What are the health benefits of strawberries?
Fresh summer strawberries are one of the most popular, refreshing and healthy treats on the planet. Wild strawberries have been popular since ancient Roman times and were used for a wide variety of medicinal purposes such as alleviating inflammation, fever, kidney stones, bad breath, gout and more.
Today there are over 600 varieties of strawberries. The sweet, slightly tart berries rank among the top 10 fruits and vegetables in antioxidant capacity.1 Their deep, rich hue supplies their high flavonoid content, a topic of research in many studies supporting the health benefits attained by consuming strawberries on a regular basis.
This MNT Knowledge Center feature is part of a collection of articles on the health benefits of popular foods. It provides a nutritional breakdown of strawberries and a look at their possible health benefits, how to incorporate more strawberries into your diet and some potential health risks associated with their consumption.
Nutritional breakdown of strawberries
Serving Size: 1 cup sliced fresh strawberries (166 grams)
Strawberries are rich in vitamin C
- Calories: 50
- Protein: 1 gram
- Carbohydrates: 11.65 grams
- Dietary Fiber: 3.81 grams
- Calcium: 23.24 mg
- Iron: 0.63 mg
- Magnesium: 16.60 mg
- Phosphorus: 31.54 mg
- Potassium: 44.82 mg
- Selenium: 1.16 mg
- Vitamin C: 94.12 mg
- Folate: 29.38 mcg
- Vitamin A: 44.82 IU
This nutritional powerhouse also contain the mighty antioxidants anthocyanins, ellagic acid, quercetin and kaempferol, which all have been shown to have protective effects against certain types of cancer.1
Possible health benefits of consuming strawberries
High fruit and vegetable intake is also associated with healthy skin and hair, increased energy, and lower weight. Increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables significantly decreases the risk of obesity and overall mortality.
Heart Disease: Regular consumption of anthocyanins, a class of flavonoids found in berries, can reduce the risk of a heart attack by 32% in young and middle-aged women, according to lead study author Aedin Cassidy, PhD, MSc, BSc, a nutrition at the Norwich Medical School in the United Kingdom. Women who consumed at least 3 servings of strawberries or blueberries per week fared best in the Harvard study.3
The flavonoid quercetin, contained in strawberries, is a natural anti-inflammatory that appears to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and protect against the damage caused by low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in animal studies. Quercetin may have the additional bonus of anti-cancer effects; however more studies are needed using human subjects before these results can be confirmed.6
The high polyphenol content in strawberries may also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) by preventing platelet build-up and reducing blood pressure via anti-inflammatory mechanisms.
Other studies have shown that eating strawberries helps to lower homocysteine levels, an amino acid in the blood associated with damaging the inner lining of arteries.1
The fiber and potassium in strawberries also support heart health. In one study, participants who consumed 4069 mg of potassium per day had a 49% lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease compared with those who consumed less potassium (about 1000 mg per day). 5
Stroke: The antioxidants quercetin, kaempferol, and anthocyanins have all been shown to reduce the formation of harmful blood clots associated with strokes.1 High potassium intakes have also been linked with a reduced risk of stroke.5
Blood Pressure: Due to their high potassium content, strawberries are recommended to those with high blood pressure to help negate the effects of sodium in the body. A low potassium intake is just as big of a risk factor in developing high blood pressure as a high sodium intake.4
According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, fewer than 2% of US adults meet the daily 4700 mg recommendation for potassium.5
Also of note, a high potassium intake is associated with a 20% decreased risk of dying from all causes.5
Constipation: Eating foods that are high in water content and fiber like strawberries, grapes, watermelon and cantaloupe can help to keep you hydrated and your bowel movements regular. Fiber is essential for minimizing constipation and adding bulk to the stool.
Allergies and Asthma: Because of the anti-inflammatory effects of quercetin, consuming strawberries may help to alleviate symptoms of allergies including runny nose, watery eyes and hives, although there have been no human studies done to prove this theory.6 Several studies have shown that the incidence of asthma is lower with a high intake of certain nutrients, vitamin C being at the top of the list.
Diabetes: Strawberries are a low glycemic index food and high in fiber, which helps to regulate blood sugar and keep it stable by avoiding extreme highs and lows. Strawberries are a smart fruit choice for diabetics, as they have a lower glycemic index (40) than many other fruits do.3
Researchers have recently discovered that eating about 37 strawberries a day can significantly reduce diabetic complications such as kidney disease and neuropathy. The study showed that fisetin, a flavonoid contained in abundance in strawberries, promoted survival of neurons grown in culture and enhanced memory in healthy mice, along with prevention of both kidney and brain complications in diabetic mice.7
Pregnancy: Adequate folic acid intake is essential for pregnant women to protect against neural tube defects in infants.
Depression: Folate may also help with depression by preventing an excess of homocysteine from forming in the body, which can prevent blood and other nutrients from reaching the brain. Excess homocysteine interferes with the production of the feel-good hormones serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which regulate not only mood, but sleep and appetite as well.8
Recent research on the benefits of strawberries from MNT news
Bad cholesterol reduced by strawberry consumption, A team of volunteers ate half a kilo of strawberries a day for a month to see whether it altered their blood parameters in any way. At the end of this unusual treatment, their levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides reduced significantly, according to the analyses conducted by Italian and Spanish scientists.
Incorporating more strawberries into your diet
Strawberries are available fresh, frozen, freeze dried and in jellies, syrups and jams. Make sure to check the label of frozen and dried strawberries for added sugars. When looking for jellies or jams, go for all fruit spreads without the added sweeteners and fillers.
Here are some handy healthy tips to incorporate more of this super food into your diet:
Strawberries and plain Greek yogurt - a delicious combination
- Dice strawberries and add them to your chicken salad.
- Make your own fruit cocktail with fresh fruit and include grapes, pineapple, sliced peaches and strawberries. Drizzle a small amount of honey on top of the fruit mixture for an extra sweet treat.
- Slice strawberries and add them to plain Greek yogurt with a drizzle of agave nectar and sliced almonds.
- Top whole grain waffles, pancakes or oatmeal with fresh strawberries, or fold them into muffins and sweet breads. You can also blend strawberries in a food processor with a little water and used as a fresh syrup to top desserts or breakfast foods.
- Mix them into a spinach salad with walnuts and goat cheese.
- Toast a whole grain bagel and top with Neufchatel cheese (light cream cheese) and strawberries.
- Throw some frozen strawberries (unsweetened) in a blender with a banana, milk, and ice for a quick and easy strawberry banana smoothie.
Risks and precautions
The Environmental Working Group produces a list each year of fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticide residue, known as the Dirty Dozen. Strawberries are high on the list of produce that the EWG suggests that you buy in the organic version to ensure a lower risk of pesticide exposure.
If you can't afford organic, don't fret; the nutritional benefit of eating conventionally grown produce (non-organic) far outweighs the risk of not eating produce at all.1
Beta-blockers, a type of medication most commonly prescribed for heart disease, can cause potassium levels to increase in the blood. High potassium foods should be consumed in moderation when taking beta-blockers.
Consuming too much potassium can be harmful for those whose kidneys are not fully functional. If your kidneys are unable to remove excess potassium from the blood, it could be fatal.
Dr. Peter S. Gelfand, who practices Internal Medicine in Long Beach NY, says:
"Certain medications used for heart disease and hypertension have the potential to increase potassium levels. Examples include certain Beta blockers such as Labetalol, medications that work by blocking the actions of the hormone Aldosterone such as Lisinopril and Losartan ; And certain Diuretics like Spironolactone and Eplerenone. This is a partial list only, and you should consult with your doctor if potassium levels become a concern."
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