Five top reasons to eat strawberries- besides taste

Photo courtesy of Vince's Market Ontario

Photo courtesy of Vince’s Market Ontario

OK – truth be told, you don’t need any other reason than taste to eat these luscious berries – especially right now as local strawberries hit farmers’ markets and store shelves.  Even if they didn’t offer top notch nutrition, they would be a sought after taste treat.

But here are five top health perks of strawberries to consider as you savour these summertime delights. As well, keep in mind that besides being chock full of  fibre – three grams per cup – these berries provide the B vitamin folate, plenty of potassium and more than a day’s worth of vitamin C with only 50 calories for that one cup serving.

•    They offer a powerful anti-inflammatory kick

With the increasing rates of overweight and obesity, scientists are now realizing that more research should be directed towards the impact of certain foods on these groups. While studies on healthy normal weight people are great to have, finding out more about how to improve the health of others is key for disease prevention.

One area being investigated is the link between excess weight and inflammation, a condition  that’s now known to be a major culprit in the development and progression of a host of diseases including heart disease, diabetes and cognitive decline.

And it appears, according to a growing number of scientific investigations that strawberries supply compounds with anti-inflammatory action.  The substances thought to be responsible include polyphenols which  includes the colourful pigments.

•    Strawberries improve insulin sensitivity

A reduced sensitivity to insulin, the hormone responsible for blood sugar regulation, is often followed over time with a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. So improving this insulin resistance can help to defend against the disease.

Enter strawberries. Studies show that these berries not only improve insulin sensitivity but they also lessen the amount of insulin required to regulate blood sugar readings following meals.

•    Eating strawberries offers a range of heart health benefits

It has long been common practice to assess the blood levels of various artery-clogging substances such as triglycerides and cholesterol after you have fasted overnight. But more and more scientists argue that since we’re not in a fasting state most of the day, checking readings after meals may provide more insight into your risk of heart disease and stroke. And keeping levels low following meals may defend against artery damage.

Research is showing that strawberries may play a role here. In a California study, subjects with abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride readings were given either a strawberry beverage or a placebo before a fat-laden meal. Not only did the strawberry eaters have lower triglyceride levels but they also had reduced levels of oxidized LDL-cholesterol – the form of cholesterol that is particularly damaging to arteries.

The polyphenols contained, besides supplying  anti-inflammatory  action, also act as antioxidants. The colourful pigments, known as anthocyanins,  also decrease the rate of blood clotting, potentially reducing the likelihood of having  a heart attack or stroke.

•    Strawberries provide a mix of anti-cancer substances

Ellagic acid is just one name of the more than 10 compounds scientists have identified  that may battle against certain cancers.  Their anti-cancer activity includes blocking the initiation of cancer along with suppressing the growth and spread of certain cancer cells.  Research also connects these berries to what’s called cancer cell apoptosis – a cancer cell suicide of sorts.

•    They’re a defender of your cognitive function

Like their kissin’ cousins, blueberries, strawberries protect against cognitive decline due to both their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant action. Exciting research is also revealing that they may also reverse some of the decreases in cognitive function related to aging. But if you think that you might prefer to get your protection from a berry supplement instead, testing of various berry formulations has shown a wide variation in the amount of responsible compounds.

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Are you a strawberry fan? What’s your favourite way to eat them? Please share in the comment section below.

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Categories: Research Roundup, Superfoods, Whole Foods

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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2 Comments on “Five top reasons to eat strawberries- besides taste”

  1. Kathy Feltmate
    July 4, 2013 at 4:27 am #

    Thanks Rosie, great article. Love the fact that strawberries will enhance my cognitive function…wonder how many daily I need!?

  2. July 5, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

    Thanks for your comments, Kathy! As for your question, it’s hard to say how much is needed on a daily basis. In some of the research on strawberries showing beneficial effects, the serving size was about one cup. But I think the key message here is that strawberries are just one food with this potential effect. Eating lots of polyphenol-rich produce may be the best defense again cognitive decline. Enjoy your strawberries!

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