Strawberries are “berry” tasty and excellent for your health too. You can buy these luscious orbs fresh at your local supermarket or, even better, at a farmer’s market or a pick-your-own strawberry farm. Another option is to buy frozen berries. They have the advantage of having a longer shelf life and are still packed with the micronutrients that make strawberries such a healthful dietary addition.
However, you procure them, strawberries are a tasty addition to the table. You already know that strawberries are nutrient-dense and low in calories, but that’s not the whole story. There is more to this tasty fruit than meets the eye. Here are some things you might not know about strawberries that explain their health benefits.
Strawberries Protect Your DNA
DNA is the genetic material or code that houses the information your body needs to build new proteins. The entire human genome contains a whopping 3.3 billion DNA base pairs, many of which code for various proteins. You want your DNA to stay healthy, as mutations, or changes to these base pairs, can cause cells to make abnormal proteins or to make too much or too little of a key protein. In some cases, mutations can lead to uncontrolled cell growth known as cancer. Toxins you are exposed to through the air you breathe and the food you eat can damage DNA and increase the risk of cancer.
But there’s good news if you enjoy strawberries. These luscious red orbs are rich in ellagic acid, a powerful antioxidant. One study found that the ellagic acid in strawberries can bind to toxins and cancer-causing agents before they attach to and damage DNA. So, ellagic acid in strawberries could avert a DNA disaster! Plus, ellagic acid helps prevent oxidative stress and the formation of free radicals that can damage DNA.
They Are Low in Natural Sugar
Berries have less sugar than most other fruit, and strawberries have less sugar than other berries. In fact, a cup of strawberries has only 7 grams of sugar but 2.9 grams of fiber to help reduce the rise in blood sugar you get when you eat them. These red, juicy berries are already low in sugar, and when you combine that with their natural fiber, it is easy to see why strawberries are blood sugar friendly.
Strawberries Top the List of Vitamin C Foods
Vitamin C is an antioxidant vitamin and one you need for a healthy immune system and for protection against oxidative stress. Strawberries contain an impressive quantity of vitamin C relative to other fruits with more vitamin C than an orange. In fact, a cup of juicy these berries supplies 136% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C.
Strawberries Are a Good Source of Fruit for Diabetics
Strawberries, being low in sugar, are one of the best choices of fruit for people with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. Strawberries rank low on the glycemic scale, meaning they do not cause a spike in blood sugar, partially due to the fiber they contain. Some research suggests that the flavonoids in strawberries may help subdue the blood glucose response to a meal. In addition, the abundance of polyphenols in strawberries may help prevent some complications that diabetics develop due to their anti-inflammatory effect.
Strawberries contain an abundance of chemicals called fisetin’s, polyphenols that activate a group of enzymes called sirtuins. Studies suggest that sirtuins may play a key role in insulin sensitivity and aging, as they help prevent oxidative stress that causes cell damage. We still need more research into the effects of fisetin’s on sirtuins, but strawberries contain a variety of phenolic compounds that reduce oxidative damage that contributes to aging.
Tips for Getting the Most Health Benefits from Strawberries
When you buy strawberries, look for the reddest and ripest of the bunch as studies suggest that ripe, red berries are the richest in antioxidants. If possible, choose organic, as conventional strawberries are higher on the list of produce that contains pesticide residues. When the Environmental Working Group analyzed more than 4,000 types of fruit for pesticides, 99% of the strawberry samples they tested were contaminated with pesticide residues.
Do not let strawberries sit around in the fridge either. The longer these tasty berries are exposed to light, heat, and air, the more vitamin C they will lose. If possible, shop locally so you can buy the freshest berries available. Do not neglect frozen strawberries either. They are harvested at their peak of freshness, and freezing locks in their nutrients. When you compare berries that travel long distances and sit on store shelves for days, all the while losing vitamins, frozen strawberries are the clear winner. They also have a longer shelf life. So, stock up when they go on sale!
How to Eat Them
Most people eat strawberries raw and that preserves more of their vitamin C. Add these red berries to salads, even chicken salad, for a unique twist on this old favorite. Strawberries add a hint of natural sweetness to porridge in the morning too and are a natural for smoothies. Why buy flavored yogurt with its added sugar when you can sweeten your yogurt naturally with pureed strawberries?
The Bottom Line
Now you know where the health benefits of strawberries come from! Enjoy the many health benefits but consume them in a setting of an overall nutrient-dense diet. There is no “magical food” that will protect you against all health problems, so eat natural foods in a variety of colors. Do not forget about other berries either! They are all naturally sweet with equally sweet health benefits.
- Br J Nutr. 2010 Apr;103(8):1094-7. doi: 10.1017/S0007114509992868. Epub 2009 Nov 24.
- Environmental Working Group. “Pesticides + Poison Gases = Cheap, Year-Round Strawberries”
- Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2009 Feb 5; 299(1): 58–63.
- Published online 2008 Nov 1. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2008.10.018.
- Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2015 Nov 27;467(4):638-44. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2015.10.094. Epub 2015 Oct 21.
- Naghma Khan, Deeba N. Syed, Nihal Ahmad, and Hasan Mukhtar.Antioxidants & Redox Signaling.Jul 2013.151-162.http://doi.org/10.1089/ars.2012.4901.
- Nutr Res Pract. 2017 Oct; 11(5): 430–434.
- Published online 2017 Sep 18. doi: 10.4162/nrp.2017.11.5.430.