7 ways strawberries can benefit your health

There’s more to the simple strawberry than its sweet taste and bright colour. It’s great for heart health and boosting fibre, too. And it might even stave off dementia…

It’s estimated that a whopping 83,000 tonnes of strawberries are sold in the UK each year. But the seasonal fruit is not just perfect in a refreshing smoothie or a delicious accompaniment to cream – there are numerous health benefits of strawberries too. “Strawberries contain many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, plus other phytochemicals, that are good for our health,” says dietitian and nutrition consultant Priya Tew. An 80g (3oz) portion, or seven strawberries, counts as one of your five-a-day. 

As it can improve brain function, prevent heart disease and support gut health – and has cancer-preventing properties – the berry is definitely one to include as part of a balanced diet and eating healthily. So, sit back and relax with your bowl of strawberries, and enjoy what they have to offer.  

Lots of strawberries, which benefit your health in many ways.Credit: Shutterstock/ESOlex
Strawberries are good not only for slicing on top of porridge, but for your health too.

1. Help to lower blood pressure and support heart health

This will fill your heart with joy. New research from San Diego State University proves strawberries can help to lower your blood pressure and, in turn, keep your heart healthy. The study, which was presented at the American Society of Nutrition’s Nutrition 2023 conference, examined 35 healthy men and women, aged 66 to 78, half of whom consumed 26g (1oz) of freeze-dried strawberry powder – equivalent to around two servings of fresh strawberries – every day for eight weeks.

At the end of that period, researchers found systolic blood pressure (the pressure when your heart pushes blood out) lowered by 3.6% and antioxidant capacity (ability to neutralise harmful free radicals) increased by 10.2% in those who ate the strawberry powder compared to those who took the control powder. 

This study was based on very small numbers of people, so more research is needed to confirm these findings. Despite this, there are plausible reasons for why this might be the case. 

Strawberries contain anthocyanins, which are red, blue or purple pigments found in plants and “packed full of antioxidants”, says Josh Gibbs, who was not involved in the study and is a plant-based nutrition researcher at the University of Warwick. “These decrease oxidative stress [when damaging free radicals build up in your body, leading to cell damage] and increase the ability of our blood vessels to relax, and so improving the function of your arteries. 

“That is measurable immediately,” he adds. From his own research, Gibbs knows that “within just a couple of hours of someone eating berries, their blood vessels dilate much more readily”. Again, this reduces your blood pressure and, therefore, stress on your heart and your risk of a heart attack. 

Strawberries, which benefit your health in numerous ways, in a heart-shaped bowl.Credit: Shutterstock/Dina Belashova
Strawberries could help to lower your heart attack risk.

The potassium content in strawberries, as well as in all other fruits and vegetables, also helps your ticker. Gibbs says: “Potassium displaces sodium [a chemical element that makes up salt] in your blood. Salt draws water into your blood vessels, which increases your blood pressure. That’s why it’s important to not eat too much salt. So potassium is brilliant for combatting this and leads to a reduction in blood pressure.” 

It’s important to remember… 

“There are no superfoods, so it’s best to include a variety of types and colours of fruits and foods in our diets and aim for at least your five-a-day. I’d recommend eating strawberries no more than once a day during the season,” says Tew. This will help to ensure you’re eating a variety of fruit and veg and avoid bloating, stomach cramping or diarrhoea that can come with eating too many. 

2. May improve brain health

Those healthy antioxidants in strawberries, which can reduce inflammation, can be good for your brain too. Gibbs says: “Reducing inflammation supports the process of ageing and so can prolong your cognitive function.” 

A 2015 study explored people who followed the MIND diet – a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, which focuses on brain health and includes eating berries daily. Results showed that the MIND diet may reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Another study found that the MIND diet may potentially reduce the risk of all-cause dementia in middle-aged and older adults.  

Perhaps most impressively, the same 2023 research of 35 men and women eating freeze-dried strawberries for eight weeks showed that strawberries can directly support cognitive function. Results found that participants’ cognitive processing speed increased by 5.2%. All of these studies suggest that eating more berries, particularly strawberries, could combat memory loss and cognitive decline.  

An illustration of a fake brain with hands and feet holding a strawberry.Credit: Shutterstock/Julien Tromeur
Strawberries could contribute to a lower risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

3. Contributes to good gut health

Strawberries are a good source of fibre, which feeds your gut bacteria, supports your digestion and keeps your bowel movements regular. Tew says they contain 2g per portion, meaning they will help contribute to the recommended daily intake of 30g (1oz). Gibbs explains: “A good way to increase your fibre intake further is to eat the whole strawberry, leaving the leafy green tops on rather than chopping them off.” 

If the idea of eating green strawberry tops doesn’t appeal, don’t worry – Gibbs says that foods including beans, legumes and wholegrains are higher sources of fibre anyway, so the fibre from fruit is simply a bonus.  

But this isn’t the only thing that strawberries do for our gut. “Strawberries are packed full of polyphenols as well as antioxidants,” says Gibbs. “The different strains of bacteria in your gut break these down into different metabolites that go into your bloodstream. And this happens at different rates. 

“This means you don’t just get an immediate spike in antioxidants, but you’ll get one and another a couple of hours later. You receive ‘bursts’ of antioxidants for about 24 hours. It’s almost like you’re not just eating the strawberries once but throughout the whole day.” 

4. May aid people with type 2 diabetes

Not only do strawberries contribute to a healthy heart, but they may also be able to help regulate your blood sugar and manage the effects of type 2 diabetes. Tew says: “They have been found to slow down glucose digestion and reduce blood sugar spikes. This is thought to be due to their antioxidant content.” 

Studies measuring the blood sugar levels of people after they have eaten white bread show an immediate spike, then, when insulin is released, it comes down. However, when people were given white bread to eat alongside berries – be it strawberries, blueberries, blackberries or any type of berry – at the same time, the blood sugar spike dipped and came down much sooner.” This can help to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes complications. However, more research is needed in this area. Despite this, Tew says eating strawberries at the end of a meal might be helpful. 

Two people eating strawberries, which provide health benefits.Credit: Shutterstock/Krakenimages.com
Eat the whole strawberry, including the leafy green tops, to up your fibre intake.

5. Provide our immune system with a helping hand

We all know the importance of getting enough vitamin C from fruit and vegetables to stay well and support our immunity, and strawberries are rich in this. Gibbs explains that, often, when we experience symptoms of feeling unwell – for example, a high temperature or sore joints – this is due to inflammation in the body. 

Both Gibbs and Tew say the vitamin C, anthocyanins and antioxidants in strawberries improve certain immune responses, and will help to reduce this inflammation and fight infections. This is particularly important, as our immune system weakens as we age, and we are more susceptible to infections and illnesses 

6. Help maintain a healthy weight

Strawberries are both delicious and good for weight management: it might sound too good to be true, but it’s not. “Out of all of the berries, strawberries are the lowest in calories,” says Gibbs. 100g has just 32 calories. “This is brilliant if you’re trying to keep your weight in check.” 

Rather than switching your fruit consumption, as plenty of fruits and vegetables can help with weight loss or management, perhaps try swapping a treat or dessert for sweet-tasting strawberries. 

7. May provide anti-cancer benefits

Strawberries may help to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. “The fibre in strawberries has anti-inflammatory potential,” says Gibbs. “It is fuel for your gut microbes, which ferment the fibre and produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs are highly anti-inflammatory, which can reduce your cancer risk.” 

He adds: “A study of people with pre-cancerous lesions in their oesophagus, who consumed 60g (2oz) of freeze-dried strawberry powder daily for six months, showed regression in the pre-cancerous lesions in a large proportion of the participants.” It’s important to understand that this was a fairly small study, and more studies are needed to confirm if this is the same in fresh strawberries (and since strawberries have a high water content, what the equivalent number of fresh strawberries would be). 

Tew’s tips for adding strawberries to your diet 

  • Add chopped strawberries to salads 
  • Pop them on your porridge or cereal or use as a topping for yogurt
  • Dip them in dark chocolate and refrigerate to let the chocolate set for yummy chocolate strawberries 

BBC Good Food has a range of healthy strawberry recipes. 

Expert bios 

Priya Tew is a dietitian and nutrition consultant specialising in eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating disorder) and gut health. Tew has taken the FODMAP training course with Monash University and supports people with IBS. She also helps people who have special diets, chronic fatigue, anaemia and osteoporosis, and those who want to achieve a healthy balanced diet. 

Josh Gibbs is a plant-based nutrition researcher who has a BSc in Biomedical Sciences and an MA in Social Science Research, both from the University of Warwick. He is currently working towards a PhD and is an active participant in the research community, with a number of articles published in peer-reviewed journals.

Gemma Harris

Written by Gemma Harris she/her

Updated:

Gemma Harris has been a journalist for over seven years and is a self-confessed health and wellbeing enthusiast, which led her to specialise in health journalism. During her career, she has worked with top editors in the industry and taken on multiple high-discipline fitness challenges for certain outlets. She is particularly passionate about nutrition; after being diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome in 2016, she discovered her fascination for gut health and founded thegutchoice.com – a dedicated space for providing a hopeful outcome for people with gut issues. Gemma’s core aim is to help others through her writing.

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