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17 July 2009

Strawberries: Sweet and Tasty Treat with Anti-Aging Power

Strawberries are one of nature’s healthiest "packages" of power nutrients. There is strong evidence that strawberries are a heart-protective fruit, an anti-cancer fruit, and an anti-inflammatory fruit all rolled into one ripe treat.

Let’s have a look at strawberries health benefits.

1 Powerful Mix of Vitamins, Phytochemicals & Antioxidants

One of the top benefits of strawberries is their antioxidant and phytonutrient content, which give strawberries heart-protecting, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties. According to a US Department of Agriculture study[1], strawberries rank third when compared to the top fresh fruits and vegetables.

Strawberries are widely known for their potential health benefits due to their high vitamin C, fiber, B-vitamins, potassium, and folic acid contents.

In addition, strawberries are abundant in phytonutrients, including flavonoids, anthocyanidins and ellagic acid, that have been the subject of much investigation by numerous research laboratories.

2 Cancer Prevention

There have been many published reports on the anticancer effects of strawberries. Strawberries are one of the few sources, along with raspberries and grapes, of ellagic acid, a compound which has been shown to prevent carcinogens from turning healthy cells into cancerous ones.

The anticarcinogenic effect of ellagic acid was shown in several types of cancers including skin, esophageal[8], breast, colon, and pancreas[7] cancers.

Besides ellagic acids strawberries contain a multitude of cancer-fighting compounds, including vitamin C, folate, anthocyanins, quercetin and kaempferol. Very few foods or their compounds have been shown to reduce risk of some cancers. However, strawberries have shown promise in both cell culture[5] and epidemiological studies[6].

3 Cardiovascular Disease Protection

New research from Harvard Medical School[9] found that strawberries may offer cardiovascular disease protection. The study found that those who reported eating the most strawberries experienced lower blood levels of C-reactive protein.

C-reactive protein or CRP is a blood biomarker that signals the presence of inflammation in the body. Elevated levels of CRP have been shown in multiple studies to be a potentially good predictor of risk for both heart disease and stroke, as it is generally a signal of atherosclerosis.

4 Anti-clotting Effect

Strawberry consumption may protect against blood clot formation.

An animal study[10] found strawberries had a powerful anti-clotting effect. Strawberry extracts were shown to produce anti-clotting (anti-thrombotic) properties in mice, an effect possibly mediated by inhibiting platelet activity and by producing antioxidant effects.

Prevention of Atherosclerosis

Until this century, it was not known that strawberries contain ellagic acid - a natural organic compound that several studies have shown to have a beneficial health effect.

Researchers found that ellagic acid has anti-inflammatory properties and may play an important role in the prevention of arterial plaques (atherosclerosis)[11].

6 Fountain of Youth: Prevents Neuronal and Behavioral Aging

Strawberries may protect against the decline of the central nervous system in age-related neurodegenerative diseases and to provide benefits to the aging brain[2].

"Research suggests that the polyphenolic compounds found in berry fruits, such as blueberries and strawberries, may exert their beneficial effects either through their ability to lower oxidative stress and inflammation or directly by altering the signaling involved in neuronal communication, calcium buffering ability, neuroprotective stress shock proteins, plasticity, and stress signaling pathways. These interventions, in turn, may exert protection against age-related deficits in cognitive and motor function."[3]

Recently researchers at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, showed that strawberry extract slowed the age-related decline in cognitive function[4].

Now researchers are looking at the effects of strawberry supplementation in three areas: behavioral aging, repair and regeneration of nerve cells in aging, and resistance to oxidative stress in aging.

7Sweet and Delicious, But Low in Sugar and Calories

Strawberries have a low Glycemic Index of 40. It is that rare case when sweet and tasty treat is waist-friendly and good for your health.

8 Help to Lower Cholesterol Levels

Researchers at the University of Toronto found that antioxidants in strawberries help lower "bad" cholesterol[13]. The study showed that the antioxidant power in strawberries can improve and maintain the effectiveness of cholesterol-lowering diets.

The researchers also found that people who consumed strawberries had reduced oxidative damage to LDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is even more damaging when it becomes oxidized.

9 Reduce Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis

One of the benefits of strawberries may be protection against rheumatoid arthritis.

Strawberries contain a lot of vitamin C. In fact, about eight medium berries provide 160 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin C.

A large population based study[14] of more than 20,000 people found that consumption of foods high in vitamin C seem to protect against inflammatory polyarthritis, a form of rheumatoid arthritis involving two or more joints.

Participants who consumed the lowest amounts of vitamin C were three times more likely to develop the arthritic condition than those who consumed the highest amounts of vitamin C.

10 Prevent Ultraviolet Skin Damage

Ellagic acid, an antioxidant found in raspberries, strawberries, cranberries and pomegranates, may help prevent wrinkles and repair skin damage caused by the sun.

Researchers from Hallym University in South Korea applied ellagic acid to human skin cells in the lab and to the skin of hairless mice that had been exposed to strong, ultraviolet rays. In the human cells, ellagic acid reduced the destruction of collagen and inflammatory response, both major causes of wrinkles. Researchers had a similar result in 4-week-old mice, which are often used in dermatology studies because their skin is similar to that of humans.

11 Prevent Ulcers (Helicobacter pylori infection)

Berry extracts help kill the bacteria that cause most ulcers and improve the efficacy of prescription ulcer therapy, according to a report from Creighton University in Omaha, NE. The Nebraska researchers[15] demonstrated that berry extracts not only inhibit the growth of H. pylori, but also render it more susceptible to clarithromycin, one of the antibiotics used to eradicate the bacteria.

12 Enhance Vision (Macular Degeneration)

According to a study in the Archives of Ophthalmology, eating three or more servings of fruit per day may lower a person’s risk of age-related macular degeneration by 36 percent[16].

It is not known exactly how fruit helps to protect against age-related macular degeneration. It is thought that the antioxidants in fruit may help protect macular cells in the retina by neutralising free radicals. However, because the antioxidant vitamins and carotenes did not contribute to the prevention in age-related macular degeneration, it is possible that other molecules in fruit may be playing a role.

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