Strawberries are a delightful breakfast, snack or dessert but did you know that they are also a powerful force against the oxidative stress associated with many chronic diseases?

A study carried out by Italian and Spanish researchers had a group of volunteers eat half a kilo (about a pound) of strawberries every day for two weeks. They found that strawberries improve the antioxidant capacity of blood and that means better heart health.

The way the strawberries work is by boosting red blood cell response to oxidative stress – the kind that comes from environmental toxins or aging and other factors.

The research was carried out at Marche Polytechnic University in Italy and the University of Granada in Spain and published in the journal Food Chemistry.

Each day, the scientists fed 12 healthy volunteers 500 grams of strawberries over the course of the day. They took blood samples from them after four, eight, 12 and 16 days, and also a month later. The results show that regular consumption of strawberries can improve the antioxidant capacity of blood plasma and also the resistance of red blood cells to oxidative damage.

The same team is now analyzing the effects of eating smaller quantities since the average serving size tends to be a 150g or 200g per day. The researchers pointed out that the important thing is that strawberries should form a part of a healthy and balanced diet, as one of your five daily servings of fruit and vegetables.

Strawberries are ranked third among common foods high in antioxidant capacity after just blackberries and walnuts. They have also been shown to improve blood sugar regulation thanks to their high levels of polyphenols, making them a good choice of fruit for diabetics.

Another great benefit of strawberries that is receiving more attention is its ability to reduce inflammation in the body. Eating one cup of strawberries (about 8 large berries) several times per week has been shown to reduce levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) a marker for heart disease.

Research has also associated strawberries with the prevention of certain cancer types including breast, cervical, colon, and esophageal cancer.

Rich in vitamin C, vitamin K and folate, a one cup serving also gives you 12% of your daily fiber needs.

Here is an easy way to get some extra strawberries into your diet. Enjoy them in this lovely, refreshing salad.

Spinach, Strawberry and Sesame Salad

2 bags of pre-washed baby spinach
4 cups of fresh strawberries, sliced
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup white wine vinegar
¼ cup sesame seeds
Coarse unrefined sea salt
Coarsely ground black pepper

Whisk together the mustard, olive oil and vinegar. Add sesame seeds and salt and pepper to taste.

Pour dressing over spinach and strawberries and toss until well coated.

Reference:  Sara Tulipani, Josè M. Alvarez-Suarez, Franco Busco, Stefano Bompadre, Josè L. Quiles, Bruno Mezzetti, Maurizio Battino. Strawberry consumption improves plasma antioxidant status and erythrocyte resistance to oxidative haemolysis in humans. Food Chemistry, 2011; 128 (1): 180

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