What’s growing in your garden: Focus on Strawberries
Part of the rose family, it is not surprising that strawberries symbolise, love, sensuality and purity.
They contain: vitamins - C, K, B9 (folate); minerals - magnesium, potatssium, manganese; antioxidants; polyphenols; and fibre. They are low in calories and on the glycaemic index. A regular serving is therefore beneficial for many health conditions.
The ellagic acid and flavonoids (anthocyanin, catechin, quercetin and kaempferol) in strawberries are antioxidants which help counter the effects of low-density lipoprotein (LDL). This bad cholesterol in the blood causes plaque to build up in arteries.
Regulates and lowers blood pressure
The anthocyanins relax blood vessels therefore help reduce blood pressure.
The potassium can help moderate or lower high blood pressure.
The potassium helps Improves blood flow to the brain.
A 2012 research paper concluded that the flavonoids in strawberries (and blueberries) reduced cognitive decline in older adults.
The ellagic acid reduces collagen destruction and is anti-inflammatory helping to reduce wrinkle formation.
Vitamin C promotes collagen production to improve skin elasticity.
Topical strawberry formulations can protect the skin against UV damage.
The antioxidants and phytochemicals may help to reduce inflammation and pain in the joints of those with arthritis. They also reduce the build-up of uric acid in those who have gout.
Vitamins C and K, manganese and potassium also help improve bone health.
The antioxidant properties may help to prevent cataracts and glaucoma.
The vitamin C helps: protect protein in the lens of the eyes from free-radical damage caused by the sun’s UV rays; and strengthens the cornea and retina.
The folate (Vitamin B9) is essential for the development of skull, brain and spinal cord in babies and can help towards preventing birth defects.
Nervous system health
The iodine, Vitamin C, folate and phytochemicals work to keep the nervous system healthy.
The high vitamin C content helps keep the immune system healthy and can combat colds and flu.
How many strawberries do you need to eat?
Half a cup of strawberries three or more times per week can have beneficial effects.
Strawberry leaves can also eaten raw in salads, cooked or steeped in boiling water as a tea. The leaves are astringent making them beneficial for easing diarrhoea.
Making the most of strawberries
Summer strawberry smoothie
My favourite summer smoothie is made by whizzing up a handful of strawberries, a handful of chopped watermelon and the juice of half a lemon. Serve with a sprig of mint.
Mash six strawberries with a tablespoon of honey. Patch test on the side of your neck to check for any reaction. If none, apply to the face and wash off once dry.
Strawberries are a common food allergy, especially in children. If you develop a rash or other allergic symptoms such as wheezing, itchy eyes/nose/throat, avoid them in your diet.
Strawberry leaf tea is considered safe for most people though contraindicated if you are on blood-thinning medication because it may increase the effects and cause bleeding.
The symbolism of strawberries
Due to their appealing taste, strawberries became known as the symbol of Venus, the Roman Goddess of love. They were offered in her temple to encourage love. It is believed that if a split a strawberry is shared between two people they will fall in love.
Fertility and sensuality
Strawberries are an aphrodisiac food heightening sexual desire. This is attributed to their high level of Vitamin C which helps with blood flow and the production of oestrogen. They also symbolize fertility due to their numerous tiny seeds. Traditionally in France, newly married couples were served cold strawberry soup to increase sexual desire during their honeymoon and enhance fertility.
Strawberries start at the beginning of spring therefore symbolise rebirth.
They peak at mid- summer which traditionally had rituals for young women to find a partner and increase their fertility.
Strawberry leaves are trifoliate shaped symbolising the Holy Trinity and therefore righteousness and purity. The plant appears in many Christian paintings.
Over to you?
Do a search for strawberry recipes and make at least one that sounds appealing.
Search for any ‘pick your own’ strawberries in your area and go pick some fresh ones or buy from a farmers’ market.
Buy a plant or plant some seeds and nurture it to fruition.
Always seek qualified medical advice before changing your diet and check with your doctor for any interactions with current medication.