Strawberries: Sports recovery, glucose metabolism and brain health

14 Jun 2023

Strawberries are associated with various health benefits. They are a source of vitamins, minerals and polyphenols and a great addition to sweet and savoury recipes. Embrace the goodness!

In a Nutshell

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History & Environment

The origin of the strawberries we eat today is global! (Bertioli et al. 2019)

A long history: Wild strawberries have been eaten by people around the world since ancient times, but not in large quantities since the fruits were small, tough or lacked flavour. 

The role of a French spy: The larger and sweeter strawberries we enjoy today have an intriguing backstory! In the 18th century, a French spy named Frézier returned from a mission in Chile with large-fruited strawberry plants. They were cultivated alongside small wild strawberries, allowing for cross-pollination and giving rise to the modern strawberry (Fragaria ananassa). Their size, taste, fragrance and ease of cultivation quickly propelled them to global popularity. Throughout the 19th century, most countries developed their own varieties.

 False fruits? Botanically speaking, strawberries are not true fruits but pseudocarps. The flesh is embedded with the many true fruits or achenes. They’re members of the Rosaceae family, which also includes roses. (Britannica)

Research Digest

Eating strawberries and other berries was associated with health-supporting effects, including:

  • Diabetes prevention: Eating berries, including strawberries, was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes in a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. A small study also found that strawberries improved glucose metabolism after eating bread. (Guo et al. 2016Törrönen et al. 2013)
  • Sports recovery: Anthocyanins-rich foods, including strawberries, following exercise were shown to promote recovery, likely due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. (Kimble et al. 2021)
  • Brain health: One cohort study found that cognitive ageing could be delayed by up to 2.5 years in elderly who consume greater amounts of flavonoid-rich berries. (Devore et al. 2012)

How? The potential benefits of strawberries are likely related to their rich content of nutrients and phytochemicals, including:

  • Polyphenols, especially anthocyanins, flavanols (catechins and procyanidins) and ellagitannin
  • Micronutrients, mainly folate and vitamin C
  • Dietary fibres, which have prebiotic activity

Lab studies suggest effects on cellular pathways that control antioxidant enzymes and mediators of inflammation. (Battino et al. 2021)

In daily life: One portion is roughly 7 strawberries. Eat berries a few times a week and mix them up with all the other types you can find!

Tasty Tips

My favourite ways to enjoy strawberries 🍓

  • As a Snack or Dessert: Pair with Greek yoghurt, chopped nuts, a sprig of mint and a pinch of sea salt flakes.
  • In a Salad: Combine strawberries with shallots, mixed greens, chopped nuts, fresh mint, crumbled feta cheese and a drizzle of balsamic dressing.
  • Salsa-Style: With shallots or red onions, jalapeño peppers, cucumbers, fresh coriander, lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Serve it as an appetiser or side dish alongside grilled fish.
  • On Toast: With goat’s cheese, fresh basil, sliced strawberries and a drizzle of balsamic glaze.
  • In Gazpacho: Blend with shallots, tomatoes, roasted red peppers, garlic and olive oil.
  • In a Crumble: Bake with a golden topping of almonds, oats and coconut oil.
  • As a Natural Sweetener for porridge, yoghurt, cereal and smoothies.

4 recipes to try 😋

🎶 Add a melodic touch with the soul classic Strawberry Letter #23!

Dive Deeper

History & Cultivation: RHS – University of Minnesota – The University of Vermont – Britannica – Bertioli et al. Nature Genetics. 2019

Human studies: Guo et al. X. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2016 – Törrönen et al. J Nutr. 2013 – Kimble et al. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition. 2021. – Devore et al. Ann Neurol. 2012



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