Maraschino Cherries: 6 Downsides to Eating Them

Medically Reviewed on 7/8/2022
Maraschino Cherries
Maraschino cherries contain nearly three times as many calories and grams of sugar as regular cherries.

Raw, fresh sweet cherries have natural sugar and dietary fiber and are a good source of potassium, manganese, magnesium, copper, and iron.

However, Maraschino cherries are not as healthy (because they are heavily processed and sweetened) as their raw counterparts because they lose a significant amount of their nutritional value.

Maraschino cherries have almost three times as much sugar as raw cherries, which is added sugar. If you want to use them as a dessert or beverage topping, consider using raw sweet cherries to limit sugar intake.

6 downsides of maraschino cherries

  1. High in added sugar
    • A 3.5-ounce (about a 1/2 cup) serving of maraschino cherries contains 38.77 grams of sugar. Even a single piece contains 2 grams of sugar, compared to 1 gram of natural sugars in a regular cherry.
    • The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than 9 teaspoons (36 grams) of added sugar per day for men or 6 teaspoons (24 grams) per day for women.
  2. High in calories
    • Maraschino cherries contain nearly three times as many calories and grams of sugar as regular cherries (a result of being soaked in the sugar solution).
    • They are typically sold suspended in high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) solution, which is a sweetener made from corn syrup composed of fructose and glucose.
    • Several studies have linked HFCS to metabolic disorders, obesity, and related chronic conditions, including type II diabetes and heart diseases.
  3. Artificial coloring
    • Fresh cherries are deep red due to their antioxidants that help prevent cell damage.
    • Maraschino cherries are a bright red color that comes from artificial coloring rather than from nature and can cause allergy-like symptoms in some people.
  4. Low in nutrients
    • Maraschino cherries supply only a small amount of certain nutrients. A 3.5-ounce serving of the cherries supplies 54 mg of calcium and 21 mg of potassium, 45 international units of vitamin A, and 1.5 µg of vitamin K.
    • When regular cherries are turned into maraschino cherries, nearly every macronutrient and micronutrient are notably reduced.
  5. Low in antioxidants
    • Regular cherries are rich in anthocyanins (powerful antioxidants) that help prevent conditions, such as heart disease, certain cancers, and type II diabetes.
    • Maraschino cherries lose their natural, antioxidant-rich pigments through the bleaching and brining process, which means many of their natural health benefits are lost.
  6. Can cause allergic reactions
    • The most common food dye used in making maraschino cherries is Red 40, which is derived from petroleum distillates or coal tars.
    • Red 40 has been shown to cause hyperactivity and allergic reactions in some food dye-sensitive individuals.
    • Moreover, Red 40 contains trace amounts of the known carcinogen benzidine which has been associated with a higher risk of bladder cancer.


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The nutritional content of maraschino cherries

Table 1: A breakdown of the nutrition in 1 cup of cherries (about 22 cherries) compared to 1 cup (155 to 160 grams) of maraschino cherries
Nutrient Fresh cherries Maraschino cherries
Calories 97 266
Fat 0.3 grams 0.3 grams
Carbohydrates 25 grams 67 grams
Added sugar 0 grams 42 grams
Fiber 3.2 grams 5 grams
Protein 1.6 grams 0.4 grams
Vitamin C 13 percent of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) 0 percent of the RDI
Vitamin B6 6 percent of the RDI Less than 1 percent of the RDI
Magnesium 5 percent of the RDI Less than 1 percent of the RDI
Phosphorus 5 percent of the RDI Less than 1 percent of the RDI
Potassium 7 percent of the RDI Less than 1 percent of the RDI

What are maraschino cherries?

Maraschino cherries are neon red, candy-sweet cherries that top ice cream sundaes, cakes, pastries, and classic mixed drinks

These cherries originated in Yugoslavia and northern Italy about 200 years ago.

These cherries do not grow on trees. Merchants use a sweet cherry called the Marasca cherry as the base and let it soak in maraschino liqueur until it is ready to be used as a tasty treat.

These were first introduced in the U.S. in the 1980s and since then, are used as a popular garnish on desserts and mixed drinks.

In 1896, the U.S. cherry processors tried their recipe the “Royal Anne cherry” using local sweet cherry and less maraschino liqueur. They even replaced maraschino liqueur with almond oil.

How are maraschino cherries made?

Commercially made maraschino cherries are first soaked in a brine solution that contains calcium chloride and sulfur dioxide, which bleaches the cherries, removing their natural red pigment and flavor. The cherries are left in the brine solution for four to six weeks.

After this bleaching process, cherries are soaked for one month in another solution containing red food dye, sugar, and oil of bitter almonds or an oil with a similar flavor. They are then covered in a sugar-sweetened liquid with added preservatives.

The two main types of maraschino cherries are alcoholic and nonalcoholic, both are easy to make at home with time and patience.

  1. Boozy maraschino cherries (traditional)
    • The cherries are washed and placed in a jar
    • Two to three cups of liqueur are poured into the jars, fully immersing the cherries
    • Refrigerate with the lid on for at least two weeks
    • Swirl the jar every couple of days to immerse the cherries again
  2. Booze-free maraschino cherries
    • A mixture of pitted sweet cherries, grape juice, lemon juice, sugar, water, almond oil, salt, and star anise are cooked together.
    • This can be eaten as soon as they are cool, but the flavor enhances the longer you steep them.

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Medically Reviewed on 7/8/2022
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