Strawberries: Health Benefits

Besides being delicious, strawberries have the added bonus of being very good for you. The leaves and fruit of the strawberry have been used since ancient times for their health benefits and modern research has shown that strawberries are a super food in the fight against cancer, heart disease, and other major chronic illnesses.

A strawberry on a scale

Strawberries were used as medicine in ancient times to alleviate digestive problems. The fruit of the berry was used to relieve diarrhea and stomach aches, and the roots and leaves of the plant were used as a treatment for gout. Rubbing whole berries on a sunburn was also said to relieve the burn and the redness.

The ancient Romans used the strawberry to cover up bad breath, and the juice of the strawberry was said to lighten dark spots on the teeth. The Romans also believed that strawberries could alleviate inflammation, reduce fevers, treat blood disease, as well as liver and kidney disease.

Modern research shows that the ancients were on to something because certain components found in strawberries have been shown to have phenomenal heath benefits. The USDA Human Nutrition Center has ranked foods by their ORAC value, which is a measure of their Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. While blueberries are number one on the list, strawberries came in second for their high antioxidant levels and disease fighting capabilities. Strawberries have an ORAC value of 1,540 per 100 grams of fresh strawberries and scientists believe that an intake of 2,000 to 5,000 units can increase the body's cancer fighting ability.

Like other berries, the anthocyanins that causes the dark color in strawberries are powerful antioxidants that have multiple health benefits. The anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce the symptoms of allergic reactions by preventing histamines from entering capillaries. Anthocyanins have also been reported to help reverse age-related neurological problems, reduce cholesterol, and help circulation and eyesight in diabetic patients.

Strawberries also contain a substance called ellagic acid, which researchers have shown to have the ability to both prevent and treat cancer. Ellagic acid is also reputed to help prevent birth defects, liver disease, and heart disease. Strawberries contain gallic acid which has been shown to help fight prostate cancer and quercetin, a flavinoid that fights cancer and heart disease.

Strawberries may also alleviate headaches because they contain salicylic acid, one of the main ingredients of aspirin. Salicylic acid is also a key component in many toners and acne medicines and is used to treat dermatitis and dandruff.

Strawberries contain one of the highest levels of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) of any fruit at 260 micrograms per gram of fruit. Diets rich in vitamin C have been shown to help fight osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. High levels of vitamin C have also been shown to reduce the risk of age related macular degeneration.

One of the remarkable things about most berries is they contain a substance called resveratrol, which is reputed to slow the aging process. It mimics a gene reaction to calorie restriction. When calories are restricted the body slows the natural aging process.

Although, sweet and delicious, a cup of fresh strawberries contains only 46 calories and has 2.9 grams of fiber. Strawberries also contain high amounts of manganese, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium. People with kidney and gall bladder disease should enjoy strawberries with caution because they also contain substances called oxalates which can build up and crystallize in bodily fluids.

<< A Brief History of Strawberries | How to Grow Strawberries >>

Resources:

World's Healthiest Foods: Strawberries
Oregon State Department of Food and Health Technology: Berry Health Benefits Network Fact Sheet
Chiro.org: Anthocyanins
Cancer.org: Ellagic Acid
Iowa State University Nutrition Clinic: Berry Season

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