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.

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

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.

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Celebrate the summer berry season

The Great British institution of Wimbledon kicks off this week, and whilst in celebratory mood our thoughts tend to turn to strawberries.  Home-grown British strawberries are at their absolute best right now in terms of flavour and the great news is that they also deliver some amazing health benefits. 

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares the health benefits of these heart-shaped fruit.  And if strawberries don’t ‘float your boat’ there are plenty of other berries to choose from!

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

STRAWBERRY NUTRITION

It may surprise you to know that strawberries are not actually a fruit at all!  This is because their seeds are on the outside, not the inside. They are actually part of the rose or rosaceae family!

Strawberries are a very rich source of vitamin C.  In fact, they feature at about number five in the list of foods highest in vitamin C.  They also contain folate, one of the family of B vitamins that delivers great energy.

Strawberries contain manganese, which is great for the joints.  This benefit is further enhanced by the presence of compounds called ellagitannins which help manage inflammation in the body (which ultimately can cause pain). So if you’ve been hard at work in the garden and your back is complaining, you know what to reach for!

Anthocyanins provide the amazing red colour of strawberries, and these plant compounds also deliver some powerful immune-boosting antioxidants.  Strawberries are also high in fibre to help keep the bowels running smoothly and support a healthy heart.

THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF STRAWBERRIES

As well as their enviable nutritional profile, strawberries are beneficial in a number of health conditions.

With Type 2 diabetes becoming ever more prevalent, one of the best ways to try to avoid its onset, is by eating foods that are known to be low glycaemic (or low GI).  This means that whilst they contain sugar, mainly in the form of fructose, this type of sugar is released more slowly into the body. Therefore, this helps to balance blood sugar levels, an imbalance of which can lead to Type 2 diabetes. Strawberries actually have a much lower glycaemic index than other fruits such as bananas, pineapples, apricots and cantaloupe melon.

As previously highlighted, strawberries are rich in antioxidants which help to reduce inflammation in the body, and this too can have positive benefits on brain health.  Even though very limited research has been carried out, it seems that eating strawberries can help re-generate the nerves involved in the area of the brain that processes new information. So summertime, when strawberries are at their best, might be a great time to learn something new; maybe a foreign language so you’ll be well prepared when next year’s holiday comes around!

So, what if strawberries aren’t top of your berry list? No problem – there are plenty of other berries to choose from!

BLUEBERRIES

Ranked second only to strawberries in terms of their popularity, blueberries are often referred to as a superfood.  As with strawberries (and other berry fruits), it’s all about the colour. The deep pigment colour is attributed to anthocyanins, which are very powerful compounds that provide antioxidants.

Part of the reason that blueberries are often termed superfoods, is because they have a wider array of other health-boosting plant compounds than almost any other fruit. They have been found to be great for maintaining sharp brain function, keeping blood sugar levels in balance and supporting the eyes.

CHERRIES

Whilst cherries may be seen as more difficult to eat because of the stone, they more than make up for this inconvenience with their nutritional benefits.

Cherries come in the form of sweet or tart and they actually provide different health benefits.

Whilst they’re a rich source of vitamin C just like the other berry fruits, all cherries have been found to help combat the painful condition, gout, which causes very painful and inflamed joints.  Gout is caused by too much uric acid in the blood and cherries actually help to reduce this, thereby aiding symptoms.

On the other hand, tart cherries are one of the only natural sources of melatonin, the body’s sleep hormone.  They are fairly sharp to eat whole, therefore are best consumed in tart cherry juice which can be sipped morning and evening for best effect.

BLACKBERRIES

If strawberries are closely associated with Wimbledon, then blackberry-picking just shouts ‘summer’! Wild blackberries are abundant on the hedgerows and are an amazing accompaniment to many a dessert, particularly a fresh, fruit salad.

Whilst they contain an amazing array of powerful plant compounds, blackberries also provide an impressive amount of vitamins including vitamins A, E, K and the B vitamins. Blackberries are also high in two carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, which have been found to be highly beneficial to eye sight.

So summer berry season is here!  Enjoy them all for extra health and nutrition benefits and feel energised all summer long!

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