Given their unique combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients, it’s not surprising to see strong research support for strawberry health benefits in three major areas: (1) cardiovascular support and prevention of cardiovascular diseases (2) improved regulation of blood sugar, with decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, and (3) prevention of certain cancer types including breast, cervical, colon, and esophageal cancer. In this section, we’ll review the outstanding research-based benefits of strawberries in each area.
No area of strawberry health benefits is better documented than benefits for the cardiovascular system. It’s also hard to imagine any other research result, since our heart and blood vessels need everyday protection from oxidative and inflammatory damage, and the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrient content of strawberries is simply outstanding. Among all fruits profiled as the World’s Healthiest Foods, strawberries come out as the best fruit source of a pivotal antioxidant vitamin: vitamin C in several nationwide studies conducted in different countries. In one study that surveyed 66 different fruits consumed by adults in Iran, strawberries not only emerged as the best fruit source of vitamin C, but a source that provided more than twice as much vitamin C (47 milligrams versus 18 milligrams in 3.5 ounces) than the average for fruits as a group. After raspberries and grapes, strawberries also rank as the best fruit source of manganese among the World’s Healthiest Foods. Because of its key role as a cofactor for antioxidant enzyme activity by the enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD), manganese is considered to be a key antioxidant mineral. Yet, strawberries “claim to fame” in the antioxidant department is really reserved for their phytonutrient content.
Many of the phytonutrients present in strawberries function not only as antioxidants but also as anti-inflammatory nutrients. The chart below shows several of the more important antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients present in fresh, ripe strawberries:
Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Phytonutrients in Strawberries
(* indicates that these are typically in small or trace amounts)
- Hydroxy-benzoic acids
- ellagic acid
- gallic acid
- vanillic acid*
- salicylic acid
- Hydroxy-cinnamic acids
- cinnamic acid
- coumaric acid
- caffeic acid
- ferulic acid
Several research studies have shown that these diverse strawberry phytonutrients actually work together in synergistic fashion to provide their cardiovascular benefits. Decreased oxidation of fats (lipid peroxidation) in the cell membranes of cells that line our blood vessels; decreased levels of circulating fats, including total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol; and decreased activity of angiotensin I-converting enzyme (ACE), an enzyme whose overactivity increases our risk of high blood pressure are results that have all been documented following daily intake of strawberries over 1-3 months period of time. Amounts of strawberries in most studies were equivalent to 1-2 cups of strawberries per day.