Strawberries: Taste the Benefits!

15 Jun

Written by: Emily van Niekerk

Photo provided by: Emily van Niekerk

Image courtesy of Emily van Niekerk

 

There’s nothing like a fresh, juicy red strawberry on a hot day to really get you in the mood for summer. With strawberry season blossoming in Ontario, what better way to celebrate the delicious berry than to learn a little more about it?

Interestingly, the red flesh of the strawberry we all know and love isn’t the actual fruit of the plant. Strawberries are unique in that the tasty, juicy part is only a receptacle for the small, dry, black specks known as achenes that we commonly identify as “seeds” – these are the botanical fruit (Liston, Cronn, and Ashman, 2014). Since they don’t actually have seeds, strawberries reproduce through runners, which are extensions of the root that grow along the ground and form new plants (Rickson and Fisher, 2000).

Fortunately, strawberries aren’t just pretty: they’re full of phytochemicals, especially phenolic compounds, which give them antioxidant properties (Hannum et al., 2004). Antioxidant rich foods like fruits and vegetables have been shown to lower the risk of developing many chronic diseases including cancer and cardiovascular disease (Meyers et al., 2003). In an in vitro study, strawberry extract was found to be 2.8 times more effective at killing human colon cancer cells than a control, and it was the second most effective berry after black raspberries (Seeram et al., 2006). In an 8 week long human intervention trial, a daily dose of 50 grams freeze-dried strawberry powder, which is the equivalent of 3 cups of fresh strawberries, was found to decrease markers of cardiovascular disease including total and LDL-cholesterol plasma levels in men and women with metabolic syndrome (Basu et al., 2010). Although consuming the dose used in this study would mean having 6 servings of fruit a day, which could be challenging, these results are still promising and will hopefully open doors for more research in this area.

The benefits of strawberries can extend past your health if you choose to buy local. You’ll be lowering your carbon footprint by cutting out transportation costs, thereby reducing the amount of preservatives and chemicals needed to keep the food fresh as it’s transported, and you’ll also be supporting the Canadian economy (Grubinger, 2010). If spending the day in the sun picking your own berries at one of Ontario’s strawberry farms isn’t for you, try buying fresh strawberries from your neighbourhood farmer’s market. You’ll directly support the farmer and it can be a great opportunity for a family activity. Another way to make the most of strawberry season is to choose Ontario strawberries at the grocery store, especially if finding time to go berry-picking between soccer practice and swimming lessons is a challenge.

For the do-it-yourselfers out there, strawberries are also an easy plant to grow at home. They can be planted in a garden that gets lots of sunlight in rows 3-4 feet apart or in planters. Planting should be done as soon as the ground thaws to allow the plant time to adjust and produce flowers which will become berries in mid June to late July. Some strawberry varieties including Everbearing and Day-Neutral can produce berries again in early fall.

Make the most of the warm weather this summer by getting some fresh air, exercise, and fresh-picked strawberries. The benefits to your health and local community, not to mention the delicious taste, will certainly make it worth your while!

 

References:

Basu, A., Fu, D.X., Wilkinson, M., Simmons, B., Wu, M., Betts, N.M., Du, M., and Lyons, T.J. (2010, July). Strawberries decrease atherosclerotic markers in subjects with metabolic syndrome. Nutrition Research, 30(7), 462-469. Retrieved from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0271531710001296

Chen, T., Yen, F., Qian, J., Guo, M., Zhang, H., Tang, X., Chen, F., Stoner, G.D., and Wang, X. (2011). Randomized phase II trial of of lyophilized strawberries in patients with dysplastic precancerous lesions of the esophagus. Cancer Prevention Research, 5(41), 41-50. Retrieved from: http://cancerpreventionresearch.aacrjournals.org/content/5/1/41.full.pdf+html

Grubinger, V. (2010, April). Ten reasons to buy local. Retrieved from: www.uvm.edu/vtvegandberry/factsheets/buylocal.html

Hannum, S.M. (2004). Potential impact of strawberries on human health: A review of the science. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 44(1), 1-17. Retrieved from: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15077879

Liston, A., Cronn, R., and Ashman, T.L. (2014). Fragaria: A genus with deep historical roots and ripe for evolutionary and ecological insights. American Journal of Botany, 101(10), 1686-1699. Retrieved from: http://www.amjbot.org/content/101/10/1686.full.pdf+html?sid=50642e2b-1e0f-436b-b993-8f6088cea08e

Meyers, K.J., Watkins, C.B., Pritts, M.P., and Liu, R.H. (2003). Antioxidant and antiproliferative activities of strawberries. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 5(23), 6887-6892. Retrieved from: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14582991

Rickson, C.L., and Fisher, P. (2000, August). Strawberries For Home Gardens. Retrieved from: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/facts/hgstrawb.htm#growth

Seeram, N.P., Adams, L.S., Zhang, Y., Lee, R., Sand, D., Scheuller, and Heber, D. (2006). Blackberry, black raspberry, blueberry, cranberry, red raspberry, and strawberry extracts inhibit growth and stimulate apoptosis of human cancer cells in vitro. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 54(25), 9329-39. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17147415

Advertisements

2 Responses to “Strawberries: Taste the Benefits!”

  1. Mike van Mil 15-Jun-2015 at 6:00 pm #

    Great post Emily! 🙂 gonna share this on my twitter and FB 😉

  2. Aaron Liston 20-Jun-2015 at 12:12 pm #

    Nice post. One important correction: strawberries do actually have seeds; they are inside the “black specks known as achenes.” Strawberries can easily be grown from seed, but it is even easier to propagate them from the runners! Also the offspring from runners will be identical to the parent plant, while the seeds will produce offspring with more variation.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: