The strawberry, Fragaria, is one of the most popular berry fruits in the world. There are more than 10 species of Fragaria that differ in flavour, size and texture yet they all have the same characteristic heart-shaped, red flesh and seeded coat together with small, regal, leafy green caps and stems that adorn their crowns.
Packed with vitamins, fiber, and particularly high levels of antioxidants known as polyphenols, strawberries are a sodium-free, fat-free, cholesterol-free, low-calorie food. They are among the top 20 fruits in antioxidant capacity and are a good source of fibre, folic acid, vitamins C and K, manganese and potassium. Just one serving — about eight strawberries — provides more vitamin C than an orange. These potent little packages protect your heart, increase HDL (good) cholesterol, lower your blood pressure, and guard against cancer.
They have been used throughout history in a medicinal context to help with digestive ailments, teeth whitening and skin irritations. Their fibre and fructose content may help regulate blood sugar levels by slowing digestion and the fibre is thought to have a satiating effect. Leaves can be eaten raw, cooked or used to make tea.
The vibrant red colour of strawberries is due to large amounts of anthocyanidin, which also means they contain powerful antioxidants and are thought to protect against inflammation, cancer and heart disease.
Regular consumption of anthocyanins, a class of flavonoids found in berries, can reduce the risk of a heart attack by 32% in young and middle-aged women, according to lead studies .
The flavonoid quercetin, contained in strawberries, is a natural anti-inflammatory that appears to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and protect against the damage caused by low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in animal studies.
The high polyphenol content in strawberries may also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) by preventing platelet build-up and reducing blood pressure via anti-inflammatory mechanisms.
Other studies have shown that eating strawberries helps to lower homocysteine levels, an amino acid in the blood associated with damaging the inner lining of arteries.
The fiber and potassium in strawberries also support heart health.
The antioxidants quercetin, kaempferol, and anthocyanins have all been shown to reduce the formation of harmful blood clots associated with strokes. High potassium intakes have also been linked with a reduced risk of stroke.
As mentioned above, strawberries contain powerful antioxidants that work against free radicals, inhibiting tumor growth and decreasing inflammation in the body.
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.
The consumption of foods that are high in water content and fiber like strawberries can help to keep you hydrated and your bowel movements regular. Fiber is essential for minimizing constipation .
Allergies and Asthma
Because of the anti-inflammatory effects of quercetin, consuming strawberries may help to alleviate symptoms of allergies including runny nose, watery eyes and hives, although there have been no human studies done to prove this theory. Several studies have shown that the incidence of asthma is lower with a high intake of certain nutrients, vitamin C being at the top of the list.
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.
Adequate folic acid intake is essential for pregnant women to protect against neural tube defects in infants.
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.