Strawberries, also known by their scientific name Fragaria x ananassa, are grown worldwide and are mostly known for their sweet taste, fleshy red color and pleasant aroma. This delicious fruit can be easily incorporated into salads, desserts, and other healthy snacks as part of a heart-healthy diet.
Strawberries also contain many healthy nutrients, such as flavonoids, anthocyanins, and ellagitannins. These antioxidants have been studied for their anti-inflammatory properties in conditions such as cancer and heart disease. Additionally, strawberries have been studied in blood sugar control in diabetes. Research studies have also examined the effects of strawberry consumption on cholesterol levels, and the results of these studies appear to be promising.
Strawberries: Healthy Benefits on Cholesterol Levels
There have been a handful of studies that have examined the effects of consuming strawberries on cholesterol levels. These studies examined people who were either of a healthy weight or were obese and they had to consume strawberries over a period of anywhere between three to eight weeks. Some of these studies required the participants to follow a low-fat diet, whereas other studies allowed participants to follow their regular diet -- as long as they were consuming the required amount of strawberries per day.
The amount and form of strawberry supplementation that the people consumed in these studies widely varied. Many of these studies required participants to consume a freeze-dried, strawberry powder that was incorporated into a smoothie or other foods, whereas other studies allowed participants to consume whole strawberries that were either fresh or frozen. Their intake in these studies ranged between 110 grams to 500 grams of fresh strawberries each day. The form and amount of strawberry supplementation didn’t appear to influence the effect strawberries had on cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
From these studies, it appears that consuming strawberries daily lowered total cholesterol by anywhere between 4 to 10%. Additionally, LDL cholesterol appeared to be lowered by 13% in some studies. However, the effects of strawberry consumption on triglyceride levels varied -- in some studies, triglycerides were not affected by strawberry consumption, whereas in other studies, triglycerides were lowered by up to 20%. HDL levels in these studies did not appear to be affected or were not measured.
In one study, LDL particle size also appeared to increase slightly. (Small, dense LDL is associated with an increased risk of heart disease.) Another study noted that oxidized LDL, another form of LDL that can increase your risk for developing heart disease, was also lowered after consuming strawberries with a high-fat meal.
What Do These Studies Mean?
The studies had small numbers of people participating in them, so it’s hard to really determine how much of an impact strawberries have on cholesterol levels. Additionally, most studies required the people participating in them to follow a low-fat diet, which could also contribute to the cholesterol-lowering effects noted in these studies.
Although we can’t definitely establish a link between strawberry consumption and cholesterol levels, strawberries would still be a good food to consider if you are following a cholesterol-lowering diet. Not only are they low in calories and fat, but strawberries also contain fiber and phytosterols, which are healthy ingredients known to have beneficial effects on LDL cholesterol.
Bau A, Du M, Wilkinson M, et al. Strawberries decrease atherosclerotic markers in subjects with metabolic syndrome. Nutr Res 2010;30:462-469.
Burton-Freeman B, Linares A, Hyson D, et al. Strawberry modulates LDL oxidation and postprandial lipemia in response to a high-fat meal in overweight hyperlipidemic men and women. J Am Coll Nutr 2010; 29:46-54.
Erlund I, Koli R, Alfthan G, et al. Favorable effects of berry consumption on platelet function, blood pressure, and HDL cholesterol. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;87:323–31.
Henning SM, Seeram NP, Zhang Y, et al. Strawberry consumption is associated with increased antioxidant capacity in serum. J Med Food 2010;13:116-122.
Jenkins DJA, Nguyen TH, Kendall CWC, et al. The effect of strawberries in a cholesterol-lowering diet portfolio. Metabolism 2008;57:1636-1644.
Zunino SJ, Parelman, MA, Freytag TL, et al. Effects of dietary strawberry powder on lipids and inflammatory markers in obese human subjects. Br J Nutr 2011;1-10.