There’s nothing like biting into a red, juicy strawberry and enjoying the sweet, refreshing burst of summer flavor.
Strawberries are part of the genus Fragaria. The common garden strawberry originated in France in the 18th century when the Virginia strawberry from North America was crossed with the Chilean strawberry. Today, the sweet fruits are enjoyed all over the world.
Strawberries are delicious on their own and in:
- ice cream
- cereal bars
It’s almost counterintuitive to believe that something so delicious could be good for you. But strawberries are rich in anti-inflammatory compounds and vitamins. When eaten multiple times a week, these compounds can help lower your risk of:
- type 2 diabetes
- high blood pressure
- heart disease
Here’s more about the nutritious benefits of strawberries.
The nutritious benefits of strawberries
The United States Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults eat 2 cups of fruit and at least 2.5 cups of vegetables each day. Strawberries are an excellent way to meet your daily dose of fruit.
Despite their sweet taste, strawberries are a low calorie fruit. One cup of strawberries (144 grams) contains only 46 calories.
The mineral manganese is vital for your health. A cup of strawberries contains roughly 0.56 mg of the mineral. That’s nearly one-third of the daily recommended amount for adults.
Manganese is involved in several enzymatic processes in the body. It helps the body form connective tissue, blood clotting factors, and sex hormones. It’s also involved in the formation of bone, and in brain and nerve function. The mineral plays a role in blood sugar regulation and overall metabolism. This helps prevent type 2 diabetes.
Manganese is a part of an antioxidant called enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD). Antioxidants fight (neutralize) free radicals in the body. Free radicals can damage DNA and cells and play a role in aging, heart disease, and cancer.
Each cup of strawberries contains nearly 85 mg of vitamin C. For reference, that’s over 113 percent of the recommended daily intake for adult women and 94 percent of the recommended daily intake for adult men. Strawberries actually provide more vitamin C and fewer calories than the same weight of oranges!
Vitamin C has long been used as an immune system booster. The body also needs vitamin C to make collagen, a protein that helps in the wound healing process. Vitamin C also helps you absorb plant-based iron and prevents iron-deficiency anemia.
Strawberries contain phytochemicals, including:
- phenolic acids
- ellagic acids
All of these work together as potent antioxidants with anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-neurodegenerative properties. This means that they can protect against common diseases related to oxidative stress, such as:
- heart disease
- type 2 diabetes
- diseases of the brain
A recent study in Cancer Prevention Research found that freeze-dried strawberry powder has the potential to prevent cancer in people at high risk for esophageal cancer. Other published research shows evidence that the ellagic acid found in strawberries can protect against high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
Unfortunately, some people experience allergic reactions to strawberries and shouldn’t eat them. The allergy is usually mild and consists of:
- itchiness around the mouth
In rare, severe cases, a strawberry allergy can cause breathing problems. If you experience any unpleasant symptoms after eating a strawberry, talk to your doctor.
How to get more strawberries into your diet
Strawberries can be eaten fresh, as a topping on yogurt, or dipped in whipped cream. They make a great addition to any smoothie, too. Strawberries should be washed right before eating. Remove the stems by pinching them off with your fingers, or use a paring knife.
Strawberries are perishable, but they will last a few days if chilled in the refrigerator. Strawberries can also be frozen and used later. Remove the stems and place in a freezer bag. Frozen strawberries are perfect for smoothies, like in this strawberry smoothie recipe from the World’s Healthiest Foods. Fresh strawberries are also great in the following recipes.
- For a delicious main dish that pairs perfectly with white wine, try citrus halibut and summer strawberry relish. View the recipe.
- There’s nothing like a cool treat on a hot summer’s day. Strawberries are the perfect fruit to use in these refreshing popsicles. View the recipe.
- Fruit leather is surprisingly easy to make. You can mix strawberries with other fruit like mangos for a sweet but healthy snack. View the recipe.
- Need a unique, but easy appetizer? Then look no further than crostini with brie cheese, strawberries, honey, and basil. View the recipe.
- Strawberries are actually great on a salad, especially with nuts and some sort of sharp cheese. Try this recipe for a strawberry spinach salad for an exceptional vegetarian lunch. View the recipe.
- If you have extra strawberries, try making some delicious jam to save for later. Strawberry jam also makes a great gift. View the recipe.
Strawberries are indeed a healthy choice. They are low in calories and rich in vitamin C, manganese, and antioxidants. Strawberries taste the best and are the sweetest and most concentrated in nutrients when they are in season and grown locally. To reap their benefits:
- Incorporate strawberries and other types of berries into your diet a few times a week.
- The next time you’re in the mood for something sweet, consider munching on a bowl of fresh strawberries or make a simple strawberry smoothie to satisfy your craving.
- Conventional strawberry crops are heavily sprayed with pesticides. Choose organic strawberries as often as possible to reduce your exposure.