A month ago, Jay and I went to the International Strawberry Symposium in Quebec City. There is so much new research going on right now in strawberries, that I was amazed. One of the best talks was on the effects of strawberry bioactive compounds on human health, by Dr. Maurizio Battino at the Universita Politecnica delle Marche, in Italy. This is what I learned.
Strawberries are being studied for the prevention and treatment of several chronic degenerative diseases and they do some amazing things! Dr. Battino’s team tested fresh strawberries and strawberry extract on mice and humans for over 10 years. They found that strawberry bioactive compounds were able to enhance plasma antioxidant capacity, folate levels, and vitamin C levels. They also protect humans from intracellular reactive oxygen, reduced DNA damage, reduce inflammation and cytokine levels and restored functionality of damaged mitochondria. Not only that, eating strawberries improved blood lipid profiles by lowering the low density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides.
There was another talk by Yves Desjardins, from the Universite Laval that was also very interesting. He discussed the positive effect of strawberries on cardiovascular diseases, obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases. Wow what a super food!
What gives strawberries its superpowers? According to Dr. Desjardins, they are rich sources of vitamins and phytonutrients and are especially rich in anthocyanins, phenolic acids, ellegic acids, ellagitannins, gallotannins, and condensed tannins. These all have strong antioxidant activity. Even so, his hypothesis was that the real power of strawberries is the effect of the polyphenols on the gut microbes and their ability to favor a healthy microbial community. Specifically, they can stimulate the growth of a mucus inhabiting bacteria called Akkermansia nuniciphila, the anti-obesity bacteria. This bacteria has been shown to improve intestinal epithelium tightness and to reduce inflammation. To sum his research up, strawberries have great health benefits and it is likely that their bioactive compounds act as prebiotics to feed and enhance gut microbes.
These talks actually rekindled our healthy eating habits. Strawberries aren’t the only food with high levels of phenolic compounds and anthocyanins. All colorful fruits and veggies have high levels. This conference renewed my commitment to load my plate at each meal with every kind of seasonal and colorful fruit and vegetable that we have in the fridge. This includes strawberries, blueberries, muscadine grapes, chard with pretty red stems, red kale, beets, deep green broccoli, red lettuce and so many more. Food really can be our pharmacy, and it works hard to keep us healthy. I’m in!
Eat your veggies!