Seven health benefits of strawberries

From helping weight loss and arthritis to protecting against cancer and macular degeneration

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While eating strawberries with lashings of cream or sugar isn't the best idea for your waistline, the fruit is amazingly good for you. Here are seven reasons to love strawberries...

See also: Why eating apples is good for you

See also: Eating 10 fruits and vegetables a day 'gives best protection against disease

1. Lowers bad cholesterol
Strawberries can lower levels of bad cholesterol and harmful triglyceride fat in the blood say researchers in Italy – but you need to eat a lot of them. Study participants had to eat 500 grams (17.6oz) - around two average-sized punnets - every day for a month to benefit.

Published in the Journal Of Nutritional Biochemistry, the study found that eating strawberries reduced low-density lipoprotein (LDL) by nearly 14%.

Lead researcher Maurizio Battino said: "This is the first time a study has been published that supports the protective role of the bioactive compounds in strawberries in tackling recognised markers and risk factors for cardiovascular diseases."

2. Helps you lose weight
Strawberries are mostly made up of water (91%) and a small amount of carbohydrates (7.7%) with only a tiny amount of protein and fat. If you're watching your weight, a bowl of strawberries makes a healthy snack. One cup of the fruit (about 150 grams) contains less than 50 calories. Not only are they low in calories and fat, strawberries contain fibre that may help regulate blood sugar levels by slowing digestion.

Researchers at Harvard University say that increasing your daily intake of fruit can prevent weight gain, even when eating the same amount of calories. Scientists say it's all to do with flavonoids, naturally occurring compounds which occur in fruits and vegetables. The best fruits to eat are strawberries – along with blueberries, apples, pears and oranges.

3. Boosts the immune system
Strawberries are a great source of vitamin C, an antioxidant which is particularly important for the immune system and helps to protect skin from bruising, as well as helping to heal cuts and keeping gums healthy. Eating foods with vitamin C has the additional benefit of helping the body absorb iron – which is important for good muscle health and energy levels.

4. Good for arthritis
The antioxidants and phytochemical in strawberries helps in the reduction of inflammation of the joints, making them a good anti-inflammatory for anyone prone to arthritis. According to the Arthritis Foundation, studies have shown that women who ate 16 or more strawberries a week had lower C-reactive protein (CRP), a measure of body-wide inflammation linked to arthritis. Strawberries are also a good source of folic acid, which some types of arthritis medication can deplete.

5. May help against cancer
A number of studies have found that eating strawberries could help prevent several types of cancer, because of the fruit's ability to fight oxidative stress and inflammation. Anthocyanins, which give the berries their distinctive red colour, are known to mop up cancer-causing free radicals in the blood. The fruit also contains ellagic acid, a polyphenol antioxidant that has been found to inhibit the growth of cancer cells in the lungs, oesophagus, breast, cervix and tongue.

6. Good for your eyes
The fruit also helps protect against macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of vision loss in older adults. According to a 2004 study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology, eating three or more portions of strawberries a day may reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration by 36 per cent.

7. Whitens teeth
Finally, strawberries can also help brighten your smile due to the acid they contain. To whiten your teeth, try dipping your toothbrush in a mashed up strawberry and brushing well. Rinse thoroughly afterwards, using warm water mixed with a pinch of bicarbonate of soda to reduce acidity in the mouth.