Italy: Nutritional profile of fresh strawberries

Strawberries are a very popular fruit which are particularly important within the Mediterranean diet due to their high essential nutrient content and beneficial phytochemical substances, which in turn seem to have relevant biological effects on human health. Anthocyanins and ellagitannins are the most important antioxidant compounds.

Even though the single phytochemical compounds were studied for their biological activities, only a few studies have proven the effect of whole fruits on humans.

An Italus Hortus review written by researchers from Universtià Politecnica delle Marche examined the nutritional and biocomposite content of strawberries as well as the way in which harvesting time, genotype and storage affect nutritional quality.

Polyphenol composition varies according to ripening stage and harvesting time. For example: unripe fruit has a higher phenolic compound concentration and antioxidant capability compared to ripe fruit.

A comparison between different cultivars and harvesting times (green unripe, pink and red ripe fruit) revealed that unripe strawberries of all genotypes have a higher phenolic compound content than pink and red fruits.

Strawberries contain many components that are important for human health such as vitamins, minerals, folates and fibres and are also a source of phytochemical compounds (polyphenols in particular).

Phenolic compounds are in fact known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, even though research has revealed new interesting aspects. It was in fact proven how their bioactivity could have cardiovascular, antiproliferative and neurological effects. Some possible beneficial effects of strawberries concern in fact prevention from inflammation, oxdative stress, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative disorders, some types of tumour, type-2 diabetes and obesity.

Considering the nutritional and nutraceutical value of strawberries, many studies demonstrated that it would be preferable to keep industrial processing and treatments to a minimum

More and more in vitro tests on the absorption, metabolism and tissue distribution of phenol compounds are being carried out. Being able to express these results in vivo too would be of fundamental importance to better understand the mechanisms and factors governing the bioavailability of these substances. This way, new functional strawberries could be developed that are even more beneficial. 

Source: 'Il profilo nutrizionale della fragola ed il suo impatto sulla salute dell'uomo', 2013, Review n. 19, Italus Hortus, Vol. 20 (1).

Bruno Mezzetti 
Dipartimento di Scienze Agrarie, Alimentari ed Ambientali, Università Politecnica delle Marche

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