Why Strawberries Are the Ideal Low-Carb Fruits

Ripe berries are both nutritious and low in sugar

Full Frame Shot Of Strawberries
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Fruits tend to have a higher carbohydrate content than vegetables because of the naturally occurring sugars in them. But that doesn’t mean you should avoid them. By and large, those with a higher water content will have fewer carbs per serving, so the benefits of eating them will far outweigh the consequences (if consumed in moderation).

Strawberries are a perfect example. Among all of the berries you can eat, strawberries have the lowest carbs per serving.

Not only are they low in sugar, they are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals.

History of the Strawberry

The strawberry fruit, a species belonging to genus Fragaria, has been mentioned in ancient Roman literature for its medicinal use. The strawberries you eat today (Fragaria ananassa) are a hybrid originally grown in Brittany, France during the late-18th century.

Prior to the advent of F. ananassa, wild strawberries and cultivated varieties of wild strawberry were the types most commonly consumed.

Carbohydrate and Fiber Counts for Strawberries

In addition to consuming them fresh, you can freeze strawberries, make them into preserves, and dry them for use in cereals, baked products, and other prepared foods. Strawberries are a popular addition to ice cream, smoothies, milkshakes, and yogurts.

When consumed fresh, strawberries boast net carbohydrate, fiber, and caloric values ideal for a low-carb diet.

Strawberry quantity

Carbs, fiber, and calorie counts

½ cup sliced strawberries

5 grams net carbs, 1.5 grams fiber, 26 calories

1 large (1.5-inch in diameter) strawberry

1 gram net carbs, 0.5 grams fiber, 6 calories

The net carbohydrate value is the number of carbs we actually ingest versus the total carbs a food might contain.

Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load for Strawberries

When evaluating the impact of a food on our blood glucose (sugar), we look at both the glycemic index and the glycemic load:

  • The glycemic index (GI) is an indication of how much and how fast a food raises your blood sugar.
  • The glycemic load (GL) takes into account GI value in relation to the serving size. A GL of one is equivalent to eating one gram of glucose.

So, while strawberries will have an average GI of 40, a half-cup serving of sliced strawberries will have a GL of just 1.5.

Health Benefits of Strawberries

Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of potassium and manganese. They also contain relatively large amounts of phytonutrients which may help protect your cells from damage.

Strawberries have also been rated as one of the fruits highest in antioxidants and, as such, may offer some health benefits. While observational studies have long suggested that antioxidants may decrease the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and certain cancers, clinical research has yet not proven this.

This shouldn’t, however, undermine the known nutritional value of antioxidant-rich foods as part of a well-balanced diet.

Selection and Storage of Strawberries

When buying strawberries, pay extra attention to their ripeness, and avoid those that either too ripe or not ripe enough.

Not only does a perfectly ripe strawberry have the best flavor, it also contains more nutrients.

Ripening strawberries on the shelf don't improve their nutritional value. Similarly, strawberries that are overripe not only lose some of their nutritional value, they are more prone to molds which you do not want to eat.

Although you can now buy fresh strawberries year-round, they are much better when sourced locally and in-season. Strawberries that have been shipped long distances are usually under-ripe and have a woody texture. Neither of these things improves with age. In the end, even fresh-frozen strawberries may be preferable to those shipped hundreds or thousands of miles.

There are additional tips that may help you get the most out of your strawberries:

  • Always look for strawberries that are red all the way to the stem end. Avoid berries that have whitish or green areas or are damaged in any way.
  • If the strawberries are packed in a clear plastic container, be sure to look on the underside of to check rotten or unripe ones. Make sure there are no signs of either leaking juice or mold.
  • When you get the strawberries home, take them out of the container and discard any ones that may be rotting or moldy as they can quickly contaminate the others.
  • Store the berries in the refrigerator, and do not wash until right before use. If you are not going to use them before they go bad, put them in a plastic container and freeze.

Sources:

Afrin, S.; Gasparrini, M.; Forbes-Hernandez, T. et al. "Promising Health Benefits of the Strawberry: A Focus on Clinical Studies. J Agr Food Chem. 2016; 64(22):4435-4449; DOI: 10.1021/acs.jafc.6b00857.

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: National Institutes of Health. " Antioxidants: In Depth." Bethesda, Maryland; updated May 4, 2016; NCCIH document D438.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. "USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference." Washington, D.C.; updated August 18, 2017.

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