Updated: Jul 23, 2019
Hello! Sherry Strawberry here. I’m happy to introduce you to my family – we’re probably the world’s favourite berry, so we’re worth getting to know!
You know us best as “garden” or “common” strawberries, Fragaria x ananassa, in Latin. We’re not actually a berry at all, but what is known as an aggregate accessory fruit (doesn’t sound very appetizing, does it?), a hybrid species widely appreciated for our distinctive aroma, juiciness, sweetness, and bright red colour when fully ripe. We’re enjoyed all over the world, fresh or in prepared foods such as preserves, fruit juice, pies, and ice cream.
In 1714, a French engineer sent to Chile and Peru to monitor Spanish activities in those countries, “discovered" a cousin native to the Andes, known as Fragaria chiloensis – they were much larger than those species native to Europe. Amédée-François Frézier brought some samples from South America back to Paris with him. Quite by accident, these crossbred in the 1750s with Fragaria virginiana, imported from Virginia and growing in a nearby field. Et voila: we were the happy result.
Initially, common or garden strawberries were a delicacy reserved for the wealthy. This remained the case until the mid-19th century, when railways allowed for rapid and relatively cheap transportation over great distances. It became economical to cultivate and ship strawberries to growing urban centers around the world. Prices fell, making us affordable for ordinary people. What could be more fitting? “Common” strawberries for “common” people?!
When we’re nicely ripened, we’re bursting with flavour. Turns out we’re also bursting with goodness, including a remarkable combination of phytonutrients, including anthocyanins, ellagitannins, flavonols, terpenoids, and phenolic acids – you’ll have to trust me when I tell you, technical names aside, these are all really, really good for you.
How good? Well, research indicates strawberries can be of benefit in three health areas: prevention of cardiovascular diseases, decreasing the risk of type 2 diabetes, and helping prevent certain cancers, including breast, cervical, colon, and oesophageal.
Several studies have indicated that when subjects consumed a cup of fresh strawberries a day for one to three months, fat oxidation in their cell membranes decreased, cholesterol was reduced, as was an enzyme that increases the risk of high blood pressure. And since chronic, excessive inflammation and oxidative stress are often factors in the development of cancer, it’s no surprise we’re helpful, given our antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrient content. Strawberries can also be helpful with bowel-related issues, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
It’s important to keep in mind that to reap maximum health benefit from us, you should always eat us fresh – most of my nutrients are unable to survive the temperatures commonly used in baking. So instead, use us in salads, or toss us, sliced, into a wine glass with some fresh blueberries and plain yogurt. We’re delicious blended into smoothies with other fruits and juices… but hey, instead of reading about it, check out some of the strawberry-rich recipes here and give them a try.
Stay healthy, my friend!
NUTRITIONAL STRAWBERRY RECIPES
STRAWBERRY PINEAPPLE SALSA
This tangy sweet salsa is perfect for grilled meat or chicken. The taste is sweet and sour.
1 cup (240 mL) pineapple 1 /2 cup (120 mL) mango 1 cup (240 mL) strawberries 1 tbsp (15 mL) ginger 2 tbsp (30 mL) lemon juice 2 tsp (10 mL) sugar
Finely chop pineapple, mango, and strawberries. Mix together with the ginger and lemon juice. If the mixture is too thick, add a little water. Add sugar to taste.
If you have leftovers, store them in the freezer. For a quick breakfast, simply reheat muffins in the oven at 350°F/175°C for 10 minutes.
2 eggs 2/3 cup (160 mL) sugar 1/2 cup (120 mL) milk 1/4 cup (60 mL) plain yogurt 1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla 1/2 stick butter, melted and cooled 2 cups (480 mL) flour 1 tbsp (15 mL) baking powder 1/4 tsp (1.25 mL) salt 1/4 tsp (1.25 mL) cinnamon 1 1/2 cups (360 mL) strawberries, hulled and cut in chunks
Preheat oven to 375°F/200°C. Grease muffin tins or line with paper cups. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar until light. Add milk, yogurt, vanilla, and melted butter. Gently whisk. In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Add to milk mixture and stir just until flour disappears. Gently stir in berries. Spoon thick batter into muffin cups to the top. Bake about 25 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Invert and cool on rack.
TURKEY-STRAWBERRY PASTA SALAD
6 ounces radiatori or rotelli pasta 1 medium apple, cored and cut into thin slices 1 tbsp (15 mL) lime or lemon juice 1/2 pound smoked turkey breast, cut into bite-size pieces 1 cup (240 mL) fresh strawberries, quartered 1/2 cup (120 mL) celery, sliced 1/4 cup (60 mL) fat-free, plain yogurt 2 tbsp (30 mL) mayonnaise or salad dressing 2 tbsp (30 mL) skim milk 4 tsp (20 mL) Dijon-style mustard 1/4 tsp (1.25 mL) celery seed 1 tbsp (15 mL) fresh marjoram leaves
Prepare pasta as directed on the package. Rinse with cold water and drain. Toss apple slices with lemon juice to coat. Combine the cooked pasta, apple, turkey, strawberries and celery in a bowl.
To make the dressing
Mix yogurt, mayonnaise (or salad dressing), milk, mustard, and celery seed in a small bowl. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss gently to coat. Garnish with marjoram.
Strawberries contain potassium, manganese, fluorine, copper, iron, and iodine. Potassium helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase. Copper is required in the production of red blood cells.
Strawberries are low in calories and fats, but are a rich source of many health promoting phytonutrients, minerals, and vitamins that are essential for optimum health.
Strawberries have significantly high amounts of phenolic flavonoid phytochemicals called anthocyanins and ellagic acid. Scientific studies show that consumption of strawberries may help combat cancer, aging, inflammation, and neurological diseases.
Fresh strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin-C, a powerful natural antioxidant. Consumption of fruits rich in vitamin C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents, counter inflammation, and scavenge harmful free radicals.
Strawberries are rich in B-complex vitamins, including vitamin B-6, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and folic acid. These vitamins help the body metabolize carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
Strawberries contain vitamin A, vitamin E, and many health promoting flavonoid poly-phenolic antioxidants, including lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene in small amounts. These compounds help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species that play a role in aging and various disease processes.
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