Strawberries are among the most popular berries consumed worldwide. These tiny bright red coloured juicy fruits have been cultivated for hundreds of years. Emerging research provides substantial evidence to classify strawberries as a functional food with several preventive and therapeutic health benefits.
Strawberries, a rich source of phytochemicals (ellagic acid, anthocyanins, quercetin, and catechin) and vitamins (ascorbic acid and folic acid), have been highly ranked among dietary sources of polyphenols and antioxidant capacity. To a lesser extent, strawberries also provide iron, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamins B6, K, and E. A cup of strawberries provides over 13% of the RDA of dietary ﬁber and just 43 Kcal.
Strawberries are mainly known for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions, but there are some recent studies which have demonstrated that they are involved in cellular functions like cell metabolism, cell survival etc.
Health benefits and properties of strawberries can be well understood below:
- Antioxidant: Strawberries are loaded with antioxidants. 2 of the quite widely known antioxidants present in strawberries are Anthocyanin which is the main reason for bright red color and Ellagic acid which has many health benefits from cancer to cardiac health to weight to diabetes. Anthocyanin content is usually proportional to color intensity, increasing greatly as the fruit ripens and this antioxidant is associated with numerous health benefits, especially regarding heart health. Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C, an antioxidant necessary for immunity and skin health
- Anti-inflammatory:The flavonoid quercetin, which is present in strawberries, is a natural anti-inflammatory. Strawberries can also reduce gut inflammation and is often well tolerated amongst people with inflammatory bowel diseases. A fresh serving of strawberries daily can reduce inflammatory blood marker (CRP) which is often linked with arthritis and cardiovascular disease.
- Anti-Diabetic: Strawberries comes under the category of low GI means they would not lead to big spikes in blood sugar levels and are considered safe for people with diabetes. Strawberries slow down glucose digestion and reduce spikes in both glucose and insulin.
- Weight management:A cup of strawberries has lesser than 50 kcal and offer wide range of micronutrients which becomes the best choice especially if one is keeping a close check on the weight. A single serving of strawberries offer about 2 grams of fiber – both soluble and insoluble which comprises of about 26% of carbohydrate content of strawberries. The dietary ﬁber in strawberries helps to keep digestion regular and curbs overeating.
- Cardiovascular protective:The micronutrients like folic acid, manganese, potassium along with wide array of antioxidants present makes strawberries cardio protective. The antioxidants present in them decreases oxidative stress and inflammation in the arteries. Also, they improve vascular function and reduce harmful oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol. The flavonoid quercetin present in strawberries reduces the risk of atherosclerosis. The high potassium content helps in reducing blood pressure by offsetting the effect of sodium in the body.
- Neuroprotective:Higher intake of flavonoids reduces the rate of cognitive decline in older adults. Also, strawberry intake promotes hippocampal neurogenesis which means new nerve generation in the area of the brain known as the hippocampus, which is often involved in the learning and recall of new information. Folate (vitamin B9) present in strawberries is important for normal tissue growth and cell function.
- Anticancer:Cancer formation and progression is often linked to oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. Berries have anti cancer role due to their ability to fight oxidative stress and inflammation. The protective effects of strawberries may be driven by ellagic acid and ellagitannins, which have been shown to stop the growth of cancer cells by inhibiting tumor growth and reduce inflammation in the body. While no fruit acts as a direct treatment for cancer, strawberries, and similar fruits might help reduce the risk of developing the disease but cannot be the sole mode of treatment.
Strawberries are available fresh, frozen, freeze-dried, and in jellies, syrups, and jams. People looking to eat strawberries should check the label of frozen and dried strawberries for added sugars. When looking for jellies or jams, people can choose all-fruit spreads that do not contain added sweeteners and fillers. It’s always recommended to choose fresh fruit over any of the above if you have an option.
Here are some handy, healthful tips for incorporating more strawberries into your diet:
- Dice strawberries and add them to your salads.
- Add sliced strawberries to plain Greek yogurt with a drizzle of pure maple syrup or raw honey and sliced almonds.
- Top whole-grain waffles, pancakes, or oatmeal porridge with fresh strawberries.
- Dip whole strawberries in homemade chocolate dip using cacao, milk of your choice and coconut oil; thereafter sprinkle assorted mix seeds like chia / sunflower / flax / sesame over it.
- Some DIY strawberry face pack for glowing radiant skin :
- Crushed fresh strawberries + tbsp of curd + tbsp of raw honey. Apply evenly on face and wash with warm water after 15 mins.
- Crushed strawberries + tbsp of lemon juice. Wash after 15 mins with warm water.
- Crushed strawberries + tbsp of rice flour + tsp of cacao powder + tbsp of rose water. Apply evenly and wash with warm water after 15 mins
Strawberries are usually well tolerated by people. Care should be taken that over consumption should be avoided because of the risk that strawberries may contain pesticide residues (strawberries being highly sprayed crop) because unlike other fruits, we don’t have an option to peel this fruit and it’s often consumed whole.Thus, choosing organic ones and the one’s produced during seasons becomes the best choice to keep these residue at bay. We can adapt the practice of washing them well before consuming it. Secondly, they contain potassium as one of the micronutrients but consuming too much potassium can be harmful to people whose kidneys are not fully functional. If the kidneys are unable to remove excess potassium from the blood, it could lead to hyperkalemia, or high potassium levels. Strawberries can add a burst of sweetness to a healthy diet, although people with kidney problems should be careful about eating too many strawberries.