It may still be dead winter where I live, but spring is close enough that I’m starting to think about it – and one of the best things about spring is fresh, local strawberries.
When it comes to strawberries, their rich red color tells us they’re not only delicious, but healthy as well.
You may have heard that the more colorful a fruit or vegetable is, the better it is for you. Not only strawberries, but also blueberries, oranges, carrots and all shades of bell pepper are known to be healthy specifically because of their colors.
But do you know why colored produce is so healthy?
It turns out, nature has created a color-coded system that indicates which health-boosting nutrients can be found in what plant. The natural plant chemicals responsible for brightening up these foods are beneficial both for the plant itself and the person enjoying it.
So what benefits do you reap from the juicy red goodness of strawberries? Let’s take a look. . .
Continued below. . .
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The summertime favorite chock full of antioxidants
The secret to this little berry’s nutritious success is its wide array of phytochemicals — naturally occurring plant chemicals designed to protect the plant … and, in turn, boost your health.
For example, most phytochemicals have antioxidant properties, which we know help reduce oxidative stress in our cells and prevent a host of diseases, including cancer.
Listed below are three specific kinds of antioxidants and beneficial chemicals contained in the strawberry, and what they can do for you on a cellular level.
Strawberries have high concentrations of flavonoids, a group of antioxidants found specifically in fruits, vegetables, red wine and some teas.
There are three kinds of flavonoids in particular found in strawberries that have been shown to combat cancer.
Anthocyanins are the major flavonoids responsible for the rich red color of strawberries.
A variety of studies have shown that anthocyanin compounds keep human cancer cells from proliferating and forming a tumor, both in vitro (cells cultured in a petri dish) and in vivo (cells in living organisms).1
In a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, researchers found anthocyanin extracts from strawberries “strongly inhibited” the growth of cervical cancer cell and breast cancer cell lines in vitro.2
In this study, researchers at the David Geffen School of Medicine in Los Angeles tested the ability of strawberries’ phenolic compounds, anthocyanins included, to inhibit the growth of oral, breast, colon and prostate cancer cell lines.
The extracts not only stopped cancer cell growth, but the more concentrated the extract, the more cancer cells it killed.3
I have such a high opinion of the anti-inflammatory and pain-killing properties of anthocyanins, I arranged for our sister company, Green Valley Natural Solutions, to offer an extract of aronia berry. It’s a super-rich source of these nutrients.
In fact, aronia berries are actually the richest known source of anthocyanins, but they don’t taste very good (assuming you could even find them). With the aronia berry capsules from Green Valley, taste is no problem. And of course they’re more convenient and less expensive than eating fresh berries daily. (By the way, Green Valley makes no claim that aronia berries are a cancer treatment.)
Compound in strawberries literally kills cancer cells
Getting back to strawberries, their second great cancer-fighting compound is kaempferol — your cells’ best friend. This antioxidant flavonoid has been shown to reduce oxidative stress in cells, trigger apoptosis (natural cell death) in unhealthy cells and inhibit cancer cell growth in a variety of different cancer cell lines.4
And not only does kaempferol trigger cancer cell death, it’s far less toxic to healthy cells than traditional chemotherapy.5
In fact, kaempferol has been shown to actually increase cells’ defenses against oxidative stress, helping them prevent creation of cancerous daughter cells in the first place.4
Researchers studying the benefits of kaempferol wrote in the journal Food Chemistry, “Kaempferol’s value in its ability to distinguish between healthy and malignant cells cannot be overstated. Modern chemotherapy treatments pose serious health risks, a problem kaempferol seems to have resolved.”4
The third type of important flavonoid found in strawberries is quercetin, shown to be “an excellent free-radical scavenging antioxidant.”6
Quercetin, in addition to hunting down and devouring free radicals like Pacman, also prevents cancer by directly instructing tumor cells to die (and kill their diseased genetic line.)
This nutrient can block the growth of several kinds of human cancer cells at varying stages of the cell cycle. And much like kaempferol, it can do so while leaving the healthy cells be.
Researchers have discovered quercetin to be especially effective against colon and lung carcinoma cells, as well as glioma, a cancer that begins in the brain and/or spine.6
In addition to the flavonoids, strawberries are rich in ellagic acid, a different kind of phytochemical that also has antioxidant and chemopreventive properties.
In a study of cervical carcinoma cells published in Cancer Letters, researchers found that ellagic acid halted overall cell growth and began the process of apoptosis within 72 hours of treatment.7
In a survey of the anticarcinogenic effects of ellagic acid published in Cancer Biology & Medicine, researchers discovered it acts like a super-hero against several types of cancer, including colon, breast, prostate, skin and esophageal cancer, as well as bone cancer (osteogenic sarcoma).8
This same survey notes ellagic acid’s power lies in inducing apoptosis and stopping tumor growth by cutting off communication between cancer cells.
Getting more strawberries into your diet
Strawberries are so delicious, I doubt you have to be told twice to enjoy them as often as you like.
Strawberries are best when you can get them in season (and from a local farmer), but since that’s only a few months out of the year, the next best thing is fresh frozen fruit, with no sugar added. Freeze dried berries also pack the nutritional punch of fresh berries.
These days, fresh berries are often available in the produce section year round. They do tend to be costly out of season.
That’s why it may be more practical to use frozen berries in smoothies, or gently thaw them and put on oatmeal, cereal, salads, yogurt or whatever strikes your mood.
When buying strawberries, I encourage you to always buy organic.
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit organization that promotes policies for global and individual health, strawberries rank number 4 on their “Dirty Dozen” list.9
This means that conventionally raised strawberries contain an unhealthy amount of residual pesticides. (Even a small amount of pesticides can adversely affect your health.)
Don’t undo all the great work the phytochemicals in strawberries are doing for your cells by ingesting poison at the same time. Eat organic berries.
Maintaining a diet high in colorful fruits and vegetables will help your cells stay strong and, if you have a form of cancer now, can help to reduce the spread of the disease.