Strawberries: One of the Healthiest Foods on Earth
By Carl Thompson.
Berries — colorful, delicious and a sure sign of summer, have been making the news for another reason: their health benefits. That includes strawberries, long the stuff of shortcake and ice cream cones. Studies show that strawberries are a true superfruit: they can reduce the risk of heart disease, lower bad cholesterol levels, and slow down oxidative damage throughout the body. And they’re among the top 50 healthiest foods we eat.
Strawberries for heart health
What makes strawberries such mighty morsels? They are rich in bio-active anti-oxidant compounds known as anthocynanins, which also lend the berry its red color. It’s this high level of anti-oxidants in strawberries that packs a heart-healthy, fat-busting punch.
An 18-year study of nearly 94,000 young and middle-aged women resulted in a clear cause-and-effect link between eating strawberries, among other fruits and the reduced risk of heart attack. Women who regularly ate strawberries and blueberries over the course of the study were found to have a 32 percent lower risk of heart attack.
The study’s researchers concluded that anthocynanins may also help widen arteries, which counters the buildup of plaque. When bloodflow to the heart is impeded by the presence of plaque, heart attacks can occur. The researchers also suggested that although the study’s subjects were all women, a diet rich in strawberries would have the same benefits for men.
Sweet range of benefits
Other studies have focused on the power of berries, including strawberries, to reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes. Eating strawberries as well as other red fruits can help bolster the body’s glucose response, a key factor in preventing disease. And the polyphenol anti-oxidants in strawberries and other red fruits have also been linked to helping to protect the body against a range of chronic diseases, including neurodegeneration and cancer. The effects of aging on the body, including cognitive degeneration, may also be countered by a diet rich in these amazing fruits.
As it turns out, not all strawberries are alike. To truly maximize the health benefits of strawberries, it’s best to consume strawberries that are the densest in these anti-oxidants. Table strawberries, which are the most commonly available, are the result of selective cultivation for size, bright red color, and taste.
But other kinds of strawberries have even more nutritional power. Sometimes found in farmer’s markets and roadside fruit stands, or gathered the old fashioned way, wild strawberries are much smaller, and their darker pigmentation reflects a great concentration of anthocyanins. Another new variety is a close cousin, with the same compact shape and even darker coloring. This is the Nerina — which was, in fact, cultivated for its health benefits: it’s a super superfruit.
The Nerina was developed with health in mind, using GMO-free, time-honored, traditional horticultural methods. These dark purple, little strawberries have a far greater concentration of anti-oxidants as table strawberries. Processed into an extract or powder, Nerina strawberries can be mixed into a smoothie or a sports drink — a potent, easy-to-prepare way to glean all the goodness they contain.
Regardless of variety, the science shows that strawberries are incredible allies in our quest for wellness. Like all the red fruits, they are packed with health-giving benefits. So drop them into your cereal, pop them into your mouth, blend them into a smoothie, pick them in a field or buy them in your grocer’s produce section — whatever way you slice them, your body will thank you.
Carl Thompson has been a freelance health and medical journalist for more than three decades. He specializes in natural alternatives to the synthetic products of the pharmaceutical industry, and is a research writer for IPRONA AG, an Italian company that produces standardized berry extracts for healthier nutrition. His work has appeared widely in both consumer and professional health trade publications internationally. His most recent book is “Inflammation: A Closer Look at What Drug Companies Do Not Want You to Know,” about a drug-free approach to managing arthritis and other inflammatory disorders. Follow him on twitter at @theberryroom