Small, but mighty, California strawberries seem to pop up in all kinds of sporty places. Despite strawberries being one of the most popular flavours, Tom Brady famously astonished fans by admitting that he’d never tried one. Brady may be in the minority as strawberries routinely feature on the Instagram feeds of pro athletes like Michelle Wie, Shalane Flanagan, and Cristiano Ronaldo. This sweet red fruit even stands out as the highlight roadside treat at mile 24 of the beautiful and epic Big Sur Marathon up the Northern California coastline.
Let’s face it. Variety is important. Enjoying different fruit and veggies, and choosing brightly coloured varieties is the key to healthy eating. Berries are just one tasty way to incorporate fruit into your diet. Whether you have your eyes set on athletic stardom or are recreationally active berries, like strawberries, are a useful addition to your healthy diet.
Read on to uncover the top three reasons berries, and strawberries, are right on target for athletes.
Strawberries Heart Health
A healthy athlete is a happy athlete. Exercise and diet go hand-in-hand in promoting health and longevity. In the short-term, choosing functional foods to fuel activity can help aid health and performance. In the long-term, consistent smart food choices can reduce your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer. Win-win!
Foods like berries are a fantastic choice to make for your health and fitness today and in the future. Regularly eating berries promotes cardiac and gut health and may play a potential role in reducing brain ageing and the risk of certain cancers (1, 2). Berries are packed with beneficial components that give them their superstar food status.
Berries have high levels of polyphenols, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fibre. Strawberries are rich in polyphenols that have potential cancer chemoprotective activity and anthocyanins which are powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants are substances that help the body fight free radicals, and play a role in the prevention or delay of cancer, ageing processes, and heart disease (3).
Strawberries Pack Nutrient Power
California Strawberries are an excellent source of several nutrients. Here’s a snapshot of the qualities of these vibrant berries:
- Strawberries are a particularly good source of vitamin C, folate, and fibre. One serving of 8 strawberries (140 g) provides:
- 82 mg of vitamin C. Vitamin C helps develop strong connective tissues and enhances the immune system- both of which are key to consistent training and competition performance.
- 34 ug of folate, which meets about 15% of the daily European and US folate recommendations (1). When an athletes diet lacks sufficient folate, this can lead to anemia, and result in impaired work performance (4).
- More than 20% of the daily adequate intake for manganese (1).
- 214 mg of potassium. For healthy individuals, with proper kidney function, a diet high in potassium is essential for good heart health. For athletes, potassium is of interest because it helps with muscle contraction, aids with regulating fluid and mineral balance, and plays a role in keeping blood pressure normal.
- 3 g of dietary fibre. Fibre is vital for optimizing gut health. A healthy gut microbiome is associated with better athletic performance as gut microbiota play a role in regulating energy metabolism, hydration, and inflammatory responses to exercise (5).
- Interestingly, the antioxidant capacity of strawberries improves with storage (1).
- Strawberries are also a source of vitamin A and E, sodium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus and iron- all of which are of interest to the training athlete.
- In general, large doses of antioxidant supplements like vitamin C and E are discouraged in athletes as they may suppress beneficial training adaptations that occur because of oxidative stress (6). Instead of supplements, athletes are encouraged to include antioxidant-containing foods in their diet. Berries are just one way to meet antioxidant needs through diet.
Strawberries Replenish Fuel and Fluids
Strawberries are a source of both carbohydrates and fluids. Eight California strawberries provide 11 g of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in the muscle. Recommendations are to eat to replenish your glycogen stores soon after exercise, particularly if you have another session in less than eight hours. In this case, eating 1-1.2 g/kg/h of carbohydrates is important (7). This amounts to 70 g of carbohydrates for a 70 kg (155 lb) person.
It’s not surprising that fruit, like strawberries, is so refreshing. Strawberries are 90% water, and a serving of 8 strawberries contributes approximately ½ cup of fluid to your post-exercise rehydration goals.
Snacking on these gems after a hard session also helps meet an athlete’s electrolyte needs. Strawberries are a source of potassium, magnesium, and sodium.
Strawberries are a fantastic fruit choice. They offer a flavour and texture that is pleasing to most people and encourage the inclusion of fruit in the diet. Eating several servings of vegetables and fruit daily, and including a variety is paramount to maintaining health. California Strawberries are just one way to meet those needs. We love them because they are tasty but feel free to harness the power of your other favourite fruits in order to maximize your athletic potential.
Here are some tips about how to incorporate strawberries into your daily regime.
- Snack on 8 California strawberries a day.
- 8 strawberries (140 g) = 1 serving.
- A serving of 8 California strawberries is only 50 calories.
- California strawberries are a tasty, healthy, convenient snack any time of day.
- Snack on 8 California strawberries after the gym or a hard workout to help replenish your carbohydrates, electrolytes, and fluids.
- Eat 8 after 8 pm for a healthy bedtime snack.
Nutrition planning is integral to achieve your optimal athletic performance. Gazelle Nutrition Lab delivers one-on-one or group nutritional counselling and consulting to both recreational and high-performance athletes. In addition, the Food For Thought Blog is a free resource for healthy recipes and health tips. Have questions? We’d love to hear from you! Get in touch!
This blog was written in partnership with the California Strawberry Commission.
- Giampieri F et al. The strawberry: Composition, nutritional quality, and impact on human health. Nutrition. 2012;28:9-19.
- Lau FC, Shukitt-Hale B, Joseph JA. Beneficial effects of berry fruit polyphenols on neuronal and behavioral aging. J Food Sci Agric 2006;86:2251–2255.
- Hariram Nile, S, and Won Park S. Edible berries: bioactive components and their effect on human health. Nutrition. 2014;30(2):134-144
- Clark M, Reed DB, Crouse SF, Armstrong RB. Pre- and post-season dietary intake, body composition, and performance indices of NCAA Division I female soccer players. Int J Sport Nutr Exer Metab. 2003;13:303-319.
- Mach N, and Fuster-Botella D. Endurance exercise and gut microbiota: A review. Journal of Sport and Health Science. 2017;6(2):179-197.
- Burke, L. Practical Sports Nutrition. Human Kinetics. Champaign, IL. 2007. pp 18-26.
- Thomas DT et al. American College of Sports Medicine joint position statement. Nutrition and athletic performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2016;48(3):543-568.