Fragrantly sweet strawberries are the most popular type of berry fruit in the world. Although they have become increasingly available year-round, they are at the peak of their season from April through July when they are the most delicious and most abundant.
While there are more than 600 varieties of strawberries that differ in flavor, size and texture, one can usually identify a strawberry by its red flesh that has small seeds piercing its surface, and a small, regal, green leafy cap and stem that adorn its crown. Most commercially grown strawberries come from the genus-species Fragaria ananassa. Cultivation of this particular genus-species has been taking place for nearly 300 years.
Nutrition Facts of Straberries
One cup sliced fresh strawberries (166 grams) include:
- Calories: 50.
- Protein: 1 gram.
- Carbohydrates: 11.65 grams.
- Dietary Fiber: 3.81 grams.
- Calcium: 23.24 mg.
- Iron: 0.63 mg.
- Magnesium: 16.60 mg.
- Phosphorus: 31.54 mg.
- Potassium: 44.82 mg.
- Selenium: 1.16 mg.
- Vitamin C: 94.12 mg.
- Folate: 29.38 mcg.
- Vitamin A: 44.82 IU.
Health Benefits of Strawberries
The health benefits of strawberries include proper brain function, improved eye care, relief from high blood pressure, arthritis, gout and various cardiovascular diseases.
The impressive polyphenolic and antioxidant content of strawberries make them good for improving the immune system, preventing against various types of cancers, and for reducing the signs of premature aging.
1. Anti-Cancer Benefits
Since chronic, excessive inflammation and chronic, excessive oxidative stress (lack of antioxidant nutrients and unsupported oxygen metabolism) are often primary factors in the development of cancer, strawberries would definitely be expected to have cancer risk-lowering properties given their outstanding antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrient content.
Anti-cancer benefits of strawberries are best documented in the case of breast, cervical, colon, and esophageal cancer. Most of the tumor-inhibiting studies on animals have focused on the phytonutrient content of strawberries. Among the strawberry phytonutrients, ellagic acid and ellagitannins in strawberry have emerged as anti-cancer substances of special interest.
While the anti-cancer (chemopreventive) properties of these phytonutrients have yet to be fully understood, their ability to lower risk for some forms of cancer may be related to their ability to boost the activity of antioxidant enzymes like catalase or superoxide dismustase, their ability to lessen the activity of pro-inflammatory enzymes like cyclo-oxygenase 2 (COX-2), or their ability to lessen expression of the enzyme inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS). Whatever the mechanism or combination of mechanisms, strawberries are likely to bring anti-cancer health benefits to your diet.
2. Blood Pressure
Due to their high potassium content, strawberries are recommended to those with high blood pressure to help negate the effects of sodium in the body. A low potassium intake is just as big of a risk factor in developing high blood pressure as a high sodium intake.
According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, fewer than 2% of US adults meet the daily 4700 mg recommendation for potassium. Also of note, a high potassium intake is associated with a 20% decreased risk of dying from all causes.
3. Eye Care
The primary reasons for almost all problems related to the eyes are free radicals or a deficiency of certain nutrients. With increased age and a lack of these protective nutrients, the harmful oxidants or free radicals can cause heavy damage on our eyes, such as excessively dry eyes, degeneration of the optical nerves, macular degeneration, vision defects and increased susceptibility to infections as well.
Antioxidants such as flavonoids, phenolic phytochemicals, and elagic acid, all of which are present in strawberries, can help to avoid these situations to a large extent. One more condition strawberries can fix is is ocular pressure, meaning the pressure within the eyes. Any disturbance in this pressure can be very harmful for the eyes. Strawberries are helpful because they contain potassium, which helps to maintain the correct pressure.
4. Cardiovascular Benefits
No area of strawberry health benefits is better documented than benefits to the cardiovascular system. It’s also hard to imagine any other research result, since our heart and blood vessels need everyday protection from oxidative and inflammatory damage, and the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrient content of strawberries is simply outstanding.
Strawberries come out as the best fruit source of a pivotal antioxidant vitamin: vitamin C in several nationwide studies conducted in different countries. In one study that surveyed 66 different fruits consumed by adults in Iran, strawberries not only emerged as the best fruit source of vitamin C, but a source that provided more than twice as much vitamin C (47 milligrams versus 18 milligrams in 3.5 ounces) than the average for fruits as a group.
Folate may also help with depression by preventing an excess of homocysteine from forming in the body, which can prevent blood and other nutrients from reaching the brain. Excess homocysteine interferes with the production of the feel-good hormones serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which regulate not only mood, but sleep and appetite as well.
The high content in potassium found in strawberries enhances diuresis, which contributes to detoxifying the body, as well as regulating blood pressure.
7. Boost Immune System
The immune system is our body’s first line of defense against infections, microbial action, and a wide variety of other potentially damaging and dangerous conditions that can affect our body. Vitamin C is a huge booster for the immune system and has long been known as a helpful cure for common colds and coughs, along with its impact on any other infections as well.
Vitamin C also stimulates the activity of white blood cells, the body’s first line of defense against toxins and foreign bodies. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant, which means that it neutralizes free radicals, the harmful byproducts of cellular metabolism that are constantly created in our body. These free radicals are responsible for mutating the DNA of healthy cells into sick or cancerous cells, and are subsequently responsible for a number of diseases, including heart disease and various cancers.
A single serving of strawberries has approximately 150% of your daily requirement of vitamin C.
Strawberries are a low glycemic index food and high in fiber, which helps to regulate blood sugar and keep it stable by avoiding extreme highs and lows. Strawberries are a smart fruit choice for diabetics, as they have a lower glycemic index (40) than many other fruits do.
Researchers have recently discovered that eating about 37 strawberries a day can significantly reduce diabetic complications such as kidney disease and neuropathy. The study showed that fisetin, a flavonoid contained in abundance in strawberries, promoted survival of neurons grown in culture and enhanced memory in healthy mice, along with prevention of both kidney and brain complications in diabetic mice.
9. Keep Teeth Healthy
Strawberries are the third-best food source of polyphenols (behind only coffee and olives), according to a 2009 Journal of Dentistry review. That’s good news since researchers believe these compounds inhibit the breakdown of starches in the mouth (thus limiting the resulting sticky sugars that adhere to teeth as plaque) and also fight the bacteria that contribute to tooth decay and gum disease.
Scrubbing your teeth with strawberries will whiten them, but because the berries are so acidic, dentists warn that using this home remedy frequently could damage the enamel.
10. Boost Brain Function
Unfortunately, it is very common for old people to begin losing their memory and control over certain activities, muscles, and limbs. This is due to either the natural or premature aging of their brain and nervous system. Actually, free radicals are the agents responsible for signs of aging because they have an adverse effect on both of these systems. Due to the activity of free radicals, the brain tissues start degenerating and the nerves become weaker. Luckily, strawberries can help you avoid these untimely conditions in life.
Strawberries contain moderate amount of acetylsalicylic acid, the same active ingredient found in aspirin. Although the amount of acetylsalicylic acid found in strawberries is not enough to relieve influenza symptoms, it can be actually helpful to thin blood and prevent blood clots formation, thereby reducing the work of the heart and improving its function.
12. Promote Pre-Natal Health
Strawberries are prized for their high density of folate – a B-vitamin that is recommended for pregnant women and women who are trying to conceive. It is an essential nutrient for women at the early stages of their pregnancies, to boost the baby’s development and to prevent birth defects.
Selection and Storage of Strawberries
Strawberries can be available year-round in the stores but are fresh and plentiful from spring through mid-summer.
In the stores, choose berries that feature deep red with attached green caps, plump, shiny, free of sand and mold. Avoid those appear dull, sunken or flattened and those with signs of mold, cuts or discolored patches on the surface. Unripe berries have green or yellow patches on their surface. Since the berries cease ripening soon after their harvest, unripe berries should be avoided as they are likely to be sour and of inferior in quality. They perish early and therefore, should only be purchased a few days prior to use.
Before storing inside the refrigerator, sort out any damaged and those affected by mold so that they should not spoil healthy ones. Place them in a wide bowl or spread out on a plate covered with a paper towel. They keep fresh inside the refrigerator for a day or two. Use them as early as possible. For extended storage, place them in the freezer compartment.