10 Surprising Ways Strawberries Can Benefit Your Health
Whether fresh or frozen, there is no denying that strawberries are a popular fruit – but they can also pack a healthy punch.
Why you should add more strawberries to your diet
If you’re not already a fan of strawberries, you should be. Not only are they juicy, summery and delicious, they’re a bona fide superfood, too. Nutrient-rich and packed with antioxidants (like vitamin C), strawberries offer a wide range of health benefits, some of which may surprise you. (Wrinkle-prevention? Yes please!). Here are 10 reasons you should add more of this beloved fruit to your diet.
Give your immunity a boost
“Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C,” says Toronto-based registered dietitian Madeleine Edwards. Most mammals – except for humans – have the ability to produce vitamin C naturally, which is why it’s so important to get your daily requirement. “One serving contains 51.5 mg of vitamin C – about half of your daily requirement,” Edwards says. “Double a serving to one cup and get 100 per cent.” Vitamin C is a well-known immunity booster, as well as a powerful, fast-working antioxidant.
Maintain your healthy vision
The antioxidant properties in strawberries may also help to prevent cataracts – the clouding over of the eye lens – which can lead to blindness in older age. Our eyes require vitamin C to protect them from exposure to free-radicals from the sun’s harsh UV rays, which can damage the protein in the lens. Vitamin C also plays an important role in strengthening the eye’s cornea and retina.
While high doses of vitamin C have been found to increase the risk of cataracts in women over 65, researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm note that the risk pertains to vitamin C obtained from supplements, not the vitamin C from fruits and vegetables. (Learn how to keep your eyesight on point this season.)
Ward off cancer
Vitamin C is one of the antioxidants that can help with cancer prevention, since a healthy immune system is the body’s best defense. A phytochemical called ellagic acid – also found in strawberries – is another. “Ellagic acid has been shown to yield anti-cancer properties like suppressing cancer cell growth,” says Edwards. “Strawberries (also) contain antioxidants lutein and zeathancins. Antioxidants are scavengers to free-radicals and neutralize the potentially negative effect they can have on our cells,” she says.
Keep your wrinkles at bay
The power of vitamin C in strawberries continues, as it is vital to the production of collagen, which helps to improve skin’s elasticity and resilience. Since we lose collagen as we age, eating foods rich in vitamin C may result in healthier, younger-looking skin. But vitamin C isn’t the only naturally-occuring wrinkle fighter found in this fruit. Researchers at Hallym University in the Republic of Korea concluded that ellagic acid visibly prevented collagen destruction and inflammatory response – two major factors in the development of wrinkles – in human skin cells, after continued exposure to skin-damaging UV-B rays.
Lower your cholesterol
According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, heart disease is one of the leading causes of death among Canadian women. Luckily, strawberries also contain powerful heart-health boosters. “Ellagic acid and flavonoids – or phytochemical – can provide an antioxidant effect that can benefit heart health in various ways,” explains Edwards. “One way includes counteracting the effect of low-density lipoprotein, or LDL – bad cholesterol in the blood, which causes plaque to build up in arteries. A second way is that they provide an anti-inflammatory effect, which is also good for the heart.”
Researchers at the Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor Modification Center in Toronto studied the effect of strawberries on a cholesterol-lowering diet and concluded that adding them to the diet reduced oxidative damage, as well as blood lipids – both of which play a role in heart disease and diabetes.
Reduce pesky inflammation
The antioxidants and phytochemicals found in strawberries may also help to reduce inflammation of the joints, which may cause arthritis and can also lead to heart disease. A study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health shows that women who eat 16 or more strawberries per week are 14 per cent less likely to have elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) – an indication of inflammation in the body. (Here’s how to fight inflammation naturally by changing how you eat.)
Regulate your blood pressure
Potassium is yet another heart healthy nutrient, and with 134 mg per serving, strawberries are considered a “medium source,” according to Alberta Health Services. Potassium can help regulate blood pressure and may even help to lower high blood pressure by acting as a buffer against the negative effects of sodium. With their impact on the reduction of LDL, inflammation and high blood pressure, strawberries have earned the title of one of the most heart-healthy fruits you can eat. (Speaking of heart-healthy fruits, give this one a try!)
Boost your fibre intake
Fibre is a necessity for healthy digestion, and strawberries naturally contain about 2 g per serving. Problems that can arise from lack of fibre include constipation and diverticulitis-an inflammation of the intestines, which affects approximately 50 per cent of people over 60. Fibre can also aid in fighting type 2 diabetes. “Fibre helps slow the absorption of sugars (i.e. glucose) in the blood,” says Edwards. “As a result, adults who are managing diabetes can enjoy strawberries – in moderation – in their diet.”
Aid in weight management
Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best defenses against type 2 diabetes and heart disease, not to mention just plain good for your overall well-being. “Strawberries are naturally low in calories (around 28 kCal per serving), fat-free and low in both sodium and sugar,” says Edwards. “Strawberries do contain natural sugars, though total sugars are fairly low with 4 grams per serving – and the total carbohydrate content is equivalent to less than a half slice of bread. Triple your serving to 1.5 cups and you’ll have a snack that’s less than 100 calories and much healthier than those pre-packaged 100-calorie snacks!”
Help to promote pre-natal health
Folate is a B-vitamin recommended for women who are pregnant or trying to conceive, and strawberries are a good source with 21 mg per serving. Folate is necessary in the early stages of pregnancy to help in the development of the baby’s brain, skull and spinal cord, and the folic acid in strawberries may help to prevent certain birth defects, such as spina bifida.