Strawberries: discover the health benefits of this summer fruit

a punnet of strawberries

It’s one of life’s great partnerships – Wimbledon and strawberries! Whether enjoyed with cream or in a glass of champagne, these delicious red berries are a summer favourite whether you’re enjoying the tennis or another outdoor event.

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The great news is that strawberries are also super-healthy and packed full of nutrition.

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer tells us five reasons why they’re one of the most popular berries consumed worldwide!

The history of strawberries and their health benefits

As with so many fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, strawberries have been used for many hundreds of years to cure a variety of health ailments. They were believed to eliminate kidney stones, and relieve arthritis, gout and rheumatism. Strawberries were also used to cleanse and purify the digestive system and act as a mild liver tonic.

A woman holding a heartshaped bowl full of strawberries

There is no reason to suggest strawberries won’t deliver some of these health benefits today; they contain a wealth of antioxidants which help to manage inflammation throughout the body and are high in fibre which is a great internal cleanser.

Strawberries are high in fibre

We hear so much about the body needing fibre in the diet every day, which of course is true. The typical Western diet is unfortunately often laden with white pasta, bread, cakes and biscuits. These are very low in fibre, hence many people suffer from digestive issues.

Woman smiling with a bowl of strawberries, holding on strawberry up to her mouth

The body needs around 30 grams of fibre daily, and should be a combination of the soluble and insoluble varieties. Insoluble fibre is found in high amounts in wheat, maize and rice. Soluble fibre is found in oat bran, peas, beans and fruits and vegetables. Strawberries are a shining light in this respect with high levels of soluble fibre (a small cup contains over 3 grams). This is one of the reasons our ancestors found them to be helpful for digestive cleansing.

Strawberries can be included on a weight-loss plan

The popularity of the low-carb diet has meant many people are shunning fruits and vegetables, and hence missing out on a wide range of nutrients. However, strawberries are very low on the glycaemic index (much lower than bananas, melon, pineapple and apricots). This means they have a negligible effect on blood sugar when eaten, hence they’re not going to adversely affect a weight-loss plan. Blood sugar levels need to be in good balance for effective weight loss otherwise the body will simply store sugar and increase the number of fat cells within.

Two bowls of strawberries and cream

The really good news is that when strawberries are eaten with cream, the fat content slows down blood sugar level activation even further, so your Wimbledon treat is perfectly acceptable. Ideally, not to be eaten this way every day though!

Strawberries will keep your brain sharp

Whilst strawberries have one of the highest levels of vitamin C of all fruits and vegetables per 100 grams, their nutritional wealth extends far wider. They contain an array of polyphenols which are plant compounds with wonderful health benefits. Polyphenols are loaded with antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties.

A plate with a picture of a brain on to represent eating healthily to support a sharper brain

This is one of the reasons strawberries can help to keep your brain sharp because they protect it from damage from the environment and other toxins. It’s also thought these antioxidant properties help protect blood vessels to the brain keeping blood flow good and sharpness on top form.

How to eat them

Strawberries are very perishable and will only last a few days. Therefore they shouldn’t be washed until you’re ready to eat them and they’re always best eaten as fresh as possible.

Strawberry smoothie surrounded by fresh strawberries

Strawberries are perfect added to breakfast oats, sliced in a mixed salad, or served with shortcake. However, for a really healthy start to the day, why not wiz up a strawberry smoothie with banana, a little fresh orange juice, some plain yoghurt and a little almond milk. As well as providing a great boost of vitamin C, you’ll also be getting plenty of heart-loving potassium and energising folate. Plus, the yoghurt and almond milk provide protein to keep you sustained throughout the morning. You can always add some additional protein powder for a real power-up!

If you fancy the traditional strawberries and cream, but you are not able to tolerate dairy, there are plenty of dairy-free alternative creams which you can try.

So be sure to grab some strawberries while you can and don’t miss one of our most delicious fruits this summer.

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Strawberry season: discover the nutritional benefits of the Wimbledon snack

Woman smiling with a bowl of strawberries, holding on strawberry up to her mouth

Strawberry season is upon us and what a treat that is! All fruits and vegetables taste better when they’re in season and haven’t been shipped half way around the world before they reach our supermarket shelves!

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares some interesting facts about strawberries, plus some delicious recipe suggestions.

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Strawberries are similar to Superman; they wear important items on the outside rather than the inside! Unlike any other fruit or vegetable, strawberries wear their seeds on the outside and there can sometimes be as many as 200 seeds on each strawberry!

NUTRITIONAL BENEFITS

Strawberries have a higher vitamin C content than other berries and a serving of 100g contains only 27 calories. They are known to be low glycaemic which means they don’t have an adverse effect on blood sugar levels, making them a great choice if you’re trying for that summer body! Their GI is much lower than other fruits such as bananas, apricots, pineapples and watermelon, hence they’re a much better choice for a weight-loss campaign.

Their rich vitamin C content rates them very highly as being a great source of anti-aging and anti-inflammatory antioxidants. So they’ll help protect you against sun damage (don’t forget your sun cream too) and keep your joints supple if you’ve been overdoing the gardening or exercise during the sunny weather. However, the antioxidant protection of strawberries extends far beyond their high vitamin C content; they contain an impressive wealth of polyphenols (plant compounds with incredible health benefits), which gives them iconic status in the health stakes.

Interestingly, it would seem that top chefs are now using slightly under ripe strawberries in their dishes. Whilst this may be for aesthetic reasons, displaying both green and red colours, some of the health benefits of strawberries are actually lost when they’re too ripe. So it’s actually a good idea in terms of nutrition too.

TRADITIONAL USE

As with most foods, there is plenty of folklore surrounding strawberries. Even back in 1653, the famous herbalist Culpeper realised they provided many curative properties. For example, they were found to be a potent cleanser for the digestive system and also a mild tonic for the liver. Therefore, strawberries are great to include in a summer detoxification programme particularly if you’ve been enjoying a few outdoor parties! Plus they’ve also been used to help joint issues, particularly gout.

SOME DELICIOUS WAYS TO USE STRAWBERRIES

Obviously, they’re great simply served with a dash of cream or ice cream. However, if you want to enjoy them as part of your healthy diet, then they’re great whizzed into a wonderfully healthy smoothie, with blueberries, half an avocado and some coconut milk. Plus, if you’re looking for the ultimate power breakfast, then why not add some protein powder, such as pea or hemp, and it’ll keep you going through until lunch time.

Alternatively, you can actually make some relatively healthy strawberry ice cream using low fat condensed milk and 0% fat Greek yoghurt.

Strawberries work well in either sweet or savoury dishes. For example, strawberries make a welcome addition to a salad with feta cheese, bacon and toasted pine nuts. Traditionally strawberries work best in slightly decadent sweet dishes such as Eton mess or cheesecake and combine well with other fruits such as rhubarb in a pie or simply dipped into melted chocolate!

A LAST WORD

It’s worth noting that some people suffer from allergic reactions to strawberries and can develop hives. The rash is the result of excess histamine triggered by a substance in the fruit. This seems to be more common when the fruit hasn’t ripened sufficiently on the vine. This reaction happens pretty swiftly after you start eating them, so you’ll know they’re the culprit. However, the rash usually disappears quickly when you stop eating them.

Additionally, strawberries are high in salicylates so shouldn’t be eaten by people who are hyper-allergic to aspirin.

So enjoy strawberry season and try out these nutritious dishes.

 FOR MORE GREAT DIET AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

Sign up to receive our blog and get a weekly dose of the latest nutrition and health advice direct to your inbox.

Follow us on Twitter @feelaliveuk for nutrition, lifestyle and well-being tips.

Visit us at www.feelaliveuk.com for the latest offers and exclusive Alive! content.

Follow and Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie

For everything you need to know about vitamins, minerals and herbs visit Herbfacts