile described as a cross between plums and cherries or even pineapple. Their taste is generally on the sweeter side.
Cherry plums are packed with important vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds that make them a nutritious addition to your diet. Some of the top nutrients found in cherry plums include:
- Vitamin C – Cherry plums are an excellent source of vitamin C. One cup provides over 75% of your daily needs. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps boost immunity and prevent cellular damage.
- Potassium – With 310mg of potassium per cup, cherry plums can help lower blood pressure by balancing fluid levels.
- Copper – Important for energy production, nerve function, and collagen formation. A 1-cup serving has 14% of the RDI for copper.
- Vitamin K – Necessary for proper blood clotting and bone metabolism. You get around 5% of the RDI for vitamin K in each cup.
- Polyphenols – Powerful plant compounds like anthocyanins and catechins that act as antioxidants in the body.
Cherry plums are about 76% water, with around 100 calories and less than 1 gram of fat per cup. They also contain some vitamin A, folate, niacin, magnesium, and phosphorus.
Overall, the rich supply of vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds like polyphenols make cherry plums a nutrient-dense fruit option.
Benefits for heart health
Regularly eating cherry plums may promote heart health in several ways. First, they contain potassium, an electrolyte that helps regulate blood pressure. Getting enough potassium can decrease sodium levels and dilation of the arteries, lowering your risk of hypertension.
One study in over 12,000 adults also found that people who consumed the most foods rich in vitamin C had a 42% lower risk of stroke compared to those with low intakes.
Additionally, the anthocyanin antioxidants found in cherry plums can protect cholesterol from oxidation, reducing plaque buildup in your arteries.
According to an in vitro study, treating human blood vessels with cherry plum polyphenols significantly reduced LDL oxidation while boosting HDL cholesterol levels.
Through their effects on blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and inflammation, adding cherry plums to your routine may keep your heart healthy and decrease disease risk.
May promote digestive regularity
With around 2 grams of fiber in each cup, eating cherry plums can also aid digestion. The fiber moves slowly through your gastrointestinal tract undigested, adding bulk to stools and softening them to ease elimination.
Multiple studies show that upping your intake of fiber-rich fruits like plums may reduce constipation while improving the frequency of bowel movements.
Fiber also feeds the beneficial bacteria in your intestines, which keeps your microbiome balanced and prevents issues like diarrhea or IBS.
Help regulate blood sugar
Some research indicates that the polyphenols in cherry plums could help moderate blood sugar levels. These compounds work by slowing the breakdown of carbs in the digestive tract, leading to a more gradual rise in blood sugar.
A study in 19 people showed that eating plums significantly decreased blood sugar spike after a carb-rich meal compared to a control group.
Other animal studies have found that supplementing with plum polyphenols increased insulin sensitivity and reduced oxidative stress in diabetic rats.
While more human-based research is needed, the early evidence is promising in regards to the effects of cherry plums on glycemic control.
May promote immunity
The vitamin C content of cherry plums makes them a great choice to help keep your immune system strong. Vitamin C is well-known for its role in supporting immune function.
It works by enhancing the production and function of lymphocytes, the white blood cells that protect your body from infection and illness.
According to a review out of Switzerland, even a minor deficiency in vitamin C can weaken your immune defenses and increase susceptibility to pathogens like viruses and bacteria.
Cherry plums can help optimize your intake of vitamin C to prevent deficiencies and ensure your immune system stays in tip-top shape, especially during cold and flu season.
High in antioxidants
Antioxidants are compounds that protect your cells against oxidative damage caused by free radicals. Left unchecked, oxidative stress can lead to chronic inflammation and the progression of conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Cherry plums are loaded with beneficial antioxidants, including:
- Anthocyanins – Pigments that give cherry plums their vivid red-purple color. They support eye, brain, heart, and joint health.
- Catechins – Linked to lower risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
- Chlorogenic acid – May protect liver health and moderate blood sugar levels.
- Rutin – Could prevent plaque formation in arteries while reducing inflammation.
With a high concentration and wide variety of antioxidants, adding cherry plums to your diet is an easy way to prevent free radical damage and protect the health of your cells.
May promote bone health
Along with their wealth of other nutrients, cherry plums also contain a decent amount of vitamin K. Vitamin K is important for bone metabolism and helping prevent osteoporosis.
It works by carboxylating specific bone-related proteins like osteocalcin, which promotes bone formation and mineralization to increase bone density.
In fact, several observational studies show that a higher intake of vitamin K is associated with a lower risk of bone fracture in healthy adults.
Plus, eating potassium-rich foods like cherry plums helps counteract acidification and reduce calcium excretion from the bones to prevent mineral loss over time.
Easy to add to your diet
Cherry plums are very versatile and easy to enjoy as part of a balanced diet. Here are some tips on how to add more cherry plums to your daily routine:
- Enjoy them fresh as a snack, in fruit salads or baked into tarts, crumbles or pies.
- Make cherry plum jam, chutney or preserves.
- Roast or grill them and add to meat or fish dishes.
- Blend into smoothies for a nutrition boost.
- Make cherry plum sorbet for a light summertime dessert.
- Infuse liquor, vinegar or tea with cherry plums.
- Dehydrate slices into crunchy chips or fruit leather.
When buying fresh, look for plump, brightly colored fruit without bruises. Ripe cherry plums should yield a bit when gently pressed.
For the best flavor, allow them to ripen at room temperature for one or two days. Then store ripe cherry plums in the fridge for up to five days.
Cherry plums can also be frozen for longer storage. Simply wash, dry, and place whole fruit in freezer-safe bags. They will keep for up to one year in the freezer.
Cherry plums are generally considered safe for most people when consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.
However, there are some downsides to keep in mind:
- High in sugar – While the sugar in fruit is natural, cherry plums are still relatively high in sugar. Those with diabetes should eat them in limited amounts to prevent spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels.
- Can trigger reactions – Cherry plums belong to the Rosaceae family of plants, so those with sensitivities to salicylates or other compounds found in stone fruits should use caution.
- Contain FODMAPs – Cherries and plums contain FODMAPs, types of carbs that may exacerbate IBS symptoms. People with IBS may want to limit intake.
Additionally, the hard pits found in cherry plums are a potential choking hazard for small children. Supervise young kids carefully and remove pits before giving cherry plums to toddlers.
The bottom line
Cherry plums are a nutrient-packed fruit that boasts an impressive array of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and plant compounds.
Incorporating a few servings of cherry plums into your diet each week can come with many benefits, including improved immunity, digestion, heart health, and blood sugar control.
They are also versatile and can be enjoyed in many dishes and desserts.
However, some people may need to moderate their intake due to the high sugar content, risk of reactions, and potential choking hazard.
Overall, cherry plums can be a nutritious and unique addition to a balanced diet for most people when enjoyed in moderation.