Strawberries: Nutrient Composition and Health Benefits
Sweet, juicy, slightly tart...
...what's not to love about a perfectly ripe, in-season, strawberry?! Perhaps the most pleasurable experience of all is sinking your teeth into one freshly picked on a toasty day in the late spring or early summer...
Delightfully delicious and, as you may guess with strawberries being in the spotlight as May's Food of Month, they're naturally nutritious!
In 1 cup of strawberries you'll get 89 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C (~150% daily need), 36.5 mg of folate (~10% daily need), 0.6 mg manganese (~30% daily need), and 98.8 mg omega-3 fatty acid. A cup of strawberries also provides smaller amounts of additional vitamins and minerals including vitamin K, some B-vitamins, magnesium, potassium and iron. And perhaps the most notable of all: strawberries contain a rich amount of phytonutrients including anthocyanins, flavonoids, phenolic acids, and tannins.
You're most likely familiar with vitamin C's role with boosting the immune system. It's interesting that in the effort of nurturing our immune system, we've been conditioned to think automatically of a glass of orange juice or a supplement. Yet there are many wonderful sources of this water-soluble nutrient; strawberries demonstrating an excellent example! By weight, fresh strawberries have nearly twice the amount of vitamin C and half the sugar compared to orange juice.
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, supports our health by strengthening immune system cells and literally keeps our skin and other connective tissues together. The symptoms of deficiency are a perfect demonstration of the critical roles vitamin C has on our health! Vitamin C deficiency is well known as scurvy, and fortunately today, is a rare disease. Some of the major symptoms of scurvy include hemorrhages, gingivitis, anemia, infection and fever.
*Aaaand, cue reader biting into a strawberry!*
With adequate daily folate intake we can experience greater energy, better focus, increased learning ability and improved memory; and mothers give their unborn babies a critical nutrient that supports proper development! Folate, a water-soluble B-vitamin, is essential for cell growth, cell replication, and cell survival.
Deficiency has been a public health concern as it's been linked with neural tube defects, megaloblastic anemia, and poor cognition. For that reason, folate is fortified in many foods as folic acid, a synthetic form of the vitamin. Some research shows that this form of the vitamin may not be as bioavailable. Additional research shows that ascorbic acid may stabilize food-derived folate during digestion, therefore possibly increasing bioavailability.
If you're interested in really increasing your intake of food-derived folate and celebrating May's featured food, you may enjoy a Strawberry Spinach Salad. Leafy greens are also a great source of folate; a better title might be Strawberry Spinach Folate Salad:
Toss one to two cups of fresh baby spinach leaves together with a cup of quartered fresh strawberries. You may even substitute a cup of arugula for a more complex taste experience. Drizzle with a citrusy vinaigrette and garnish with a bit of feta from the brine! Yuuummm!
Manganese is an essential mineral that's involved in many biological processes including bone health, metabolism of carbohydrates, protein and fat, and defends the body from reactive oxygen species. Manganese is quite abundant in the diet, as we can see in the case of the strawberry, where one cup contains 30% of your daily requirements.
Know that when eating strawberries, you're supporting your bone health and metabolism and reducing cell damage!
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
While 98.8mg of omega-3 fatty acid isn't a substantial value, compared to a single tablespoon of flaxseed which contains over 2,300 mg, it's still worth mentioning that strawberries are a source. The seeds, or achenes, that cover the strawberry fruit are the source of this unsaturated fatty acid. Plant-derived omega-3 fatty acid is in the alpha-linoleic form (ALA, for short), which the body converts to essential EPA (eicosopentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). These fatty acids are supportive of brain and heart health.
While some research shows that the amount of EPA and DHA actually produced from ALA is insignificant, eating a strawberry won't hurt ya! Unless, of course, you have a unique intolerance or sensitivity to strawberries, then in that case, don't eat strawberries!
Here's some info you won't find on the nutrition label! Strawberries contain over twenty compounds including anthocyanins, flavonols, favan-3-ols, phenolic acids and ellagitannins. Between these phytonutrients and the level of vitamin C in strawberries, these fruits are one of the greatest natural sources of antioxidants.
The antioxidant activity of strawberries may inhibit inflammation, inhibit platelet aggregation, reduce oxidation of low density lipoproteins, and scavenge free radicals. Through these actions, strawberry phytonutrients may be reliable compounds that support cardiovascular and brain health, and fight cancer cells.
Increase your intake of strawberry antioxidants by enjoying freeze dried forms! Studies show that freeze dried strawberries have the highest total antioxidant activity, followed by fresh, then frozen forms. Pair freeze dried strawberries with your favorite nuts and seeds for an energizing snack or stir them into a bowl of hot oatmeal for breakfast.
Strawberry Power! Boom! Pow! Wow! Hooray!
A Few Extra Facts...
Strawberries share familial roots with the rose flower, apples, almonds, cherries, pears and raspberries as each fall within the Rosaceae family of flowering plants.
Strawberries are not a true berry! They're what's called an accessory or aggregate fruit. And the 200ish "seeds" that each fruit is covered in are called achenes.
Strawberries are enjoyed by the tons worldwide with the US representing only about 16% of the total production.
Cheers to Strawberries!
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