Strawberries are coming into season and I cannot wait to take advantage of their availability. In addition to being gorgeous and delicious, strawberries are incredibly versatile. These ruby gems are also potent health protectors. Here are some of their impressive benefits and simple ways to incorporate strawberries into meals, snacks, and treats.
One cup of whole strawberries provides just 46 calories. The same portion sliced contains 53 calories; and a cup of pureed berries packs only 74 calories.
Vitamins in strawberries
A one-cup portion of strawberries contains over 100% of the daily minimum target for immune-supporting vitamin C. In addition to functioning as a disease- and age-fighting antioxidant, vitamin C helps make collagen and maintain skin health.
Strawberries are also rich in other antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds. This is one reason why berries, including strawberries, are tied to brain health. In one study, older women who consumed at least one to two servings of strawberries (with one serving being eight whole berries) per week experienced a reduced loss of cognitive functioning.
What are strawberries good for?
Eating strawberries at the end of a meal has been shown to help regulate blood sugar and insulin levels. That translates to steadier mental and physical energy. It may also help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
Good-for-you plant compounds, called flavonoids, in strawberries are tied to a reduced risk of age-related weight gain. The effect may be due to flavonoids’ ability to increase glucose uptake in muscle, and/or decrease glucose uptake in fat tissue.
They promote skin and bone health
One cup of strawberries provides nearly a quarter of the daily goal for manganese, a mineral that helps produce collagen and promote skin and bone health.
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And boost digestive health
The fiber in strawberries (about 3 grams per cup) helps maintain good digestive health by supporting the growth of healthy gut bacteria, which are tied to immunity, anti-inflammation, and mood.
Strawberries fight inflammation
In people with osteoarthritis, strawberries have been shown to help reduce pain and markers of inflammation and oxidative stress—an imbalance between the production of cell-damaging free radicals and the body's ability to counter their harmful effects.
They may help reduce cancer risk
Berries, including strawberries, have also been tied to cancerprotection, possibly by fighting tumor formation and stopping the growth and spread of cancer cells.
They’re heart healthy
Strawberries protect the heart by reducing inflammation, boosting good HDL cholesterol, protecting against the oxidation of bad LDL cholesterol (a precursor to artery hardening), and improving circulation.
How to enjoy more strawberries
You can enjoy strawberries as is, or use them to whip up a smoothie; top off overnight oats or oatmeal; and enhance savory meals, such as your favorite salad, stir fry, or whole grain dish. Use sliced or chopped strawberries as an unexpected garnish for hummus or black bean soup.
Strawberries are perfect for treats and desserts. A simple strawberry sauce can be drizzled onto anything from oatmeal, pancakes, and almond butter toast to nearly any entree or dessert.
For a quick and healthy treat, warm sliced strawberries over low heat in lemon water with fresh grated ginger root and top with chopped dark chocolate, chopped nuts, or shredded coconut. Or dip whole strawberries in melted dark chocolate and roll in minced nuts.
Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health's contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a consultant for the New York Yankees.
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