superfoods

Strawberries

The strawberry is scientifically known as Fragaria ananassa, and it originated in Europe. This tasty little berry is truly one of the most nutritious fruits on the planet, as it is (relatively) low in sugar and incredibly high in micronutrients.

Strawberries are probably one of the most popular fruits as well, as they are well known and loved for their juicy, sweet taste, their versatility in cooking. Not only can strawberries be eaten raw (which is how they are most commonly consumed), but they are also excellent in jams, preserves and other baked goods.

The nutrient content of strawberries is quite impressive, and some of the highlights include high levels of vitamin C, manganese, potassium and folate. They are also quite high in antioxidants and certain plant compounds that have been linked with health benefits such as blood sugar balance, cardiovascular health and cancer prevention.

Strawberries should definitely be part of your regular diet, not to mention that the entire family (kids especially) are sure to love them!

Nutritional Information

1 cup

Calories 48
Fiber 3 g
Calcium 24.3 mg
Magnesium 19.8 mg
Potassium 232.6 mg
Vitamin C 89.4 mg

Strawberries Benefits

1. Strawberries Support and Improve Heart Health

Largely thanks to strawberry’s high anthocyanins content (the plant compound that is responsible for the fruit’s bright, red color, strawberries are considered a superfood for improved cardiovascular health. Berries in general have been linked to lowered risk of death from heart disease (1), mainly by raising HDL (“good’) cholesterol, decreasing blood pressure and improving blood platelet function (2). Strawberries in particular (amongst other berries) are known for their high antioxidant content, which can improve vascular function and reduce oxidative damage.

2. Strawberries Protect Against Certain Types of Cancer

Speaking of oxidative damage from free radicals, many types of cancers are thought to be caused largely by this phenomenon, and strawberries have the antioxidant profile to help. Cancer has been linked to both oxidative damage and systemic inflammation (3), which is why eating foods high in antioxidants is so critical for health. Strawberries have also been shown to actually reduce tumor formation in both oral cancers and liver cancer cells (4). While more research is needed, evidence is promising that strawberries can be a powerful preventative measure in fighting cancer.

3. Strawberries are Rich in Antioxidants and Other Key Nutrients for Health

For being so tiny, strawberries sure do pack a big nutritional punch. In just one strawberry, you’ll benefit from high levels of vitamin C, which is crucial for immune health (5), manganese, which supports many important bodily processes (6), potassium, which is necessary for regulating blood pressure (7), and folate, a B vitamin essential for tissue growth (7).  The elderly and pregnant women are well advised to include strawberries in the diet, as adequate dietary folate in these populations is particularly important.

As if that weren’t enough, strawberries are also packed full of plant compounds such as pelargonidin, ellagic acid, ellagitannins and procyanidins, all of which have their own unique and important health benefits.

4. Strawberries Work to Balance Your Blood Sugar

All fruits contain natural sugars, some of which can have a negative effect on our blood sugar more-so than others. Strawberries are made up of carbohydrates that are broken down into simple sugars by the body, then being released into the blood stream. Interestingly, studies have shown that eating strawberries alongside a carbohydrate-heavy meal actually slows down insulin and glucose spikes following the meal (8). This means that strawberries can actually be an effective part of preventing and treating type 2 diabetes and other metabolic diseases.

5. Strawberries Might Slow the Aging Process and Improve Cognitive Function

While more studies are needed, preliminary evidence on shows that strawberry extracts (more concentrated, supplemental doses of strawberry) can have a positive impact on cognitive function in ageing animals, especially increased motor function. This is thought to be due to certain phytonutrients in strawberries that work to cool inflammation in the body, the same inflammatory responses that are linked to gastrointestinal diseases such as Chrohn’s Disease and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) (9).

11 Health Benefits of Strawberries

Uses of Strawberries

1. Eat Them Raw

The easiest and healthiest ways to enjoy strawberries are simply eating them raw. This can be done in many ways, so you’ll never get bored! Simply snack on them alone, add them to a smoothie, slice them and add them to most any salad for a sweet twist, mix them into a fruit salad or make a fruit salsa. And these are just several ideas of many! Kids typically love strawberries, so offer them alone or mixed with other berries to make sure your little ones are getting plenty of antioxidants in their diet.

2. Add Them to Your Favorite Salsa

Might sound odd, but strawberries make a wonderful addition to a spicy salsa recipe, giving them a sweet taste to appease any taste buds. Try a simple version by adding together sliced strawberries, jalapeño pepper, red onion, cilantro and lemon or lime juice. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve alongside corn chips or sliced veggies as an appetiser, or enjoy it over a meat dish.

3. Make Strawberry Jam

While strawberry jam is delicious, most are made with tons of sugar. Try making a simple and healthier version by simply dicing up one pound of strawberries and bringing them to a boil with the juice from one lemon. Reduce to a simmer and allow these two ingredients to cook for about 20 minutes. Then, add honey to taste (depending on your desired sweetness, but hopefully no more than 1/3 cup), and cook all together, mixing frequently, for another 10 minutes. Allow to cool, and you’ve got yourself a healthy and mouth-watering strawberry jam, sans refined sugar.

4. Make a Strawberry Face mask

Not only can you eat strawberry, but you can use it as part of your skin are routine! Largely due to its plethora of vitamin C, antioxidants and plant compounds, strawberry is thought to help with acne, blackheads, dry and oily skin and more. Check out this site for a few easy, DIY strawberry face mask ideas, depending on your specific skin type.

5. Dip Them in Chocolate for a Healthy Dessert

Simple decadence is perhaps best described by chocolate-dipped strawberries. For a totally healthy and satisfying dessert, have strawberries dipped in dark chocolate on hand for the whole family. It’s almost like these two ingredients were made for each other! Try one way of making this popular dessert with 1/2 cup cocoa butter, 4 tablespoons of raw cacao, 2 teaspoons of raw honey and about 25(ish) strawberries. Start by melting your cocoa butter in either a double boiler or on very low heat in a pot, stirring constantly. Then, add your cacao powder and honey, mixing all together. Allow the mixture to cool a bit, and then dip your strawberries in, setting them on a plate or baking tray lined with parchment paper. Place in the fridge to set for at least one hour, and serve!

Possible Side Effects of Strawberries

Strawberries are usually safe for everyone, although allergies can definitely occur. Consider the following:

Strawberry Allergy

Allergies to strawberries are not uncommon, and symptoms most commonly present as itching or swelling of the mouth, tongue and throat, all-over hives or a rash, headaches, or (only in severe cases) trouble breathing. An allergy to strawberries is most common is people who also have a polllen-food allergy, which could include being allergic to birth pollen or apples (10).

Pesticides

Every year, the EWG (Environmental Working Group) puts out a list of the top dozen pesticide-exposed produce items (fruits and veggies). This year, strawberries topped the list, meaning they are the most likely to be contaminated produce item you can buy. Of all the conventionally grown strawberries tested, 98% had some sort of pesticide residue, while 40% had residue from 10 or more types of pesticides. Yikes! For this reason, definitely opt for organically grown strawberries as often as possible.

Strawberries FAQs

Where are strawberries grown?

Strawberries are grown in many parts of the world, and are indigenous to most all parts of the northern hemisphere and most tropical regions across the globe. There are few climates where some sort of strawberry species will not grow, and they are grown in every US state. The United States and Spain are the two largest producers of strawberries (the US comes first), but Spain is the largest exporter of fresh strawberries, while Poland is the largest exporter of frozen strawberries.

Where did the name “strawberry” come from, anyway?

The etymology of the word “strawberry” is not entirely clear. The “berry” portion is obvious, but several theories exist as to the “straw” portion. Some historians believe it came about because strawberries used to be mulched with straw, and others propose that the name came about because the seed of the strawberry is similar in color to straw (among other theories, as well).

What makes strawberries so bright red?

Anthocyanins are what make strawberries so bright red. Anthocyanins are usually found in just the skin of fruits, but berries also have them in their flesh. Interesting, the more intensely colored the fruit, the more anthocyanins they have, which usually means that riper fruit contains more. Eating foods high in anthocyanins (like strawberries) has been linked to increased heart health (11).

What is the nutritional make up for a strawberry?

Strawberries are about 90% water and 8% carbs, with just trace amounts of protein and fat. They are also very low in calories, with 1 cup of strawberries containing less than 50 calories (12). Their carbohydrate content is made up of fructose, sucrose and glucose, and also a decent amount of fiber.

Can diabetics eat strawberries?

The Glycemic Index score of a strawberry is 40 (13), which is relatively low. This makes them a good fruit choice for diabetics, and they have also been shown to actually support healthy blood sugar levels.

What are the health benefits of strawberries?

Strawberries have been shown to balance blood sugar levels, protect against certain types of cancers, support cardiovascular health (heart health) and improve ageing-related cognitive decline (although more studies are needed on this benefit).

What are some ways I can incorporate strawberries into my diet?

Aside from enjoying strawberries raw alone, in smoothies or as part of a salad or salsa, you can also make strawberry jam or preserves, use them in baking, dip them in dark chocolate or even make a strawberry face mask for skin health.

Are there any risks of eating strawberries?

Strawberries are generally safe for most people, unless you have a specific strawberry allergy. Symptoms will often present as itching and/or swelling of the mouth, throat and tongue, general hives or rash and (in extreme cases) trouble breathing.

Is there a major difference between organic and conventional strawberries?

Unfortunately, yes. Strawberries are number one on the Environmental Working Group’s dirty dozen list, which means they are the one produce item most likely to have pesticide residues, which can potentially be harmful (especially to children). Because of this, try to buy organic strawberries if possible, or wash them well (although this does not guarantee a pesticide-free strawberry).

Can I freeze strawberries?

Absolutely! Berries freeze quite well. To avoid them sticking together, freeze them first on a baking sheet, and then transfer to a ziplock bag or air tight container. Strawberries should freeze well for at least 6 months.

How long do strawberries keep?

Fresh strawberries don’t keep for too long, compared to some fruits. On the counter (at room temperature) they will probably only last for about 2 days, and in the refrigerator will last for 5-7 days. If they’ve been cut into/sliced, these timeframes decrease. You’ll know your strawberries have gone bad if they become mushy and discolored (but to a point, you can still use these in baking, smoothies, etc).

What is the best way to store strawberries?

The best way to store strawberries in order to maintain freshness is by placing them directly (without washing) in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

What should I look for when buying strawberries? Which will taste best?

Shape and size aren’t as important, but local, seasonal and organic berries will almost always have a much better taste. Look for ones that are bright red but not over-ripe (they should still be relatively firm).

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