Local markets are featuring strawberries, bright red and succulent, looking as they should without the white underbellies of winter.
Fresh strawberries have a high water content. Most of the carbs come from simple sugars (glucose, fructose, and sucrose) but they also contain a decent amount of fiber. Strawberries have a glycemic index (GI) score of 40, which is relatively low. This means that strawberries should not lead to big spikes in blood sugar levels and are considered safe for people with diabetes.
The nutrients in 3.5 ounces of raw strawberries are:
- Calories: 32
- Water: 91%
- Protein: 0.7 grams
- Carbs: 7.7 grams
- Sugar: 4.9 grams
- Fiber: 2 grams – both soluble and insoluble – Dietary fibers are important to feed the friendly bacteria in your gut and improve digestive health.
- Fat: 0.3 grams
Strawberries are a good source of vitamin C, manganese, folate (vitamin B9), and potassium. To a lesser extent, strawberries also provide iron, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamins B6, K, and E.
Strawberries contain high amounts of beneficial plant compounds and antioxidants:
- Pelargonidin. The main anthocyanin in strawberries, this compound is responsible for the bright red color.
- Ellagic acid. Found in high amounts in strawberries, ellagic acid is a polyphenol antioxidant that may have many health benefits.
- Ellagitannins. Related to ellagic acid, ellagitannins are converted to ellagic acid in your gut. They have received considerable attention and have been linked to numerous health benefits. This includes fighting bacteria and a reduced risk of cancer.
- Procyanidins. These are antioxidants commonly found in strawberry flesh and seeds that may have beneficial health effect.
Studies have found a relationship between berries and improved heart health. Large observational studies link berry consumption to a lower risk of heart-related deaths. According to a study in middle-aged people with well-established risk factors for heart disease, berries may improve HDL cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood platelets function.
Strawberries may also:
- improve blood antioxidant status
- decrease oxidative stress
- reduce inflammation
- improve vascular function
- improve your blood lipid profile
- reduce the harmful oxidation of LDL cholesterol
When carbs are digested, your body breaks them down into simple sugars which are released into your bloodstream. Your body then starts secreting insulin, which tells your cells to pick up the sugar from your bloodstream and use it for fuel or storage.
Imbalances in blood sugar regulation and high-sugar diets are associated with an increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
Strawberries seem to slow down glucose digestion and reduce spikes in both glucose and insulin following a carb-rich meal, compared to a carb-rich meal without strawberries.
A number of studies suggest that berries may help prevent several types of cancer through their ability to fight oxidative stress and inflammation. The protective effects of strawberries may be driven by ellagic acid and ellagitannins, which have been shown to stop the growth of cancer cells.
Strawberries are usually well tolerated, but allergy is fairly common, especially in young children. Strawberries contain a protein that can cause symptoms in people who are sensitive to birch pollen or apples, a condition known as pollen-food allergy. Common symptoms include itching or tingling in the mouth, hives, headaches, and swelling of the lips, face, tongue, or throat, as well as breathing problems in severe cases.
The allergy-causing protein is believed to be linked to strawberries’ anthocyanins. Colorless, white strawberries are usually well tolerated by people who would otherwise be allergic.
How to Buy
Look for bright red strawberries in containers that don’t have juice stains. This would be a sign that the strawberries are moldy or too ripe. Turn the container over to check if there are any moldy berries hidden at the bottom. Always, look for organic and local, if possible. During winter months, buy organic, frozen strawberries.
How to Store
The best way to store strawberries depends on when you plan to use them.
Wash strawberries only before you plan on eating them. This is important for two reasons. Strawberries are like sponges, so once wet, they soak up every bit of moisture, making them more likely to get mushy and spoil faster. Also, wet berries are more apt to get moldy.
Leave the stems on until you are about to eat them. It will prolong their shelf life.
If you notice any moldy berries in the container, remove them immediately. Mold spreads easily, so it’s best to remove any spoiled berries before they ruin the rest of the bunch.
If you plan to use strawberries the day you bring them home, there’s no need to put them in the fridge. You can leave them at room temperature on the kitchen counter.
If you don’t plan to eat your strawberries the day you bring them home, the best place for them is in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. It helps to maintain humidity and keep the berries from losing moisture and becoming dry.
Remove the berries from their original container, and store them whole and unwashed in a partially-closed container lined with paper towels to absorb any excess moisture, preferably in a single layer so they don’t get crushed. They should last up to five to seven days.
If you don’t have plans to use strawberries within a few days of bringing them home, freeze them. Remove the stems, halve or slice them, then freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet until solid. Store in an airtight container.
How to Cook
Strawberries are versatile and can be a part of both sweet and savory dishes. Try a salsa with strawberries, avocado, cucumber, lime and jalapeno chile pepper, and honey. Sweet and savory strawberry bruschetta with goat cheese, strawberries, mint, and honey on a baguette.
Strawberries can be added to granola and yogurt, tossed into salads, as toppers for ice cream and added to cheese plates.