Week 22: Strawberries
The strawberry has become the most popular berry fruit in the world and should be eaten at least 3-4 times per week to achieve maximum health benefits. They are at their peak from April through July when they are the most delicious and most abundant.
Strawberries are considered to have the highest in health-promoting antioxidants among all fruits. They retain their maximum amount of nutrients and taste when they are enjoyed fresh and not prepared in a cooked recipe. The vitamins and antioxidants of the strawberry are unable to withstand the temperature (350°F/175°C) used in baking.
Nutrient Profile: Strawberries provide an outstanding variety of phytonutrients. They are an excellent source of antioxidant-promoting vitamin C and manganese. They are also a very good source of dietary fiber, iodine, and folate. Strawberries are a good source of copper, potassium, biotin, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin B6, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Cardiovascular benefits: Our heart and blood vessels need everyday protection from oxidative and inflammatory damage. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrient content of strawberries is simply outstanding due to the presence of vitamin C (strawberries are the best fruit source of vitamin C) and a diverse array of phytonutrients.
Blood Sugar benefits: Several recent studies have found regular intake of strawberries (at least 2-3 strawberry servings/week) to be associated with a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes.
Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits: Due to the presence of phytonutrients in strawberries there are anti-cancer benefits best documented in the case of breast, cervical, colon, and esophageal cancer. Recent research has shown that several blood markers for chronic inflammation can be improved by regular intake of strawberries.
Selection and storage: As strawberries are very perishable, they should only be purchased a few days prior to use. Choose berries that are firm, plump, free of mold and which have a shiny, deep red color with attached green caps. Since strawberries, once picked, do not ripen further, avoid those that are dull in color or have green or yellow patches since they are likely to be sour and of inferior quality. Full ripe berries will not only have the peak flavor and texture, but they will have more nutrients (optimal vitamin C and phytonutrient content). On average, studies show 2 days as the maximal time for strawberry storage without major loss of vitamin C and polyphenol antioxidants.
Before storing in the refrigerator, remove any strawberries that are molded or damaged so that they will not contaminate others. Place the unwashed and unhulled berries in a sealed container to prevent unnecessary loss of humidity. Make sure not to leave strawberries at room temperature or exposed to sunlight for too long, as this will cause them to spoil. Since they are very perishable, strawberries should not be washed until right before eating or using in a recipe.
Pesticide residues: According to the Environmental Working Group's 2019 report "Shopper's Guide to Pesticides," conventionally grown strawberries are at the top of the 12 fruits and vegetables on which pesticide residues have been most frequently found. Therefore, individuals wanting to avoid pesticide-associated health risks may want to avoid consumption of strawberries unless they are grown organically.
Oxalates: Strawberries are among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates (naturally-occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings). When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems. For this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating strawberries. Laboratory studies have shown that oxalates may also interfere with absorption of calcium from the body.
Recipe Suggestion: My close friend and amazing cook Kristi Patterson shared this wonderful and easy salad with strawberries with me.