The delicious and juicy ruby red strawberry is more than just a fruit to be covered in chocolate as a treat. In fact, strawberries are little nutritional powerhouses. “Strawberries are loaded with flavonoids and other health-protecting plant nutrients, so consider them a superfruit,” says Jackie Newgent, RDN, CDN, New York-based forward-thinking chef and culinary nutritionist.
The plant compounds in strawberries have been linked to numerous health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure and cholesterol and improving insulin resistance. Not to mention, these tiny berries pack an antioxidant punch that can help prevent nasty inflammation. Let’s dive into all the reasons why you should add strawberries to your diet and explore some fun ways to eat them.
Strawberry Nutrition Facts
A cup of whole strawberries contains:
1 gram of protein
0 grams of fat
11 grams of carbs
3 grams of fiber (12% Daily Value (DV))
35 and folate (8% DV)
85 milligrams of vitamin C (100% DV)
The health benefits of eating strawberries
Strawberries pack a big nutritional punch in a small package. With vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds, strawberries play a positive role in many health conditions. “It’s recommended to eat 8 strawberries a day,” says Newgent. “That counts as one serving of strawberries, and that’s the amount that research shows can help reduce the risk of certain cancers, improve brain and heart health, and manage type 2 diabetes,” she adds.
There are several studies linking strawberries to heart health. A recent study of adults with obesity and high cholesterol found that eating 2.5 servings of strawberries a day for four weeks improved insulin resistance and LDL cholesterol levels. Another randomized controlled trial in adults with cardiometabolic risk factors found that eating 2.5 servings of strawberries daily for four weeks improved endothelial function (the lining of the heart and blood vessels) and antioxidant status. .
“Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C, which plays a role in immune function and in fighting free radicals associated with cancer and heart disease,” says Newgent. Most research on strawberries and cancer consists of animal studies, but research shows promising results. For example, research on mice has concluded that eating strawberries inhibits tumor growth and promotes cancer cell death in people with breast cancer.
It’s no surprise that strawberries are strongly linked to cancer reduction because they contain ellagic acid, an antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory effects, according to Newgent. Ellagic acid has been shown to prevent or slow the progression of certain chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer, cognitive decline, and diabetes. This antioxidant also has protective properties for the liver, kidneys, skin and other organs.
Are there any downsides to eating strawberries?
There really is no downside to eating strawberries. They are tasty, nutritious and easy to snack on. But some worry that strawberries top the ‘Dirty Dozen’, a list compiled by the Environmental Working Group (a group that investigates harmful farming practices) that highlights the produce with the most pesticides.
Joshua Lambert, an associate professor of food science at Penn State, previously told TODAY that pesticide residues found on items like strawberries are relatively low and people don’t typically eat them every day. “It’s a good idea not to be exposed at all, but that’s not realistic,” he said, noting that many Americans already don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables.
Strawberry Fun Facts
Although you may eat them often, chances are you didn’t know this interesting strawberry fact.
One serving of strawberries contains 100% of your daily vitamin C intake
Oranges get all the immune-boosting credit, but strawberries pack just as much vitamin C as citrus fruits. One serving (8 strawberries) contains all the vitamin C you need in a day. This water-soluble vitamin is well known for its role in the immune system, but it also has many other roles to play in the body.
Vitamin C is responsible for the synthesis of collagen, a protein that aids joint and skin health. Vitamin C is also necessary for wound healing and increases iron absorption. Finally, vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps fight harmful inflammation that causes free radicals.
You can eat the strawberries
“The green caps of strawberries are called calyxes – and they’re 100% edible,” says Newgent. She recommends cleaning them well before using them in the kitchen. A really easy way to use the tops is to cut them up and drop them in a glass of water for strawberry infused spa water. You can also throw a whole strawberry into a smoothie and let the top count towards your daily greens.
Strawberries taste best at room temperature
“You’ll get the most flavor from strawberries at room temperature — so let them sit for at least 15 minutes after you take them out of the fridge,” says Newgent. Strawberries are fully ripe when picked, so they should be refrigerated or frozen to maintain their freshness.
Since strawberries have a limited season, consider freezing them to enjoy them all year round. Simply rinse, pat dry, remove stems, and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze for 24 hours, then transfer to a storage bag or container for up to six months.
Healthy Strawberry Recipes
Strawberries are versatile fruits that can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. Whether you’re making them the star of the show in a dessert or adding a little sweetness to the main course, you won’t regret using strawberries in any recipe. Here are some creative options:
Dessert: “I love the combination of chocolate and strawberries. Dark chocolate covered strawberries are one of my all-time favorite desserts,” says Newgent.
They also add brightness to this traditional Italian dessert in a strawberry tiramisu. And you’ll still impress your guests with an old-fashioned strawberry shortcake.
Savory dishes: “When I have lots of fresh strawberries on hand, I like to use them as a naturally sweet option in place of tomatoes, like in fresh strawberry pico de gallo, spicy guacamole with strawberries, or balsamic bruschetta with strawberries,” says Newgent. They also go great in a traditional salad, like this Strawberry Grilled Shrimp Salad, or a grain salad, like Giada’s Strawberry Millet Tabbouleh Salad. Plus, strawberries add richness to sauces like in this Fennel Fried Chicken with Strawberry Rhubarb Sweet and Sour Sauce
Snacks: “For a really fun snack, I recreated the concept of ‘Tootsie Pops’ in my Strawberry Nut Popsicles,” says Newgent. Ditch the store-bought Pop Tarts and try Siri’s Homemade Strawberry Breakfast Pouches instead. Or make this simple high-protein Chocolate Strawberry Frozen Yogurt Bark.
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