8 Reasons to Appreciate Nutrition-Packed Strawberries

Photo: Manchester-Monkey/flickr.

Like strawberries? If you’re like the average consumer of this fruit — which is actually a member of the rose family — you consume about 5 pounds of strawberries each year.

How are strawberries, which are second only to apples in fresh-fruit popularity, doing your body good? Let’s review some strawberry nutrition facts.

Most strawberry lovers know that a serving contains a lot of vitamin C. In fact, one cup of strawberries (about eight medium-sized berries) yields 150 percent daily value (DV) of vitamin C. Talk about nutrient density! That’s a lot of vitamin C for only 50 calories.

Strawberries are also relatively high in fiber. One cup provides 3 grams, or 12 percent DV.

Some stick-figure-worshipping, conscientious dieters might pass up a handful of strawberries because a single serving contains 12 grams of sugar. But when you factor in the fiber, strawberries have a low glycemic load; they will likely not make your blood sugar levels spike and then subsequently crash.

Just take it easy on the whipped cream if you’re empty calorie-conscious. (Plain strawberries are virtually fat-free.)

Strawberries: Good for your bones and hormones

If you’re concerned about bone health, strawberries are an excellent source of the trace mineral manganese, which is essential for maintaining healthy bone structure, absorbing calcium, creating enzymes that build bone and a host of other benefits, including proper functioning of your sex hormones.

David Handley, small fruit specialist at the University of Maine’s Cooperative Extension, says potassium and folate are also highly beneficial nutrients derived from strawberry consumption.

“Seniors and the elderly population sometimes have trouble getting enough potassium and folate, which [also] helps form bone mass,” Handley tells Mother Nature Network.

One cup of strawberries has 240 milligrams of potassium (7 percent DV) and 10 percent DV of folate.

Totally radical(-fighting) anthocyanins: The unsung heroes in strawberries

While Handley praises berries’ high vitamin C content, he says it’s the free-radical fighting compounds called anthocyanins that are the true all-star health components of strawberries.

“Anthocyanin pigments are anti-carcinogenic and berries that have a deep red color like strawberries or deep blue, such as blueberries, tend to be high in these anthocyanin compounds,” says Handley, who adds that strawberries are also rich in another natural antioxidant compound called ellagic acid.

A study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry confirms the health benefits of anthocyanin-rich fruits.

Can strawberries prevent cancer?
There is evidence that they just might. Two years ago, data revealed by researchers at Ohio State University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center concluded that seven common berries, including strawberries, prevented certain cancers from developing in in rodents.

The findings of the Ohio State study suggest that it’s not necessary to spend a lot of money on exotic berries (acai, blackberries, wolfberries, goji, etc.) to derive the same cancer-fighting benefits.

“With respect to cancer prevention, it’s not clear that the ‘exotic’ berry types are any more effective than the less expensive blueberries, strawberries and red raspberries,” researcher Dr. Gary Stoner said in the study’s press release.

Can strawberries prevent memory loss?

Yes, according to researchers at Harvard’s Brigham and Woman’s Hospital. In a study published in the Annals of Neurology, berries — including strawberries — can delay cognitive impairments by up to 2.5 years.

One might say, “Why should I bother eating berries if I’m going to have memory loss anyway? Two and a half years ... is it worth it?”

Considering that antioxidant-rich berries have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes, it’s a good idea to include free-radical fighting berries in your diet.

Does the nutritional content vary between organic and conventionally grown strawberries?

According to the University of Maine’s Handley, there may be some subtle differences.

“I’ve read studies that bounce both ways; they are mostly minor differences. One study claims conventional-grown strawberries contain more potassium, while another study might say that organic strawberries are higher in zinc,” says Handley, who also said it’s difficult to control studies analyzing the difference between organic and conventionally grown strawberries.

“Not all researchers use the same protocols for organic standards and testing methods also vary,” he says.

The good news about conventionally grown strawberries? Handley says that the philosophies and ideas that organic farmers were pushing decades ago in relation to soil health have spilled over recently into conventional farming.

“Conventional farmers are now more concerned about soil health for the long term,” says Handley, who acknowledges that though conventional farmers still rely on fumigation practices, the process now eliminates the most toxic elements such as methyl bromide and also uses drip fumigation instead of a full fumigation assault on the entire crop.

Despite the improvements in conventional farming practices, Handley advises, “Wash your fruit.”

Do you love strawberries? Let us know why in the comment section below.

Judd Handler is a health writer based in Encinitas, Calif.

Want ideas for incorporating strawberries in your diet? Here you go: