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 nutrient 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 is a celebrity, especially with some products that claim it helps when you get sick,” says Angel Planells, RD, a Seattle-based 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, says Katie Cavuto, RD, an integrative dietitian in Philadelphia. “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 study published in 2016 in BMJ, strawberries may help prevent weight gain and are one of many fruits that help with weight loss if eaten on a daily basis. 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, including one study published in 2015 in the British Journal of Nutrition, suggests that eating foods rich in antioxidants (such as strawberries) may delay cognitive aging. “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
A study published in 2014 in The Journal of Nutrition showed that when obese adults supplemented their diets with high doses of strawberries, they had significantly reduced total and LDL (“bad”) 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. Find out other reasons you should be adding more fiber to your diet.
Strawberries help fight inflammation
Regularly eating strawberries has been shown to help reduce the risk for chronic inflammation, according to a review of studies published in 2016 in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. But don’t expect immediate results, says Lauren Kelly. RD. a registered dietitian in New York City. “Include berries in your daily diet for a few months and see if an improvement is achieved,” she says. “You’ll want to give your body time.” To boost the anti-inflammatory benefits, combine strawberries with other well-known anti-inflammatory foods such as whole grains, leafy greens, and healthy fats. “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,” suggests Cavuto.
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 for 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
The strawberry is a superfood, according to the American Diabetes Association, 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.” Researchers at Harvard University found that women who ate strawberries at least once a month had a lower risk for developing diabetes than those who didn’t. 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 (found in abundance in 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–strawberries, among them–that help the body make healthy new cells but the majority of women of child-bearing age are not meeting their daily requirements, suggests a study published in 2017 in the Journal of Nutrition. Folic acid is crucial, especially for pregnant women, because it helps with the development of the baby, explains Kelly. “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 27 calories in a half-cup) and most research shows that you only need to eat one serving of strawberries 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 responsible for about 88 percent of strawberries grown in the U.S. on approximately 34,000 acres along the California coast. 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.
- Angel Planells, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Seattle.
- Katie Cavuto, RD, integrative dietitian, Philadelphia.
- BMJ, “Dietary Flavonoid Intake and Weight Maintenance: Three Prospective Cohorts of 124 086 US Men and Women Followed for Up to 24 Years.”
- Harvard Health Publishing, “Foods that Fight Inflammation.”
- The Journal of Nutrition, “Freeze-Dried Strawberries Lower Serum Cholesterol and Lipid Peroxidation in Adults with Abdominal Adiposity and Elevated Serum Lipids.”
- British Journal of Nutrition, “Diet and Cognitive Decline at Middle Age: The Role of Antioxidants.”
- Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, “Promising Health Benefits of the Strawberry: A Focus on Clinical Studies.”
- Lauren Kelly, RD, registered dietitian, New York City.
- American Diabetes Association, “Diabetes Superfoods.”
- American Optometric Association, “Nutrition and Cataracts.”
- Journal of Nutrition, “Folate Deficiency Is Prevalent in Women of Childbearing Age in Belize and Is Negatively Affected by Coexisting Vitamin B-12 Deficiency: Belize National Micronutrient Survey 2011.”