Strawberries

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June brings with it one of our great national institutions, the spectacle that is the Wimbledon tennis tournament. It raises countless mental images and emotions, and the annual furore around the subject of a possible British champion (the English have long since given up on the ideal of an English winner and graciously resigned themselves to the concept that after all this time, anyone from the UK will do) reaches fever pitch around mid-June on an annual basis. From a very young age, whenever tennis was shown on TV in our home, Wimbledon or not, my kids would run round the house shouting ‘Go on, Tim!’ with wild enthusiasm, and are no less fans of our latest hero, Andy Murray. It doesn’t matter whether you call it Henman Hill or Murray Mount, when the time comes we wish we were there.

So whether ‘Wimbledon’ makes you think of Sue Barker and the team, or of Cliff singing in the rain, or just an opportunity to indulge in the viewing of two weeks of world class tennis, the chances are there is something for everyone – and one subject that receives an inordinate degree of media coverage every year is the coveted Wimbledon strawberry. The quintessentially English offering of strawberries and cream is as much a part of Wimbledon proceedings as Cliff, the rain, centre court and flashbacks to the 1980s John McEnroe tantrums, and makes a very welcome change from the typical British stodge peddled from dodgy looking vans associated with other sporting events.

However, strawberries are not just heroes of British symbolism reserved for royal weddings, tennis and upper middle class garden parties – they will grow like weeds in your average garden (so not posh at all then) and are very deserving of superfood status because of all the goodness hidden in each little berry.

Let’s start with their vitamin C content – one serving (80g) of strawberries contains enough to meet nearly all of your daily requirement. Vitamin C can strengthen the immune system, lower blood pressure, relax blood vessels and reduce heart disease/stroke risk, delay or prevent cataract formation and act as a powerful antioxidant, thereby reducing the risks of a large number of other diseases.

One thing that I did not know until researching for this article is that strawberries are also excellent sources of omega 3 fatty acids. They are different to the ones found in oily fish, but still essential and highly recommended, being good for the immune system, reducing risk of many cancers, preventing heart disease and having a reputation as a serious ‘brain food’ – there is some evidence that they can help to prevent serious psychological conditions and also treat depression.

But the big nutritional benefit of strawberries is found in their antioxidant actions because of the anthocyanins they contain. Anthocyanins are found mainly in red, blue or purple berries and, according to the evidence, are exceptionally good for you. Firstly they can reduce your chances of developing numerous types of cancer. They have also been shown to reduce cholesterol levels, blood pressure and chances of dying from heart disease.

We are living in a society where ‘Low GI’ is the rule – according to any nutrition specialist with a media platform we should all be eating foods that keep our blood sugars stable for all sorts of reasons. This keeps our weight and our mood stable, reduces our appetite, keeps us looking young and is good for fertility – the list of benefits of a stable blood sugar is seemingly endless. And you guessed it, the anthocyanins found in strawberries are great stabilisers of blood sugar, they reduce the risk of developing diabetes and are particularly beneficial to anyone wanting to lose weight.

Critics of strawberries would argue that they contain sugar and so should be avoided. I would argue that they contain so little sugar per serving that you would have to consume rather large quantities of them to do any significant damage, and since strawberries appear to stabilise blood sugar levels, the sugar they do contain is more efficiently dealt with because of all the other goodies in them and overall they are still a superfood.

So don’t wait till Wimbledon, strawberries are delicious, in season now and very good for you – whether you keep the price down by picking your own or invest in the top quality produce in your favourite supermarket, get some from somewhere – your tastebuds and your body as a whole will thank you for it!

Enjoy!

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