Actually, xlsread fetches everything, and will give it to you if you ask it to. To get all the string data, including column names, ask for a second output:
[d,s] = xlsread('file.xls')
The string data are in the ‘s’ output.
EDIT — If you have R2013b or later, the readtable function will import the Excel file data and create a table with the column names automatically.