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It's strawberry season!

Strolling around our local market earlier this week , my senses were stimulated by the fabulous fragrance of fresh strawberries. Strawberries – along with cherries – are my absolute favourite fruit, and they are also one of the best anti-inflammatory foods going. That’s good news for me, because I have Lupus, and I can’t take anti-inflammatory medication for various reasons. But did you know you can also use strawberries for hair and skin care? And at Spanish prices, you can buy as many as you want.

When strawberries are in season and ready to eat – as they always are, if you buy them from the street markets in Spain – the anti-oxidant and vitamin levels are at their peak. And strawberries in Spain are also ridiculously cheap, so don’t just serve them up for dessert. Here’s how you can make the most of strawberries and improve your overall health naturally.

Anti-inflammatory properties

Strawberries are high in vitamin C content, and that is brilliant at fighting inflammation. Just 8 ripe, juicy strawberries contain more vitamin C than an orange. So strawberries are great for boosting the immune system. But there’s more to it than that. The phenols contained in strawberriescontrol the inflammation-causing natural enzyme cyclooxygenase – or COX, as it’s more familiarly known.

COX inhibiting drugs are routinely prescribed for people with Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis to address internal inflammation and control pain. The trouble is, I can’t take any of them, since they either affect my blood pressure or my stomach.I’m also allergic to Ibuprofen, so that rules out most of the anti-inflammatory drugs on the market.

So I need to follow an anti-inflammatory diet. Strawberries are natural COX inhibitors, and they can be just as effective as drugs if you eat enough of them. And this girl can never get enough strawberries! In winter in Spain, the strawberries counteract the effects of the cold on my joints. And yes, it does get cold here in winter, even on the Costa Blanca!

Skin and hair care

One of the most annoying things for me about Lupus is the way it affects my skin and hair. I could almost stuff a cushion with the hair that falls out when I comb my hair every morning, and it gets dull and lifeless too, especially in winter. A while ago, a Spanish friend who has enviably glossy hair confided her secret – she mashes several ripe strawberries into a tablespoon of mayonnaise, then rubs it through her hair and lets it work for about 20 minutes before shampooing out. I tried it, and it really does the trick. Unfortunately, it won;t stop my hair from falling out, but it does leave the rest of it looking really thick, shiny and healthy.

Due to the Lupus, I sometimes get a circulation rash on my legs, and if I should forget to apply the usual factor 50 sunscreen – even in January – I’ll probably get a butterfly rash over my nose and cheeks. When these rashes finally clear up, they leave small scars and dead skin cells behind, so to keep my skin looking good, I make an exfoliating wash from 10 or 12 large ripe strawberries mashed with a little coarse sugar and olive oil.I use this instead of regular shower gel once or twice a week, and it leaves my skin looking glowing and healthy.

If my skin is ever itching or irritated, if I cut a ripe, juicy strawberry in half and rub it all over my face and neck, and anywhere else it’s needed, it soothes the irritation better than anything. I leave the juice on my skin for a few minutes, and then rinse it off with warm water and pat dry with a soft towel. Even if you haven’t got problem skin like me, this is an excellent tonic for dull, dry skin.

Other health benefits

Strawberries can also protect against heart disease, and help to regulate blood sugar levels, so reducing the risk of Type 2 Diabetes. And they can help you to manage diabetes if you already have it. Because they are low in calories and high in nutrients, strawberries are an excellent choice if you’re watching your weight and you crave something sweet.

They taste wonderful too, so if you see somebody weighed down with strawberries on your local market say ‘Hello.’ Chances are it will probably be me!

Published February 2nd by Sandra Piddock
Posted to Expat Blog

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