The Health Benefits of Strawberries Are Sure to Make Them Your Favorite Fruit
You've likely heard it before: Berries are nature's candy. And with their perfect pop-in-your-mouth size, sweet flavor, and brightly colored hue, strawberries are possibly the most enjoyable of them all.
But for being deemed sweet like candy, these little gems pack a solid health punch, too. "Strawberries are one of the healthiest fruits out there," says Ilana Muhlstein, R.D., creator of Beachbody's 2B Mindset healthy eating plan. But what, exactly, punts them to the top of the fruit pyramid? Read on to learn all the nutrition and health benefits of strawberries — you'll want to nom a carton of them immediately, guaranteed.
What Are Strawberries?
Botanically speaking, strawberries are the enlarged ends of the strawberry plant's stamen (aka the pollen-producing part of a flowering plant), according to the University of Florida (UF) Institue of Food and Agricultural Sciences. And the small black spots on the outside? Those are actually the fruit. But, for all intents and purposes (and this article), strawberries as you know 'em — the rosy, heart-shaped food spotted with seeds — are largely considered a fruit. They're thought to have been cultivated in ancient Rome but made their way from Europe to America in the 19th century. Fast forward to today and strawberries are now grown in every state in the U.S, according to the University of Illinois Extension.
Strawberry Nutrition Facts
Ninety-four percent of U.S. households consume strawberries, according to the University of Illinois Extension — and for good reasons.
In addition to their sweet taste that appeals to all types of eaters, the berries are also nutritional powerhouses. They boast an impressive lineup of nutrients that includes disease-fighting antioxidants, fiber, iron, folic acid, and vitamins A and C. "In fact, strawberries have more vitamin C per serving than oranges," says Muhlstein. One cup of strawberries has 88 milligrams of vitamin C — 117 percent of the recommended daily amount for non-pregnant, adult women — while 1 cup of orange sections has 83 milligrams, says Manuel Villacorta, M.S., R.D., author of Whole Body Reboot. (Related: The Health Benefits of Oranges Go Well Beyond Vitamin C)
Here, is the nutritional profile of 1 cup (150 grams) of strawberries, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA):
- 48 calories
- 1 grams protein
- < 1 gram fat
- 11.5 grams carbohydrate
- 3 grams fiber
- 7 grams sugar
Health Benefits of Strawberries
Promote Heart Health
Beyond vitamins and minerals, strawberries are also packed with phytonutrients, "including anthocyanins, ellagitannins, terpenoids, flavonols, and phenolic acids," says Keri Glassman, R.D. FYI, phytonutrients are plant compounds (aka polyphenols) with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects as well as other health perks. Anthocyanins, in particular, are not only responsible for strawberries' red color but they've also been shown to keep your heart healthy. A 2013 study of middle-aged people found that eating at least three servings of strawberries each week significantly reduced heart attack risk — a result that the researchers attributed to the fruit's high amount of anthocyanins. Another study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that consuming strawberries daily can help reduce total cholesterol levels, thus reducing your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
The vitamin C and potassium in strawberries might also lend a hand in keeping your ticker, well, ticking. As an antioxidant, vitamin C can reduce and remove free radicals or unstable molecules that, in excess, can trigger cell damage and oxidative stress, which can snowball into chronic conditions such as heart disease. Meanwhile, potassium can relax blood vessels, helping to control blood pressure and preventing heart issues, according to the American Heart Association.
Might Prevent Cancer
Strawberries' high phytonutrients and vitamin C levels — and thus their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nature — make them a great healthy diet choice for staving off the big C. Studies suggest that berries (including strawbs) may help prevent several types of cancer (e.g breast and cervical cancers, to name two) through their ability to fight oxidative stress and inflammation — both of which have been linked to increased risk of cancer. What's more, in lab and animal studies ellagitannins as well as ellagic acid, another plant compound in strawberries, have been found to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. That being said, more research on humans is needed before drawing any concrete conclusions as to the cancer-fighting benefit of strawberries.
Keep Your Brain Sharp
"Strawberries are rich in flavonoids, folate, and anthocyanins, which have been correlated with improved brain health," says Muhlstein. In other words, brain foods are a real thing and strawberries are one of them. (And so are walnuts, BTW.) A 2012 study published in the Annals of Neurology suggests that eating strawberries more than twice a week can delay cognitive aging by up to 2.5 years. The researchers attributed this brain-boosting effect to the fruit's flavonoids. What's more, research suggests that berries (including strawberries) can increase the number of new neurons in the brain as well as change the pathways involved in causing inflammation, cell survival, nerve cell transmission — all of which can play a role in improving brain function and, in turn, stave off neurodegenerative diseases, according to New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station at
Helps with Nutrient Absorption
For vegans and vegetarians, strawberries can be an important addition to any meal. "Without meat as a source of iron, many vegans supplement their diets with plant-based, iron-containing foods such as spinach and quinoa," says Villacorta. "The iron found in plant-based foods is called non-heme iron, and it's not as readily available for our bodies to absorb as the heme iron that's found in meat. Luckily, vitamin C significantly boosts the body's ability to absorb this non-heme iron."
What that means: Non-meat eaters can try eating strawberries with foods that are good sources of iron to boost absorption, he says. You can also pair strawberries with an egg to make the perfect snack. "Snack on a cup of strawberries with a hard-boiled egg for the ideal combo of carb, protein, fat, fiber," says Glassman. (See more: The Best Foods to Eat Together for Nutrient Absorption)
How to Buy and Eat Strawberries
While strawberries are technically in-season during spring and summer, certain regions (e.g. California) grow 'em all year long, making it easy to find fresh berries even in the middle of winter. Just be sure to opt for those that are plump and have a natural shine with bright green caps and a bright red hue, as these are all signs of fully-ripened strawbs, according to the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.
Once home, store them in the refrigerator, covered, unwashed, and with the caps on until you're ready to eat, at which point you should rinse the berries with cold water before removing the caps. Although you can totally leave the green tops on and just bite around them. In fact, you might want to do just that because when you remove the cap, you tear cells in the berries, activating an enzyme that can destroy the vitamin C content, according to the University of Illinois Extension. You can also find strawberries frozen, freeze-dried, and incorporated into other packaged products, such as jams.
Strawberry Recipe Ideas
While strawberries are delicious enough to eat straight-up, you can also score that sweet taste of summer by incorporating the fruit into a variety of different dishes. Here are creative ways to consume the berry and reap its benefits.
In salads. Before you dig into a bowl of greens, slice up some strawbs and mix 'em in for a little sweet treat. Even better? Add the fruit to a salad made with spinach and chicken. Why? Because the vitamin C in the berries can help boost the absorption of iron from the greens and poultry.
In smoothies. Start your morning on the right foot by blending some strawberries into your go-to smoothie recipe. Pro tip: Keep frozen strawbs in your freezer to make this recipe even easier. (Related: How to Make a Healthy Smoothie Every Single Time)
In baked goods. Nothing says (or tastes) quite like summer like a freshly baked strawberry shortcake. Try this recipe from The Spruce Eats to whip up a delicious dessert that would even wow Ina Garten.
As a jam. DIY doesn't get much easier than this three-ingredient jam from Allrecipes. In less than an hour, you've got a homemade (and, thus, preservative-free) condiment that transforms even the most basic piece of toast.