Scientists in the U.K. have stumbled upon an unexpected health secret in the tasty flesh of the strawberry. The summertime fruit directly triggers certain processes in our bodies that help defend against heart disease.
Researchers wanted to get to the bottom of why strawberries appear to prevent the development of heart disease and diabetes. They discovered that extracts from strawberries activate a protein in our bodies called “Nrf2.” This protein is shown to boost antioxidant and other protective activities while working to lower cholesterol and blood fat.
In the past, strawberries have been found to stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels. But this is the first time that strawberry extracts have been proved to actively stimulate proteins that offer us protection against disease. And therein lays this health breakthrough.
Let’s wade further into the world of the strawberry. It is ranked among the most common and powerful antioxidant foods, in fact 27th in the U.S. If we focus in on fruits alone, strawberries were fourth highest on this list (behind blackberries, cranberries, raspberries).
Scientists have long studied the strawberry’s ability to regulate blood sugar. Though they themselves contain lots of natural sugar, strawberries can work against the negative effects of simple sugar. It is believed that polyphenols in strawberries play a major role in this effect. Whatever the case, it means that diabetics can great use out of this healthy and tasty fruit.
Strawberries are loaded with a vast array of healthful phytonutrients, which is driving research into the fruit’s anti-inflammatory abilities. It even seems to lower levels of “C-reactive protein,” which in high levels signals inflammation and thus a greater risk for heart disease.
Now, you must know that strawberries are quite delicate and perishable. If you can buy as close to picking time as possible (farmer’s markets, anyone?), this is best, because it has been found that there is a big drop in antioxidant levels after two days of storing the fruit. The longer they sit out uneaten, the more nutrients are lost. So buy strawberries and eat them that day or the next. It’s a good idea to set your fridge in the temperature range of 36-38 degrees F in order to best store all fruits and vegetables.