10 Amazing Health Benefits of the Strawberry
Delicious and sweet, the nutrient-packed strawberry is naturally low in sugar and low in calories and extraordinarily high in antioxidants. Incorporating this superstar food into your daily diet delivers multiple health benefits.
Strawberries help reduce the severity of colds and boost the immune system
The strawberry is packed with vitamin C, a vitamin that plays a crucial role in supporting a healthy immune system. While our bodies cannot produce vitamin C, we can get it by eating foods such as strawberries. Eating just eight a day delivers more vitamin C than an orange and gives you 140 percent of your daily requirement for the powerful antioxidant, which has been shown to reduce the severity of colds. “When it comes to your immune system, vitamin C has become a celebrity, especially with some products that claim it helps when you get sick,” says Angel Planells, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Yet, instead of boosting your vitamin C when you are sick, try to have it on a regular basis, he says. “You will be less likely to get ill and will recover quicker.” Strawberries also contain polyphenols, compounds with antioxidant properties, which have been shown to protect against the influenza virus and even stave off Staphylococcus, E. coli, and Salmonella infections. Antioxidants are more than just the color of food, they are in the flesh of the fruit, explains integrative dietitian Katie Cavuto, spokesperson for the California Strawberry Comission. “Eating antioxidants is like eating an army of vacuum cleaners—they course through our body and eat up free radicals that cause disease.” Find out more ways to make a cold less miserable.
Strawberries help with weight control
According to a recent study, strawberries may help prevent weight gain and are one of many fruits that if eaten on a daily basis can help with weight loss. The study notes that the flavonoids in a strawberry may prevent age-related weight gain by helping to stimulate metabolism and reduce appetite. Here are other fruits that can help you lose pounds.
Strawberries help slow cognitive aging
Memory declines as we age, but research reveals that eating strawberries can help slow cognitive aging. One study showed that eating strawberries more than twice a week may delay cognitive aging by more than two years while another study explained that eating two cups of strawberries a day improved word recognition and memory in older adults. “When we breathe and eat, we introduce stress to our body,” explains Planells. The flavonoids in strawberries act as both antioxidants and anti-inflammatories and they work together to offset the negative effects of oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain and slow age-related cognitive decline. Strawberries are also rich in iodine, which helps to regulate the proper functioning of the brain and nervous system, and potassium, a nutrient that has been shown to increase blood flow to the brain. “It’s all about aging well,” says Planells. “If we consume a wide variety of foods that includes strawberries and other fruits and vegetables we are taking care of our bodies, which helps delay cognitive aging, and aging in general.” Check out these other foods that are rich in potassium.
Strawberries help lower cholesterol and the risk of cardiovascular disease
One study showed that when obese adults supplemented their diets with high doses of strawberries, they had significantly reduced total and LDL cholesterol levels. According to the California Strawberry Commission, strawberries contain cardio-protective nutrients such as vitamin C, folate, potassium (220 mg in 1 cup), flavonoids, and fiber (2.9 grams in one cup), which have been shown to lower markers of cardiovascular disease such as cholesterol levels and blood pressure. “The benefit of consuming fiber is that it pulls cholesterol out of our body,” says Planells. Additional evidence reveals that flavonoids in strawberries, especially anthocyanins, may be associated with decreased risk of hypertension, reduced risk of heart attack, and improved lipid profiles (such as decreased LDL and total cholesterol). Find out other reasons you should be adding more fiber to your diet.
Strawberries help fight inflammation
Consuming just two-thirds of a cup of strawberries per day has been shown to help reduce the risk of chronic inflammation. The study revealed that after eating a meal, strawberries reduced post-meal insulin levels, important for those with diabetes or pre-diabetes (here’s why you should probably get your blood sugar checked). Another study suggests that eating strawberries on a regular basis may help protect overweight people from the inflammatory effects of a diet high in fat and carbohydrates. Regularly eating strawberries has shown promise in reducing markers of inflammation in the body, says Lauren Kelly, RD, but don’t expect immediate results, “Include berries in your daily diet for a few months and see if an improvement is achieved—you’ll want to give your body time.” To boost the anti-inflammatory benefits, you can combine strawberries with other well-known anti-inflammatory foods such as whole grains, leafy greens, and healthy fats, explains Cavuto. “Try strawberries and almond butter on whole wheat toast, strawberries added to a spinach salad with grilled salmon or frozen strawberries combined with soy or almond milk in a smoothie.”
They help lower your risk of cancer
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Strawberries are one of many foods associated with reducing your risk of cancer. Berries, are rich in antioxidants, including vitamin C and flavonoids, explains Kelly. “Antioxidants help to reduce oxidative stress within the body, reducing inflammation and therefore reducing the risk of (or potentially even improving the present situation of) inflammatory-related conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and autoimmune conditions.” The flavonoids in strawberries, as well as other fruits and vegetables, not only help reduce inflammation but they have also shown promise in reducing the cell proliferation associated with cancer, says Kelly.
Strawberries help ward off type 2 diabetes
According to the American Diabetes Association, the strawberry is a superfood for a diabetes meal plan because it has a low glycemic index (a measure of how carbohydrate-containing food raises blood glucose) and is packed with vitamins, antioxidants, and dietary fiber. Snacking on a few strawberries at meal time has been shown to slow post-meal oxidative stress, inflammation, and insulin response. “When free radicals build up in the body they can generate oxidative stress which can burden healthy cells,” explains Cavuto. “Some oxidative stress naturally occurs when we eat, so it makes sense that eating strawberries with a meal can help neutralize this considering their strong antioxidant properties.” Also, anthocyanins found in strawberries may improve insulin resistance, a risk factor for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Another study conducted by Harvard University researchers shows that women who ate strawberries at least once per month had a lower risk of developing diabetes. Along with diet, there are many other factors that can help ward off and potentially reverse type 2 diabetes.
Strawberries are good for your eyes
While most of the research on eye health has focused on vitamin A (carrots), the powerful antioxidant vitamin C found in strawberries has been shown to lower the risk for cataracts, according to the American Optometric Association. The power lies in the antioxidants, explains Planells. When you consume foods with antioxidant properties, it protects your body from the presence of free radicals caused by a lack of certain nutrients.
Strawberries help boost folate intake and decrease the chance of birth defects
Folic acid (or folate) is an important nutrient found in many foods that help the body make healthy new cells but according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the majority of child-bearing aged women are not meeting their daily requirements. Folic acid is crucial, especially for pregnant women, because it helps with the development of the baby, explains Kelly. Adding strawberries to your diet is a good way to boost your intake of folic acid, she says. “But you would have to eat an unrealistic amount of strawberries to meet the increased recommendation to consume in pregnancy and to reduce the risk of developing birth defects like spina bifida.” Check out these other foods that are also high in folic acid.
You don’t have to eat a lot to see health benefits
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Fresh, frozen, or dried, strawberries are low in calories (just 24 calories in a half-cup) and most research shows that you only need to eat one serving of strawberries at least three times per week to see health benefits—that adds up to about eight strawberries a day. It would be beneficial to incorporate one-half to one cup of berries daily, says Kelly. “Include a mix of different berries to vary your nutritional intake—you can add them to your yogurt or oatmeal, into a smoothie, on a salad, or have as a snack with a handful of almonds or walnuts, but having them fresh is best.” California is the nation’s largest producer of strawberries with 400 strawberry farmers producing 90 percent of the strawberries grown in the United States and one in five of the producers supplying both organic and conventional berries. While no commercially grown or shipped GMO strawberries come from California, Kelly suggests choosing organic over those treated with pesticides. “If you cannot afford fresh organic strawberries, try frozen organic as another option.” Here’s a genius trick that will help fresh strawberries last longer.