We eat a lot of strawberries every year — about 8 pounds on average per person in the U.S. But unlike a lot of other sweet treats, our strawberry habit is far from a guilty pleasure. In fact it's quite the opposite. Strawberries are packed with powerful health benefits. Eating just two and a half cups of strawberries, that’s 130 no-fat calories, every day has the potential to lessen our risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, according to a study by researchers at the University of Oklahoma.

Thirty-three participants who were obese were told to eat their regular diet along with a portion of strawberries in various forms over the 14-week study period. The researchers found when participants in the study consumed 32 grams of freeze-dried strawberry powder mixed with water (that’s equal to 14 ounces of the fresh fruit), the health benefits were notable.

There is one downside to eating strawberries: If you’re not eating organic berries, then you could overload on pesticides. Buy organic or be sure to wash the fruit well.

The participants lowered their blood glucose, improved good lipids and reduced LDL cholesterol. These are all factors that contribute to heart attack and stroke. What’s more, people who ate strawberries also had improved insulin resistance, an underlying cause of Type 2 diabetes. Earlier work by the same lab had reported that strawberries could also reduce the pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis in those who are overweight.

“This is the ideal health find,” Hal Scofield, a physician and medical researcher, from the University of Oklahoma’s Medical Research Foundation’s Arthritis and Clinical Immunology Research Program, said in a statement. “Strawberries don’t require a prescription, and they’re available year-round.”

Strawberries contain powerful antioxidants that may work against cancer-causing free-radicals. One study showed that this factor could inhibit tumor growth as well as decrease inflammation in the body. What’s more, because strawberries, and other fruits and vegetables, have a high potassium content, they might offset the effect of sodium in the body, making the fruit a good choice for people who have a raised risk of high blood pressure. And like many fruits, strawberries have lots of fiber which is essential for a good digestive system.

There is only one downside to eating strawberries: If you’re not eating organic berries, then you could overload on pesticides. Every year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes "the Dirty Dozen," a list of fruits and veggies with the highest levels of pesticide residue. Strawberries ranked at the top of this year’s list. So, if you regularly eat berries that aren’t organic, lessen your risk by carefully washing and rinsing the fruit.

The study is published in Nutrients.