When you look at a strawberry, what do you see? I see a heart, especially when I’ve hulled it! Besides its shape and bright red color that may remind you of a heart, the strawberry has a close connection to that important muscle. It has wonderful nutritional properties that contribute to cardiovascular health. Is it a coincidence that the strawberry looks like a heart?
Nutritional Profile and Health Benefits
Besides being great tasting, strawberries are low in calories. One cup of this fruit contains approximately 46 calories so load up your dish! There are more reasons to love strawberries. To start, strawberries are:
- An excellent source of vitamin C and manganese;
- A very good source of fiber, iodine, and folate; and
- A good source of copper, potassium, biotin, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin B6 and omega-3 fats.
The greatest benefit from strawberries seems to come from the antioxidant properties of the fruit. Of the commonly eaten foods in the US, strawberries were ranked among the top 50 for antioxidant capacity (based on US research). When comparing just the fruits used in this research, strawberries were ranked 4th for their antioxidant benefits. The higher ranked fruits were also berries.
How do Strawberries Contribute to Health?
There are specific phytonutrients in strawberries that may help with a number of health conditions:
Cardiovascular Health – Among the most important issues related to cardiovascular health is oxidation and inflammation. Containing high levels of vitamin C and manganese, and an array of phytonutrients, strawberries may reduce oxidation and inflammation in the body when eaten frequently, and therefore help reduce issues with cardiovascular disease.
Blood Sugar Regulation – Some interesting research is being conducted about strawberry consumption linked to reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, and blood sugar regulation. Apparently, there are specific polyphenols in strawberries that may inhibit the activity of an enzyme that plays a role in breaking down starches into simple sugars, which when inhibited reduces the simple sugars released into the blood stream. (Ref)
Cancer Protection and Other Health Benefits – The high levels of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and fiber of strawberries, as already highlighted, may be responsible for preventing many types of cancers such as breast, cervical, colon and esophageal. Specifically related to reducing inflammation, strawberries may be beneficial for slowing down the aging process, helping with various types of arthritis, maintaining eye health, and improving inflammatory bowel problems.
Preserving the Nutrients in Strawberries
Since strawberries spoil easily, they may lose the important polyphenols and other nutrients quickly. Excessive processing of strawberries can also reduce their nutrient levels. To get the most benefits, eat strawberries when fresh or store in the refrigerator for no more than 2 days. You can also freeze strawberries for up to 1 year.
When stored in the refrigerator, keep the unwashed strawberries in the part of the fridge with higher humidity, such as the cold storage drawer. When freezing strawberries, be sure to wash them before freezing, with or without stems, and pat dry. Keep in a heavy-duty plastic bag, preferably whole to retain as much of the vitamin C and other nutrients intact.
There are people with food sensitivities to strawberries. Be cautious about any reactions you or others may get from consuming this fruit. Strawberries that have been conventionally grown are also one of the top foods that when tested for pesticide exposure showed pesticide residue.
Eating strawberries as fresh fruit is the best way to get all of the nutrients. However, with minimal cooking, there are creative ways to use strawberries in entrees and desserts as well. Here are a couple of recipes we thought you would enjoy. Be sure to also check out our original recipes: Strawberry Chocolate Nut Logs and Strawberry Basil Pasta Toss.
From Whole Foods:
Refreshing taste for an old-time favorite. This recipe is quick and easy for a weeknight dinner.
Strawberry, Pistachio, and Goat Cheese Pizza Fresh ingredients and minimal cooking. This recipe calls for a prepared pizza crust; however, you can make your own crust or use naan bread if you like.
References & Research