Going around Lemon Tree Road Market on Sunday , my senses were assailed by the aroma of fresh strawberries. That’s great news for me, because aside from the fact that strawberries – along with cherries – are my favourite fruit, they are also one of the best anti-inflammatory foods going. You can also use strawberries for hair and skin care.
When strawberries are fresh and in season – as they will be, if you buy them from markets in Spain – the anti-oxidant and vitamin levels are at their peak. What’s more, strawberries in Spain are ridiculously cheap. On Sunday, I paid just €3 a kilo, and the price is dropping every day. Within a week or two, they’ll be down to around €1.50 a kilo or less, so don’t just serve them up for dessert. Here’s how to make the most of strawberries to improve your health naturally.
Strawberries are rich in vitamin C, which is excellent at fighting inflammation. In fact, just 8 ripe strawberries contain more vitamin C than an orange, which is acknowledged as a rich source of the vitamin. So they’re great for boosting the immune system. But there’s more, and this is the science bit. The phenols in strawberries hinder the action of the inflammation-causing natural enzyme cyclooxygenase- otherwise known as COX.
COX inhibiting drugs are often prescribed for people with Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis to cope with internal inflammation and pain. However, I can’t take any of them, because they either affect my blood pressure or my stomach. And with a history of heart disease in the family – both of my parents died young from blood pressure related conditions – it’s not advisable for me. In addition, I’m allergic to Ibuprofen, so that rules out just about all the anti-inflammatory drugs on the market.
That means I have to follow an anti-inflammatory diet. Strawberries are natural COX inhibitors, and are just as effective as drugs if you eat enough. And I can never eat enough strawberries! The result is that in strawberry season – winter in Spain – I get extra relief from the effects of the cold on my joints while enjoying my favourite fruit. What’s not to love?
Skin and hair care
One of the most annoying things about Lupus is the way it affects the skin and the hair. I could practically stuff a cushion with the hair that comes out on my comb every morning, and it gets a bit dull and lifeless too, particularly in winter. A while back, a Spanish friend who has really glossy hair told me her secret – she mashes a few ripe strawberries in a tablespoon of mayonnaise, then massages it into her hair and leaves for about 20 minutes before shampooing out. I tried it, and it really works. It doesn’t stop my hair coming out, but it does leave the rest of it looking thick, shiny and healthy.
Because of the Lupus, I also get a circulation rash on my legs sometimes, and if I forget to apply my factor 50 sunscreen – even in January – I’m liable to get a butterfly rash across my nose and cheeks. When the rashes go, they leave little scars and dead skin cells behind, so to keep my skin looking good, I make an exfoliating wash from strawberries – about 10 or 12 large ripe ones – plus a little sugar and olive oil.I use it instead of regular shower gel once or twice a week, and it perks up my skin and leaves it looking glowing and healthy.
When my skin is itching or irritated, I find that if I just cut a ripe strawberry in half and rub it all over my face and neck, and anywhere else that’s irritated, it soothes the irritation better than anything. Leave the juice on the skin for a few minutes, then rinse off. Even if you don’t have problem skin like me, it’s a great pick me up for dull skin.
Other health benefits
Strawberries can protect against heart disease, and also help regulate blood sugar levels, thus reducing the risk of Type 2 Diabetes. They can also help you manage diabetes if you already have it. And because they are low in calories and high in nutrients, strawberries are an excellent choice if you’re watching your weight. Oh, and they taste wonderful too, so if you see somebody buying up all the strawberries on the market say ‘Hello,’ because it will probably be me!
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