Strawberries are in season which means they’re highest in health benefits, especially if pollen is getting up your nose right now. Nutritional therapist Jackie Lynch on the surprising pluses of this most British of fruits
The strawberry season is in full swing so this is absolutely the best time to make the most of them, as it’s so easy to get fresh, local produce. This means that the vitamin and mineral content will be higher because they haven’t been stored for long periods or travelled long distances, which generally reduces the nutrient content of fruit and veg.
While we tend to assume blueberries are the superfood of the berry family, strawberries have an equally interesting nutrient profile. The rich red colour is due to the high content of anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, which is also found in other purple and deep red foods, such as blueberries or red cabbage. Strawberries also contain a broad variety of other antioxidants which will keep your immune system in the best possible shape.
5 reasons to eat strawberries
- They’re good for your skinStrawberries are anti-ageing both on the outside and the inside. They can improve your skin – the super-high vitamin C content (more than almost any other fruit) ensures that your body can produce good levels of collagen which supports the elasticity and flexibility of the skin.
- They support heart health and brain functionThere is increasing evidence to show that the high antioxidant content of strawberries reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and helps to support circulation and the integrity of blood vessels. Recent research from Harvard Medical School also suggested that eating strawberries two to three times per week could help improve memory and cognitive function.
- They help regulate blood sugarStrawberries have a low GI (glycaemic index) score which means they’ll keep you going for longer and help support a weight management programme. Some studies also suggest that the plant compounds in strawberries can help to regulate blood sugar levels after a meal and may even reduce the risk of developing insulin resistance, a pre-diabetic state, where our body cells no longer respond to insulin.
- They may help with hay feverIf you suffer fromhayfever, then strawberries could be nature’s way of offering a helping hand. They contain a plant compound called quercetin which helps to inhibit the release of histamine in the body, as well as reducing inflammation.It’s worth noting that strawberries are naturally high in histamine, which may be an issue for people who are histamine-intolerant, although not all hay fever sufferers are automatically intolerant to histamine. Histamine intolerance is when the body is unable to break down histamine correctly and this can lead to a range of unpleasant symptoms, such as headaches, nasal congestion, fatigue and nausea.A 2009 study in Japan found that quercetin significantly decreased symptoms of itchy eyes amongst seasonal allergy sufferers, so a bowl of strawberries might just help calm your symptoms, as well as being a tasty dessert.
- They boost energyStrawberries contain exceptionally high levels of folate (the natural form of folic acid, also known as vitamin B9), a nutrient which is required for the production of red blood cells and the transporting of oxygen which our cells use to produce energy. We also need folate for the optimal absorption of iron which keeps our energy levels topped up. Folate is also a vital nutrient during pregnancy and the NHS recommend supplementing 400mcg of folic acid for at least the first 12 weeks.
Best ways to eat strawberries
- Strawberries are especially susceptible to pesticides, so it’s advisable to opt for organic strawberries wherever possible. While this won’t guarantee that they’ll be completely pesticide-free, your exposure to toxins is likely to be much lower
- Don’t hull the strawberries until after you’ve washed them. This will prevent them absorbing excess water which might affect the taste and texture of the fruit
- There’s frankly nothing lovelier than eating a strawberry fresh from the plant while it’s still warm from the sun, so head to your local pick-your-own farm for the full experience.
- Dip the strawberries in melted dark chocolate for a delicious treat.
- Finely chop the strawberries and add them to a bottle of freshly made vinaigrette with olive oil and red or white wine vinegar. It’ll keep for up to three days in the fridge and add a touch of summer sweetness to a green salad.