Health Benefits of Strawberries

Sweet, juicy bursts of sunshine for the taste buds, strawberries are one of the most enjoyed fruits in the U.S., coming in fourth place according to The Packer 2017 Fresh Trends annual report (bananas top the list). No wonder strawberries are so well-loved — they welcome spring as the first fruit to ripen. A member of the rose family, every strawberry has about 200 seeds on it, which means that strawberries aren’t expressly berries because the seeds are on the outside versus the inside. Happily, this doesn’t matter when it comes to the compelling health benefits of this tasty fruit.

Cornell University’s Department of Food Science states, “Strawberries contain high levels of antioxidants, which have been correlated with a decreased risk of chronic disease.” The University of Illinois’ review of the science breaks it down by explaining that strawberry’s potent antioxidant power comes from the abundant bioactive compound ellagic acid, plus the flavonoids anthocyanin, catechin, quercetin, and kaempferol. The review further states that antioxidants help lower the risk of cardiovascular events, including a decreased tendency for thrombosis. As reported by The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, a one-month study in which participants ate 500 grams of strawberries concluded that strawberry consumption improves blood lipid profile, oxidative stress markers, and cardiovascular risk.

An Oklahoma State University study evaluated the effects of strawberries on knee osteoarthritis pain in obese adults. The 26-week study demonstrated that strawberry supplementation significantly decreased the serum biomarkers of inflammation and cartilage degradation while substantially reducing constant, intermittent, and total pain.

Flavonoids just keep on giving. A study in the Annals of Neurology that followed participants age 70 and older reported that a higher intake of flavonoids, especially from berries, appears to reduce rates of cognitive decline in older adults.

The two main antioxidants in strawberries are vitamins A and C, which are known for the anti-aging effects they yield by slowing oxidative stress and reducing inflammation. This fruit has more vitamin C per serving than an orange, providing 98 percent of the Recommended Daily Value.

Does the strawberry variety matter? Researchers found that the antioxidant level differences were not significant enough to warrant choosing one type of strawberry over another. But buying organic does make a difference. Strawberries topped the 2017 Dirty Dozen list of fruits and vegetables tested for pesticide concentration by The Environmental Working Group.

Store fresh berries in the refrigerator crisper drawer — but first place a paper towel in the strawberry container to absorb excess moisture; they should last five to seven days. Pushing the limits? Wash, dry, and place them in a freezer bag for up to two months for smoothie-ready berries!

Although most often they are eaten raw, roasting strawberries is a great way to salvage overripe berries. Toss whole hulled strawberries in a bowl with a little honey and vanilla, then transfer in a single layer to a parchment-lined baking dish. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for about 45 minutes, until the juice begins to thicken and the strawberries turn ruby red. Remove from the oven and let cool (the juice will continue to thicken); store in a covered container up to two weeks in the refrigerator. Use the fruit and juice as an addition to fresh fruit salad or as a special topping for ice cream, French toast, or pancakes.

Now it’s time to bring some sunshine home and celebrate the season. Try a few of our fresh and delicious recipes to help start the season off well.

Want to work more strawberries into your diet? Try our Strawberry Smoothie or Strawberries Dipped in Dark Chocolate.

Susan Ojanen is an integrative nutrition coach in Bristol, Tennessee, and owner of smallstepswellness.com. She is passionate about helping clients worldwide achieve their health goals by creating sensible and maintainable lifestyle changes.

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