Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Strawberry, blueberry and chia seed dessert

If you've got some strawberries which are slightly over-ripe and too soft for a fresh fruit salad, you can use them to make this simple cold dessert, which is very quick and easy to prepare and packed with nutrients.

Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamins C and K, dietary fibre, and flavonoids. Indeed, a handful of strawberries is sufficient to cover the vitamin C recommended daily allowance.

They’re also a very good source of manganese, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), vitamin B1, and iodine. They’re a good source of folic acid, biotin, and vitamin B6.

Folate is needed to synthesize DNA, repair DNA, and methylate DNA as well as to act as a cofactor in certain biological reactions. It’s especially important in aiding rapid cell division and growth, such as in infancy and pregnancy. Children and adults both require folate to produce healthy red blood cells and prevent anaemia.

Strawberries also contain fat-soluble vitamins (i.e. vitamin A and tocopherol) and carotenoids (i.e. lutein and zeaxanthin), which are known to be important for eye health.

The red colour of strawberries is due to a substance called pelargonidin, which is a powerful type of photochemical called flavonoids.

These flavonoids are anti-inflammatory and have a similar mode of action to the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen. They reduce the activity of the enzyme cyclooxygenase, or COX1. Unlike the drugs, though, strawberries don’t cause intestinal bleeding or heart disease.

Strawberries also have strong antioxidant activity and have been linked to lower risk of cancer.

Some of the known chemopreventive agents present in strawberries include vitamins (vitamins A, C and E and folic acid), minerals such as calcium and selenium, dietary fibre, carotenoids, phytosterols such as β-sitosterol and stigmasterol, triterpene esters and phenolic compounds such as anthocyanins, flavonols, flavanols, proanthocyanidins and phenolic acids 2 3.

Evidence from in vitro studies show that strawberry phenolics may have anti-inflammatory effects 4, and suppress mutagenesis through antioxidative and genoprotective properties 5.

Strawberry extracts also seem to modulate cell signalling in cancer cells by inhibiting proliferation of several type of cancer cells 6, inducing cell cycle arrest and apoptosis 7 1, and suppressing tumour angiogenesis 8.

Most of these findings come from in vitro studies, and further studies in human subjects are required.

Blueberries are also an excellent source of flavonoids, especially anthocyanidins. They have one of the highest antioxidant activity of any fruit.

In addition, they are a very good source of vitamin C, insoluble fibre and soluble fibre, such as pectin; and a good source of manganese, vitamin E and vitamin B2.

Chia seeds

Chia is an edible seed that comes from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, grown in Mexico dating back to Mayan and Aztec cultures. "Chia" means strength, and folklore has it that these cultures used the tiny black and white seeds as an energy booster. That makes sense, as chia seeds are a concentrated food containing healthy omega-3 fatty acids, carbohydrates, protein, fibre, antioxidants, and calcium.

Chia seeds have useful properties in cooking. When water is added, a gel is formed which acts as a thickening agent, emulsifying agent, and as a stabilizer 9.


250g/8oz  ripe strawberries
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp agar agar
2 tbsp rice syrup or to taste (depends on how ripe the fruit is)
100g/4oz  blueberries


Put strawberries in a pan and cook over a gentle heat until they soften into a pulp. 

Add chia seeds and agar agar and stir until agar agar has dissolved; these ingredients act as thickening and setting agents. Add rice syrup to taste. 

Mix in half the blueberries and pour mixture into glass dishes. When cool, put dishes in refrigerator to allow the dessert to set.

Decorate with the remaining blueberries and serve.


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Nutritional information


1.         Seeram NP, Adams LS, Zhang Y, et al. Blackberry, black raspberry, blueberry, cranberry, red raspberry, and strawberry extracts inhibit growth and stimulate apoptosis of human cancer cells in vitro. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry. Dec 13 2006;54(25):9329-9339.
2.         Duthie SJ. Berry phytochemicals, genomic stability and cancer: evidence for chemoprotection at several stages in the carcinogenic process. Molecular nutrition & food research. Jun 2007;51(6):665-674.
3.         Seeram NP. Berry fruits for cancer prevention: current status and future prospects. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry. Feb 13 2008;56(3):630-635.
4.         Wang SY, Feng R, Lu Y, Bowman L, Ding M. Inhibitory effect on activator protein-1, nuclear factor-kappaB, and cell transformation by extracts of strawberries (Fragaria x ananassa Duch.). Journal of agricultural and food chemistry. May 18 2005;53(10):4187-4193.
5.         Xue H, Aziz RM, Sun N, et al. Inhibition of cellular transformation by berry extracts. Carcinogenesis. Feb 2001;22(2):351-356.
6.         Zhang Y, Seeram NP, Lee R, Feng L, Heber D. Isolation and identification of strawberry phenolics with antioxidant and human cancer cell antiproliferative properties. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry. Feb 13 2008;56(3):670-675.
7.         Boivin D, Blanchette M, Barrette S, Moghrabi A, Beliveau R. Inhibition of cancer cell proliferation and suppression of TNF-induced activation of NFkappaB by edible berry juice. Anticancer research. Mar-Apr 2007;27(2):937-948.
8.         Atalay M, Gordillo G, Roy S, et al. Anti-angiogenic property of edible berry in a model of hemangioma. FEBS letters. Jun 5 2003;544(1-3):252-257.
9.         Coorey R, Tjoe A, Jayasena V. Gelling Properties of Chia Seed and Flour. Journal of Food Science. 2014;79(5):E859-E866.

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