There’s a reason as to why a lot of products are strawberry flavored; a lot of people love them. Consumption of strawberries originated in Europe in the 18th century, but most of the strawberries we know of today is a crossbreed between the Native American and Chilean wild strawberry species. Strawberries are often bright red in color with its seeds on the outside. They are juicy, sour, and sweet. They are known for their high vitamin C content. Aside from this, they also contain a lot of plant compounds and antioxidants. Most people regard the strawberry as a superfood because it is delicious and nutritious. On top of this, it is also very versatile. It can be eaten on its own, made into a smoothie, turned into jams, or added to yogurts or desserts.
What’s in every bite…
Before we dive into the health benefits of strawberries, let us explore what is present in every serving of strawberry and try to understand what makes this fruit a superfood.
Strawberries are very juicy because they are made up of 91% water, the rest is mostly carbohydrates and a little bit of protein and fat. It is fairly low in calories, a 100 gram serving of strawberries contains 32 calories only. It has 4.9 grams of sugar but it also has 2 grams of dietary fiber.
Strawberries may contain 6 grams of carbohydrates but not all of these carbs are digestible. Dietary fibers are carbohydrates but our body can’t break them down and absorb them. Sugars present in strawberries are mostly simple sugars such as glucose, fructose, and sucrose. Even though these are capable of dramatically increasing a person’s blood sugar levels, they are balanced out with the dietary fibers present. These contribute to the low glycemic index of strawberries. In other words, eating strawberries wouldn’t lead to a sudden increase in your blood sugar levels, but instead, you will receive a steady supply of glucose.
One reason as to why people consider strawberries as a superfood is that it contains a lot of dietary fibers. A 100-gram serving of strawberries contains 2 grams of both soluble and insoluble dietary fibers. These dietary fibers are important to our health because they provide nourishment to the good bacteria that are living in our gut. They could also aid in weight loss.
Vitamins and Minerals
Strawberries are perfect for boosting our immune system because it contains a lot of vitamin C. A 166-gram serving of strawberries contains 97 milligrams of the aforementioned vitamin which is more than 100% of the reference daily intake. Aside from keeping diseases at bay, vitamin C also helps you look younger because it is a known antioxidant.
Strawberries contain 40 micrograms of folate or vitamin B9, a ‘B’ vitamin that is needed for normal tissue functioning and cell growth. This vitamin is important during pregnancy because it ensures proper brain development of the developing baby.
Potassium is important for maintaining proper fluid balance, it is also an important electrolyte. Strawberries contain 254 milligrams of potassium.
Other Vitamins and Minerals
Aside from the aforementioned vitamins and minerals, strawberries also contain 27 milligrams of calcium, 22 milligrams of magnesium, 40 milligrams of phosphorus, and 28 international units of Vitamin A.
Aside from the nourishment that it provides, strawberries also contain a lot of antioxidants and plant compounds such as pelargonidin, ellagic acid, ellagitannins, and procyanidins. Pelargonidin imparts the bright red color of strawberries and it is strawberries’ main anthocyanin. Ellagic acid is a polyphenol present in high amounts in strawberries and has a lot of health benefits. Ellagitannins is a precursor to ellagic acid. They are processed in the gut and converted to ellagic acid. Procyanidin is another anthocyanin which also has a lot of health benefits.
Anthocyanins are plant compounds that are thought to have anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant benefits, at the same time they are also pigments that give certain flowers and fruits their distinctive colors. Whichever part of the plant is distinctly more colorful, like the blue color of the petals of the blue ternate and the bright red color of the skin of the strawberries, this is highly likely to contain a lot of this compound. The flesh of the strawberry fruit also contains some anthocyanin but it is less abundant compared to its skin. In strawberries, the most abundant anthocyanin is the pelargonidin.
Ellagitannins and ellagic acid
Ellagitannins and ellagic acid are phenols that are associated with a lot of health benefits such as cancer risk reduction and antibiotic action. Numerous studies have shown that strawberries is king when it comes to the amount of phenolics present in a single serving.
Now that we know what a serving of strawberries contains, we will now go over some health benefits that each serving provides and how the vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds contribute to this. For starters, studies have shown that strawberries are capable of aiding in cancer prevention, regulation of blood sugar levels, and the improvement of heart health.
Improvement of Blood sugar regulation
Strawberries contain simple sugars such as glucose, fructose, and sucrose. When you consume strawberries these sugars are easily absorbed in your intestines and would go into your bloodstream. The body would then counteract this sudden surge of glucose by releasing insulin so that there would be less glucose in the bloodstream. Insulin works by facilitating the entry of glucose into your cells for fuel or for storage. Type 2 diabetes begins when your cells would start to respond less to your own insulin leading to inefficient blood sugar regulation. Strawberries seem to be capable of slowing the digestion of simple sugars. This may be due to the dietary fibers present in it. Furthermore, if a high carb meal is paired with it, the absorption of the carbs present in that meal is slowed down as well. This all points to the idea that strawberries may be able to help people manage their blood sugar levels and prevent the development of type 2 diabetes.
According to the World Health Organization, on a global scale, the prevalence of cancer is very high. One in five men and one in six women will develop cancer in their lifetime.
Cancer is a disease where the normal safeguards for cell division have been compromised and they begin to multiply uncontrollably and grow abnormally. This disease is often linked to chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, and other conditions that could damage the integrity of the cells’ genetic material such as viral infections.
Since strawberries contain a lot of vitamin C, and other antioxidants such as anthocyanins and phenolics, researchers have claimed and showed promising evidence that strawberries may help prevent cancer. One of these studies showed compelling results as researchers observed that strawberries are capable of inhibiting the proliferation of human liver cancer cells. Other studies claim that ellagic acid and ellagitannins are the main anti-cancer component of strawberries. More research is needed to strengthen the foundation of the claims that strawberries are capable of preventing cancer and to fully understand the mechanisms behind their anti-cancer property.
Improvement of Cardiovascular health
Just like cancer, heart disease is another disease that is prevalent worldwide and is a common cause of death. Several studies conducted on strawberry’s antioxidant effects have shown that it is capable of preventing the risk of developing heart disease or the risk of death due to cardiovascular failure. It is possible that the anthocyanins present in strawberries indirectly improved cardiovascular health because it prevents the oxidation of Low-Density Lipoprotein or LDL, a process that has been associated with negative effects on our cardiovascular health. Other studies investigated the difference between freeze-dried strawberries and fresh ones. Researchers noted that freeze-dried and fresh strawberries do not vary that much when it comes to health benefits. One study, in particular, investigated the effects of freeze-dried strawberries and their effect on the LDL, inflammatory markers, and oxidized LDL of overweight individuals who are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The researchers were able to find out that LDL, inflammatory markers, and oxidized LDL all decreased after 4 to 12 weeks of freeze-dried strawberries supplementation. On top of this, other researchers have proven that strawberries are capable of improving platelet function and vascular function which leads to better blood flow and ultimately cardiovascular health improvement. All of these are evidence that points to the possibility that strawberry consumption might be helpful in preventing heart disease.
Things to Keep in Mind
Despite the numerous benefits that come with eating strawberries there are certain precautions that you need to keep in mind; one of these is allergies. Allergies to strawberries are quite common, especially among children. If you are allergic to strawberries then you should avoid it. People who are sensitive to birch pollen or apples, or people who have the condition known as pollen-food allergy, should also be cautious with strawberries. The protein present in birch pollen and apples which are the most common trigger of pollen-food allergy is also present in strawberry. So if you have this condition then there is a big chance that strawberries would also trigger a reaction in you. There are also individuals who are solely allergic to strawberries. In either condition, reaction to strawberry consumption features the typical signs and symptoms of allergy which includes itching, tingling in the mouth, hives, headaches, and in severe cases swelling of the lips, face, tongue, or throat leading to breathing problems and death if immediate medical attention is not provided. In strawberry allergies, its anthocyanin has been implicated for such negative physiologic reactions.
Those who have thyroid problems or are at risk of developing thyroid carcinoma should also be wary of strawberry consumption. This fruit contains goitrogens which have been shown to interfere with thyroid function in people who have thyroid problems.
Although strawberries are capable of slowing down carbohydrate absorption, you still need to limit your carbohydrate intake to the recommended amount. With that said, eating too many strawberries would lead to excessive carbohydrate consumption. Remember that a cup of strawberries, the usual serving, contains around 8 milligrams of sugars. The average male has a daily limit of 36 grams while females have a daily limit of 25 grams. This means that eating 5 cups of strawberries would mean exceeding the recommended daily intake for carbohydrates.
There is also the issue of pesticide residue. The Environmental Working Group or EWG has included the strawberry several times in their yearly ‘Dirty Dozen’. This ‘Dirty Dozen’ is a list of fruits and vegetables which contain the highest amount of pesticide residue; this list is created yearly. To remedy this issue, buy organic and pay close attention to the seal to reduce the risk of pesticide exposure.
If you are taking medications like Beta-blockers, a drug commonly prescribed for hypertension, you should limit your consumption of potassium-rich foods such as strawberries. Drugs like beta-blockers are capable of increasing the amount of potassium in your blood. Eating a lot of potassium-rich foods along with these kinds of drugs might lead to electrolyte imbalances leading to vomiting, breathing difficulties, and heart palpitations. It is also harmful to the kidneys as it has to work hard to eliminate the excess potassium.
Strawberries are delicious, one proof of that is the fact that a lot of processed foods have a strawberry flavor. Strawberries are also very nutritious, it contains vitamins, minerals, phenolics, dietary fibers, and other plant compounds. Strawberries have a lot of vitamin C which is a vitamin that is known to be an immune booster and an antioxidant. It also contains anthocyanins which is also an antioxidant. Aside from this, the strawberry is a rich source of phenolics. The vitamins, the anthocyanins, and the phenolics are also responsible for strawberry’s health benefits. They have been associated with the improvement of blood pressure, reduction of inflammation, reduction of oxidative stress, and the improvement of blood lipid profile. On top of this, strawberries can also help in blood sugar management when taken in the appropriate amount. The strawberry is truly deserving of the ‘superfood’ title because it is tasty and healthy.
Most of us love this superfood, that is why we have decided to add freeze-dried strawberries into our product ‘Fruit of Spirit Superfood Immune Support Powder’. One serving contains around 2.6 grams of the powdered fruit.