- Berries are an incredibly nutrient-dense food, packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber.
- Previous research has shown promising health benefits of strawberries, citing their anti-inflammatory properties.
- A new study suggests that eating the equivalent of two cups of fresh strawberries daily may promote brain function and even lower blood pressure.
Packed with fiber and antioxidants, berries are widely considered one of the healthiest fruits thanks to their incredible nutrition profile and anti-inflammatory properties. Prior research has suggested that strawberries in particular, as part of a nutritious and balanced diet, may help reduce the risk of several serious health conditions. A new study out of San Diego State University found that strawberry consumption may be associated with improved brain function and lower blood pressure, among other health benefits.
The research, funded by the California Strawberry Commission and presented last month at the American Society of Nutrition’s Nutrition 2023 conference, looked at a small group of about 35 healthy older adults. Participants consumed 26 grams of a freeze-dried strawberry powder daily, the equivalent of about two cups of fresh strawberries, and a control powder for eight weeks each. The researchers then measured cognition markers, as well as blood pressure, waist circumference and more.
We spoke with registered dietitian Dr. Shirin Hooshmand, Ph.D., R.D., professor in the School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences at San Diego State University and a principal researcher on the study, for insight into the research and its findings. “Prior to conducting our clinical study, some of the similar effects were shown in animal studies and some human studies, but different populations and different designs,” Dr. Hooshmand told Good Housekeeping.
“Following strawberry consumption (equal to two cups of fresh strawberries) daily for 8 weeks, cognitive processing speed increased by 5.2%, systolic blood pressure decreased by 3.6%, and total antioxidant capacity significantly increased by 10.2%,” Dr. Hooshmand explains. She adds that previous published research has already shown some of the acute and long-term cardiovascular health benefits of strawberries in different populations, so this new research confirmed some of those findings.
“Despite the small sample size of the study, I think these findings are incredibly impactful— particularly as they apply on a larger scale for older adults,” says New York City based registered dietitian Jaclyn London, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., nutrition consultant and author of Dressing on the Side (& Other Diet Myths Debunked), who reviewed the research but was not involved in the study. “While we (in the nutrition community) have been talking about the antioxidant benefits of berries for decades, I think the most powerful effect of clinical trials such as these is that they demonstrate how important it is to have a variety of foods—even within the same category— as part of an overall health promoting eating pattern.”
Although London wasn’t entirely surprised by the study findings since strawberries are a great source of many different nutrients, she does point out one interesting part of this research. “The strawberries used in this study were dried, which has some incredible implications for food brands looking to create more nutritious products that are shelf-stable and still include real, wholesome, nutrient dense strawberries.”
What do strawberries do for your body?
Just one cup of whole strawberries has under 50 calories, but boasts three grams of filling fiber and only about 11 grams of carbs. Most notably, it provides a rich source of vitamin C – about 85 mg for that same serving – which meets nearly 100% of the daily value for the nutrient. Vitamin C functions as an antioxidant, plays a major role in immune function, supports healthy skin and can help reduce risk of several chronic diseases.
In addition to vitamin C, strawberries contain other potent antioxidants including anthocyanins which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects on the body. You’ll also find many important minerals in strawberries, including potassium and magnesium. For a small amount of calories per serving, strawberries are incredibly nutrient-dense and a fantastic addition to a healthy diet.
What is the future of research on strawberries?
In terms of next steps for this research, Dr. Hooshmand says that it ultimately depends on if her team can acquire future funding. That being said, she adds that the researchers have many great ideas for future studies to follow up on some of their current findings. “We are currently studying the impacts of strawberries on similar and other outcomes as part of a multi-fruit intervention.”
Even though the study included a small sample size, London notes that she is very excited to see more research on strawberries regardless of how they are consumed, whether fresh, frozen or dried. “Convenience is absolutely key for making it easier for more people to eat more nutritious foods — which is why it may be even more exciting to see potential improvement in cognition using a powdered, dried version of this delicious fruit.”
What are some ways to enjoy strawberries?
Though absolutely perfect on their own, strawberries are an incredibly versatile fruit that works in both sweet and savory dishes. One downside, however, is that these seasonal gems don’t last very long before they get mushy or moldy. But learning how to properly freeze strawberries can lock in the flavor at its peak, so you can later enjoy it in smoothies, strawberry desserts and more. A dried strawberry powder can be a convenient way to incorporate the fruit into your daily routine by simply adding it to shakes, baked goods, oatmeal and more. Here are some unique recipes to incorporate strawberries into your diet.
The Bottom Line: All berries provide a nutrient-dense package of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and more. New research on strawberries suggest that consuming two servings daily can support brain health and even lower blood pressure. If you enjoy them, try incorporating strawberries into your diet on their own or enjoyed in a variety of sweet and savory dishes. Dried strawberry powder provides a convenient shelf-stable solution for incorporating the fruit into smoothies, baked goods, oatmeal and more.
Nutrition Lab Director
Stefani (she/her) is a registered dietitian, a NASM-certified personal trainer and the director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Nutrition Lab, where she handles all nutrition-related content, testing and evaluation. She holds a bachelor’s degree in nutritional sciences from Pennsylvania State University and a master’s degree in clinical nutrition from NYU. She is also Good Housekeeping’s on-staff fitness and exercise expert. Stefani is dedicated to providing readers with evidence-based content to encourage informed food choices and healthy living. She is an avid CrossFitter and a passionate home cook who loves spending time with her big fit Greek family.