Alas, July is finally here. The long, hot, sunny days of July tend to have an uplifting effect on most of us–the sun provides us with ample vitamin D, and the weather yields fresh, local fruits, which not only taste delicious, but also deliver an abundance of nutrients. It is currently strawberry season in many parts of North America, including Ontario and Northern New York, and residence should take full advantage and snatch up as much of this healthy food as possible. Although many people consider strawberries to be quite common, the health benefits of strawberries are anything but ordinary and the nutrient profile is at its highest when the fruit is consumed within two days of picking. Below are three great reasons to increase your intake of the underappreciated strawberry.
Strawberries are Nutrient Dense Fruits
Strawberries are extremely high in vitamin C and low in both calories and fat. Strawberries also contain a considerable amount of manganese, iodine, potassium, folic acid and vitamin K and they are an excellent source of fiber. The unique combination of nutrients found in strawberries yield anti-inflammatory effects in the body and the low-calorie/high-fiber combination makes them excellent for weight loss.
Strawberries are Functional Foods
Functional foods is the term used to describe certain types of healthy food which serve a physiological benefit in the body and/or reduce the risk for chronic disease and strawberries do just that. Recently scientists from Warwick Medical School discovered extracts in strawberries that activate a protein called Nrf2, which increases antioxidant activity and yields other protective effects in the body. Professor Thornalley of Warwick Medical School explained: “We’ve discovered the science behind how strawberries work to increase our in-built defenses to keep cells, organs and blood vessels healthy and which can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular problems such as heart disease and diabetes.” Strawberries are an extremely heart healthy food because they are sodium, fat and cholesterol free and the Nrf2 activation caused by eating them helps to reduce three risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol and elevated homocysteine levels. Strawberries also help to lower the risk for type-2 diabetes by reducing and regulating blood sugar levels.
Although all fruits and vegetables contain some antioxidants, strawberries are in second place amongst the common fruits for antioxidant capacity and they are in 3rd place amongst all of the commonly eaten foods in America. The fact that strawberries are very high in antioxidants makes them an extremely healthy food. In order to ensure optimal nutrient content, choose local berries that are plump and firm and that have a deep red, shiny appearance.