New Research Shows Strawberries Support Heart Health & Cognition
Starring in berry-studded salads, sweet and creamy smoothies, and buttery shortcakes, strawberries are a versatile summer treat—and a healthy one at that. Just one cup of sliced strawberries1 delivers more than the recommended dietary allowance of vitamin C; not to mention a decent dose of fiber and folate.
A new study put the effects of these vitamin-rich berries to the test and zeroed in on some specific heart and brain benefits. Here's what the research found.
Studying the sweet summer fruit
Researchers at San Diego State University conducted a randomized control trial comparing the effects of 26 grams of freeze-dried strawberry powder to a control powder. Participants, a mix of men and women in their 70s, ate one of the two powders daily for eight weeks. After a four-week washout period (during which participants returned to their usual diets sans powders), they returned to the lab for a series of tests.
Researchers looked specifically at the effects on cognition, which they measured via a series of tests developed by the National Institutes of Health. (The tests involve things like recalling words from a list and grouping items of different colors.) Researchers were also interested in the strawberries' effect on cardiometabolic health, which they measured by noting changes in blood pressure, biomarkers, and waist circumference.
After the eight-week trial and four-week washout period, the strawberry powder group showed increased processing speed and episodic memory—a kind of long-term memory that allows us to recall previous experiences and the contexts in which they took place. The strawberry group also experienced more positive changes in systolic blood pressure (aka blood pressure measured during a heartbeat2) than the control group.
What this means for your next shortcake
There are two things to consider when applying these results. First, the study was funded by the California Strawberry Commission. While research funded by trade groups should be approached with some skepticism, it's not necessarily unreliable. And the findings of this study are in line with existing research on the benefits of strawberries3.
Secondly, it's worth noting that participants ate freeze-dried strawberry powder rather than whole strawberries. This was likely so that the study could be reasonably double-blind. (If half the participants were given whole strawberries and the other half were given a powder, it would be pretty clear to the placebo group that they were given a placebo.) But while freeze-dried berries are more concentrated than whole fruits, they have a similar nutritional composition, according to USDA data4.
The powder participants ate was equivalent to about 16 large or 24 medium strawberries, about two servings1, says Maggie Moon, R.D., a brain health nutrition expert and author of The MIND Diet. Moon adds that the findings could be extrapolated to eating whole strawberries because "it's likely that it's the polyphenols in strawberries that promote memory and cognition brain health benefits, and the levels aren't that different in fresh versus freeze-dried berries."
Strawberries are a rich source of vitamin C and a great option to fill one of our 5 to 13 recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables, especially during summer months when they're at their prime. New research identified specific benefits of strawberries for brain and heart health, so next time you're strolling down the fruit aisle, consider reaching for a carton of this sweet fan favorite.
Emily Kelleher is an SEO editor at mindbodygreen. She received her undergraduate degree in magazine, news, and digital journalism and political science from Syracuse University. Her work has appeared in Shape, Greatist, Well & Good, Romper, Fatherly, and more.