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 anticancer 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, or COX. Non-steriodal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen block pain by blocking this enzyme, whose overactivity 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.
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 1,271 elderly people in New Jersey. 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 November 2003 issue of the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry analyzed eight strawberry cultivars for their content of protective plant compounds (phenols, flavonoics 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. (January 2, 2004)
A Smarter Brain with Strawberries
In animal studies, researchers have found that strawberries help protect the brain from oxidative stress and may reduce the effects of age-related related declines in brain function. Researchers found that feeding aging rats strawberry-rich diets significantly improved both their learning capacity and motor skills. In terms of traditional nutrients, strawberries emerged from our food ranking system as an excellent source of vitamin c, vitamin k 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, magnesium, and copper.
Protection against Macular Degeneration
Your mother may have told you carrots would keep your eyes bright as a child, but as an adult, it looks like fruit is even more important for keeping your sight. Data reported in a study published in the June 2004 issue of the Archives of Opthamology indicates that eating 3 or more servings of fruit per day may lower your risk of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), the primary cause of vision loss in older adults, by 36%, compared to persons who consume less than 1.5 servings of fruit daily. In this study, which involved 77,562 women and 40,866 men, researchers evaluated the effect of study participants’ consumption of fruits; vegetables; the antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E; and carotenoids on the development of early ARMD or neovascular ARM, a more severe form of the illness associated with vision loss. Food intake information was collected periodically for up to 18 years for women and 12 years for men.
While, surprisingly, intakes of vegetables, antioxidant vitamins and carotenoids were not strongly related to incidence of either form of ARM, fruit intake was definitely protective against the severe form of this vision-destroying disease. Three servings of fruit may sound like a lot to eat each day, but strawberries can help you reach this goal. 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.(July 10, 2004)
Protection against Rheumatoid Arthritis
While one July 2004 study suggests that high doses of supplemental vitamin C makes osteoarthritis, a type of degenerative arthritis that occurs with aging, worse in guinea pigs, another indicates that vitamin C-rich foods, such as strawberries, provide humans with protection against inflammatory polyarthritis, a form of rheumatoid arthritis involving two or more joints. The findings, presented in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases were drawn from a study of more than 20,000 subjects who kept diet diaries and were arthritis-free when the study began, and focused on 73 subjects who developed inflammatory polyarthritis and 146 similar subjects who remained arthritis-free during follow-up between 1993 and 2001.