You may want to stock up during cold and flu season. “The vitamin C in strawberries is linked to immune health support,” explains Lauren Manaker, RDN, of Charleston, South Carolina. “Just one cup of strawberries has all the vitamin C needed in a day, not to mention it’s packed with beneficial antioxidants and other nutrients.”
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for overall health, particularly for your immune system’s ability to fend off pathogens, according to a review. Our immunity becomes impaired as we get older, but vitamin C alone or taken with vitamin E can improve immune function in the elderly, as a study published in December 2020 in Experimental Gerontology suggests. This explains why vitamin C supplements and food sources are often encouraged as weapons against colds. Though vitamin C doesn’t prevent illness, it can reduce how long a cold lasts, per the MedlinePlus.
3. Thanks to Their Antioxidants, Strawberries May Reduce Cardiometabolic Risks
Strawberries and their antioxidants can have beneficial effects on heart health. According to a study published in October 2021 in Antioxidants, strawberries are inversely associated with cardiometabolic risk. This refers to risk factors that increase the risk of major vascular events, such as heart attack and diabetes. “In just four weeks, daily consumption of concentrated strawberries in powder form was enough to boost antioxidant activity and slash inflammation levels associated with cardiometabolic risks,” Volpe says of the study results. Of course, strawberries and strawberry powder aren’t the same thing, so a similar study with whole strawberries is needed to confirm the results.
The research on strawberries, antioxidants, and their possible link to a lower risk of diabetes, however, is piling up. A study published in April 2021 in Nutrients concluded that regular servings of strawberries significantly improved insulin resistance in adults with obesity and high LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol. Insulin resistance is the hallmark of type 2 diabetes, per the American Diabetes Association. As research grows, so do the rates of diabetes. An estimated 11.3 percent of the U.S. population has diabetes — the majority type 2 — and 38 percent of U.S. adults have prediabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A healthy diet, which may include strawberries, is an important tool in your type 2 diabetes prevention arsenal.
4. Strawberries May Support Cognitive Function and Reduce the Risk of Dementia
Subjective cognitive decline, which is marked by confusion or memory loss, happens in an estimated 11.1 percent of U.S. adults, and it affects men more often than women, per the CDC. While it’s normal to forget where you left your keys, forgetting how to perform routine tasks like managing your medication isn’t a typical part of aging. This can greatly affect an individual’s ability to live independently. Adults with cognitive decline also tend to have comorbidities such as heart disease, arthritis, or diabetes.
Some sweet news: Strawberries may support brain health and keep you sharp. Higher strawberry intake has been associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease, with the flavonoids and vitamin C in strawberries contributing to the reduced incidence, according to a study published in December 2019 in Nutrients. “Eating [berries] more than twice a week appears to delay cognitive aging by up to 2.5 years,” Manaker says, pointing to a previous study. “Strawberries are rich in vitamin C, anthocyanidins, and flavonoids, which may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.” Long-term dietary intake of anthocyanins and flavonoids are associated with lower risks of dementia in U.S. adults, according to research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
5. Strawberries Can Improve Cholesterol Levels
While your body needs cholesterol to perform certain functions, too much cholesterol can be bad for your heart. Because high cholesterol has no symptoms, your doctor may call for a blood test to get a better understanding of your risk for heart-related events. High cholesterol, or hypertension, is fairly common — the CDC estimates nearly 12 percent of adults ages 20 and older have high levels. Although various factors including genetics can play a role in high cholesterol risk, an unhealthy lifestyle can also contribute. Fresh fruits, such as strawberries, are a step in the right direction.
“Data shows that eating strawberries may be linked to improved cholesterol markers of heart disease in at-risk adults,” Manaker says of a trial published in May 2021 in Nutrients. After high intake of strawberries, total and “bad” cholesterol levels were significantly lower. Significant improvements in total cholesterol were also seen in a meta-analysis published in August 2020 in the British Journal of Nutrition.
Although it seems like just a number on a page, as high cholesterol isn’t something you can see or feel, maintaining healthy cholesterol levels is an important part of preventing heart disease and stroke. Strawberries and other fruits can help lower cholesterol because fruit is high in soluble fiber, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
6. Compounds Found in Strawberries Could Reduce Inflammation
Inflammation is a normal part of the body’s immune response, but chronic inflammation may accompany heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and other diseases, according to Harvard Health Publishing. It’s not always clear which came first — the inflammation or the inflammatory diseases — regardless, the right lifestyle factors may help keep inflammation levels in check. High in flavonoids and antioxidants, fruit in particular can have positive effects on markers of inflammation and may have neuroprotective, anticancer, cardioprotective, and anti-diabetes properties to stave off disease, per research published in November 2020 in Molecules.
The pigment that gives strawberries their vibrant color, anthocyanin, may have anti-inflammatory properties to boot. “Anthocyanin plant compounds in strawberries may help reduce inflammation,” Manaker says. “Findings from a clinical trial suggest eating strawberries may help reduce blood sugar levels and inflammation, especially when consumed within two hours of a meal.” So, consider reaching for strawberries between lunch and dinner.
7. Strawberries May Have Prebiotic Activity, Which Is Beneficial for Gut Health
“While strawberries are most well known for their vitamin C and antioxidant levels, newer research is now also suggesting that strawberries have potent prebiotic activity in the gut,” Volpe says. For example, an animal study in the April 2019 Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry found that strawberry supplementation increased beneficial gut bacteria in mice. “This suggests that the polyphenols in strawberries likely have prebiotic activity, which means they help to boost the growth of beneficial probiotic microbes such as Bifidobacterium in the gut,” Volpe explains. Researchers also found a link between the anthocyanins in strawberries and prebiotic properties, suggesting a two-way relationship between beneficial anthocyanins and the gut microbiota.
Although there are fewer human studies, some of the existing research may be promising. A clinical trial published in January 2021 in Nutrition Research found that California strawberries increased the abundance of gut microorganisms in only six weeks. The anti-inflammatory effects of strawberries can also be seen in the gut. Strawberries’ antioxidants simultaneously reduce inflammation in the gut and immune system, according to a review published in January 2018 in Nutrition Reviews.