There are 70 varieties of strawberries. Most are grown in California and Florida, USA.
Year-round. However, they peak from April through July.
Strawberries should be a rich red, plump, dry, firm, well shaped and uniformly colored. Size does not matter. Avoid withered, moldy, crushed, pale, greenish, yellowish berries. The leafy caps should look fresh and green.
Cover and refrigerate for a few days. Lightly wrap with plastic. They also store well in the freezer for a few weeks.
Compounds in strawberries may protect your brain and memory. Researchers at Tuffs University and the USDA published a study in the Journal of Neuroscience showing that animals that consumed an extract of blueberries, strawberries, and spinach every day had significant improvements in short-term memory. The rats that received the fruit and vegetable extracts learned faster than the other rats, and their motor skills improved significantly. This study was the first to show that fruits and vegetables actually reverse dysfunctions in behavior and nerve cells. The extracts also protected their little blood vessels against damage.
Strawberries also contain anthocyanins, which have the ability to inhibit cyclooxygenase, a compound produced in the body in two more forms, called COX-1 and COX-2. COX-2 is built only in special cells and is used for signaling pain and inflammation. It was the ability of arthritis drugs to inhibit COX-2 that made them effective. The anthocyanins in strawberries carry none of the side-effects that pharmaceutical drugs display.
Though the anthocyanin content in strawberries isn’t as high as that in cherries and raspberries, it’s still significant. And anthocyanins have significant antioxidant activity as well. A cup of strawberries has only about 50 calories and delivers about 3 grams of fiber. It has calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium, plus a very nice dose of vitamin C (about 85 grams.)
Strawberries, like all berries, are a real health bonanza. All berries – strawberries, blueberries, raspberries – contain chemicals found to protect cells against cervical and breast cancer. Researchers at Clemson University tested freeze-dried fruit extracts against two cultures of aggressive cervical cancer lines and two breast cancer cell lines. Extracts from strawberry and blueberry significantly decreased the growth of cervical and breast cancer cells.
In fact, preliminary data (reported on the USDA Web Site) suggests that phytochemicals from strawberries (and blueberries) inhibit steps in tumor initiation. In addition, a study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry analyzed eight types of strawberries for their content of protective plant compounds like phenols and anthocyanins, as well as for their antioxidant capacity. All eight types of strawberries were able to significantly inhibit the proliferation of human liver cancer cells. And a number of other analyses have shown that strawberries have potent antioxidant action.
Strawberries also contain ellagic acid. Research since 1968 has showed that ellagic acid has anti-carcinogenic and anti-mutagenic activity. Ellagic acid is a naturally occurring phenolic compound in many plants, especially strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Ellagic acid has been shown in research and laboratory models to inhibit the growth of tumors caused by certain carcinogens. A publication by the American Cancer Society called the American Cancer Society's Guide to Complementary and Alternative Cancer Methods says that ellagic acid is a very promising natural supplement because it causes apoptosis (cell death) of cancer cells in the lab, with no change to healthy, normal cells.
Unfortunately, strawberries were on the Environmental Working Group’s list of the twelve most consistently contaminated (with pesticides and other agricultural chemicals) fruits and vegetables. It would be wise to put them on your “buy organic” list when shopping.
Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S., J. (2007). The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth: The Surprising, Unbiased Truth About What You Should Eat and Why. Strawberries (pp. 138-139) Gloucester MA, Fair Winds Press.
Wood, M. (March, 2008). Food compounds that kill test-tube cancer cells analyzed. Retrieved from the USDA Web Site