Strawberries not only look like a fruity heart-shaped valentine, they are filled with unusual phytonutrients that love to promote your health.
Potent Antioxidant Protection from Phenols
Strawberries, like other berries, are famous in the phytonutrient world as a rich source of phenols. In the strawberry, these phenols are led by the anthocyanins (especially anthocyanin 2) and by the ellagitannins. The anthocyanins in strawberry not only provide its flush red color, they also serve as potent antioxidants that have repeatedly been shown to help protect cell structures in the body and to prevent oxygen damage in all of the body's organ systems. Strawberries' unique phenol content makes them a heart-protective fruit, an anti-cancer fruit, and an anti-inflammatory fruit, all rolled into one. The anti-inflammatory properties of strawberry include the ability of phenols in this fruit to lessen activity of the enzyme cyclo-oxygenase. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen block pain by blocking this enzyme, whose over activity has been shown to contribute to unwanted inflammation, such as that which is involved in rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, asthma, atherosclerosis, and cancer. Unlike drugs that are COX-inhibitors, however, strawberries do not cause intestinal bleeding.
Strawberry Phytonutrients that Promote Optimal Health
The ellagitannin content of strawberries has actually been associated with decreased rates of cancer death. In one study, strawberries topped a list of eight foods most linked to lower rates of cancer deaths among a group of over 1,000 elderly people. Those eating the most strawberries were three times less likely to develop cancer compared to those eating few or no strawberries.
A study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry analyzed eight strawberry cultivars for their content of protective plant compounds (phenols, flavonoids and anthocyanins) and their antioxidant capacities. Although the various cultivars differed significantly in the amounts of the various beneficial compounds each contained, all cultivars (Earliglow, Annapolis, Evangeline, Allstar, Sable, Sparkle, Jewel, and Mesabi) were able to significantly inhibit the proliferation of human liver cancer cells. Interestingly, no relationship was found between a cultivar's antioxidant content and its ability to inhibit cancer cell proliferation, which suggests that this beneficial effect of strawberries is caused by other actions of their many beneficial compounds.
In terms of traditional nutrients, strawberries emerged from our food ranking system as an excellent source of vitamin C and manganese. They also qualified as a very good source of dietary fiber and iodine as well as a good source of potassium, folate, riboflavin, vitamin B5, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B6, vitamin K, magnesium, and copper.
A Few Quick Serving Ideas:
-Top your morning cereal, lunch time yogurt or cottage cheese with fresh strawberries.
- Dress up any green salad with sliced strawberries, slivered almonds and a splash of balsamic vinegar.
- For an easy, elegant dessert, blend fresh or frozen strawberries with a spoonful of honey and some soy or cow's milk or yogurt. Freeze for 20 minutes, then spoon into serving cups and decorate with a sprig of mint.
- Layer sliced strawberries, whole blueberries and plain yogurt in a wine glass to make a parfait dessert.
- Mix chopped strawberries with cinnamon, lemon juice and maple syrup and serve as a topping for waffles and pancakes.
- Blend strawberries with a little bit of orange juice and use as a refreshing coulis sauce that goes well with poached pears.
- Add strawberries to breakfast shakes to give them a more vibrant taste and texture.
Courtesy of World's Healthiest Foods