Strawberry leaves aren’t quite a health superfood, but they may have several health benefits that make you think twice before de-leafing ’em. We walk through their benefits and ways to use them.
Strawberries are one of the most popular berries. They’re sweet, red, and have been a go-to topping for desserts since long before processed sugar existed.
When eating strawberries, most opt to remove the leaves. Is this an unnecessary waste though? Turns out strawberry plant leaves aren’t merely edible — they’re packed with a bunch of healthy feel-good body benefits.
Yup, you were today years old when you learned that strawberry leaves are fully edible AND they’re good for you. If you’ve got strawberry leaf questions you’re in the right place — here’s everything you need to know.
Strawberry leaves aren’t quite a health superfood (they’re no goji berries or spirulina), but they may have several health benefits that make you think twice before de-leafing your strawbs.
Like a lot of “hey we’ve been eating this wrong” food health stuff, research into strawberry leaves isn’t extensive —despite strawberry plants being used medicinally since ye olden days.
To sum up the science, studies that exist indicate that leaving the leaves on your strawberries ain’t the worst idea. It might even be a good one.
1. Strawberry leaves may improve heart health
Berries have been touted as a heart-friendly food by dietary scientists for several decades — strawberries very much included.
Berries contain lots of polyphenols like anthocyanins, which are organic compounds proven across multiple clinical trials to reduce the risk of heart complications. Many trials included strawberries, both fresh and freeze-dried, as well as liquid polyphenol extracts derived directly from strawberries.
Fun fact: The leaves of strawberries contain way more polyphenols than the flesh. If you’re using strawberries as an ingredient in, say, a hearth health-boosting smoothie, leaving on the leaves will increase the ba-thump ba-thump benefits you feel with each beat.
2. Strawberry leaves might reduce blood sugar
There’s evidence strawberry leaves reduce blood sugar levels. This is great for folks with conditions like type 2 diabetes who carry a higher risk of hyperglycemia (aka dangerously high blood sugar levels).
Polyphenols can tip their hat again here — they’re behind this benefit too. Clinical trials like this one from 2015 found strawberry leaf extract high in polyphenolic compounds significantly reduced blood glucose levels in rats with diabetes. Rats obvi aren’t people, so human trials are very much needed, but the results are promising.
The theory is that polyphenol-rich strawberry leaves influence carbohydrate digestion and absorption, and as a knock-on effect help keep blood sugar levels under control.
Are strawberry leaves the future of type 2 diabetes treatment? Probably not, but having a bowl of leafy strawberries after a high-carb meal like pasta is already being recommended by some dietitians.
3. Strawberry leaves reduce oxidative stress
It’s no news that strawberries are swimming in antioxidants, but the fact most are found in the leaves and not the fruit might come as a surprise.
Researchers estimate that the antioxidant capacity of strawberry leaves is up to six times higher than the flesh of the berry itself. This isn’t just true for strawberries either — research from 2016 suggests that leaves are where the antioxidant party tends to be for most berries.
The bioactive compounds (those lil polyphenols again) found in strawberry leaves can help reduce free radicals that cause oxidative stress.
Just like every benefit on our list, if you’re using strawberries for an antioxidant boost, leaves-on is the way to go.
4. Strawberry leaves boost your immune system
Vitamin C is one of the most important vitamins for a healthy immune system. Good thing that strawberry leaves are almost as rich in vitamin C as the berry bit of the plant then, isn’t it?
It varies plant to plant, but a 100-gram (g) serving of strawberry leaves contains an average of 138 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C, not much lower than the 224 mg in 100 g of the fruit.
Strawberries continue to be investigated for their benefits as an immune-boosting functional food. The combo of vitamin C and polyphenols is known to help the body maintain its defenses.
Regular strawberries in your diet could help keep those sick days down, and including the leaves will only increase the benefits.
5. Strawberry leaves might have anti-microbial properties
There’s some evidence that strawberry leaves have anti-microbial properties too. But more research is needed to confirm if it’s true and, if it is, whether these effects are enough to make a song and dance about.
As it stands, some research has found that strawberry extracts inhibit the growth of various viruses, bacteria, and pathogenic microbes. The evaluation used strawberry extracts though, and while investigations like this one from 2014 suggest the chemical composition of strawberry leaves is a recipe for anti-microbial benefits, studies that test this theory are still scarce.
The easiest way to get strawberry leaves into your system is to eat strawberries and leave the leaves on. Pretty easy.
But if you want to use them as an ingredient on their own, you def can. You can find dried strawberry leaves and liquid strawberry leaf extract online or at health food stores.
As for foods and recipes you can add strawberry leaves to, here are a few of our faves:
1. Make strawberry leaf tea
Herbal teas are good for the body and soul, and dried strawberry leaves can be added for both an additional health boost and for a bit of mild fruity flavor.
2. Whip up a smoothie
Strawberries go great in smoothies, and so do their leaves! You can add a bit of strawberry leaf to your smoothie by leaving the leaves on the strawberries you already include, or adding a little dried leaf or extract to your mix.
They work with green smoothies too, especially as an added kick for a kale–spinach combo.
3. Toss them in a salad
Fresh strawberry leaves make a great addition to leafy salads. The flavor’s light, so it won’t overpower the hero of your dish, but it’ll add a grassy, fruity edge that’ll bring out both the natural earthy undertones and zesty fruity currents in your other ingredients.
4. Add ’em to your booze
If you’re looking for a little extra something for your mojito or summertime cocktail, strawberry leaves work wonders. To make life extra easy you can use strawberry tops saved from strawberries you eat (if you don’t want to eat the leaves).
Strawberry leaves are safe to eat. There’s no risk from consuming dried or fresh strawberry leaves — they’re not poisonous and have no side effects.
But — as with most things — allergic reactions are always a possibility. And while fatal allergic reactions to strawberries are rare, they’re not unheard of. Here are some signs of allergic reaction to look out for:
If you have any of the above reactions, stop eating ASAP and seek medical attention.
Most people throw away the leaves when they eat strawberries, but strawberry leaves aren’t bad for you — they actually have a bunch of potential health benefits including improving heart health, antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, boosting the immune system, and reducing blood sugar levels.
Strawberry leaves can be eaten fresh or purchased dried, or as a liquid extract/tincture. They make a great addition to smoothies and cocktails, but the most common way to consume them is as an ingredient in herbal tea (which means you get the added health boosts of herbal teas, too).