Hello – Sherry Strawberry here. I’m happy to introduce you to my family – we’re probably the world’s favorite 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 color 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 flavor. 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, ugly, 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 esophageal.
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.
Stay healthy, my friend!
References: webmd.com, whfoods.com
The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advise.