Food-Drink

The health benefits of strawberries

Strawberries are packed with nutrients and, according to some studies, may reduce your risk of cancer. The delicious taste doesn't hurt, either.

Health benefits
According to the University of Illinois Extension, strawberries offer more vitamin C ounce for ounce than any citrus fruit. The American Cancer Society says that eating foods rich in vitamin C may reduce your risk of cancer. Vitamin C is also necessary for healthy skin, tendons, bones, cartilage and blood vessels, and may enhance the immune system and deflect colds.

Strawberries are beaten only by blackberries and walnuts in terms of antioxidant concentration in a typical serving size, according to a report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Antioxidants protect and repair cells from damage caused by free radicals, thus helping your immune system stay strong and fight off disease.

Strawberries are sweet, but low in sugar and contain no fat or cholesterol. One cup, or approximately eight medium strawberries, contains about 50 calories. They are also good sources of folate, fiber and potassium.

Fiber aids weight loss and maintenance; it makes you feel fuller for longer periods of time, and relieves constipation. Potassium is important to control blood pressure and prevent strokes. Folate, a B vitamin that is also known as folic acid or vitamin B9, helps prevent certain birth defects and may ward off DNA changes that could lead to cancer, according to the National Institutes of Health's Office of Dietary Supplements.

Fun facts
Strawberries are the only fruit where the seeds appear on the outside rather than inside, and there are an average of 200 seeds per fruit.

According to the California Strawberry Commission, the state produces 88 percent of the nation's fresh and frozen strawberries. Lebanon, Ore.,'s strawberry festival is home to the world's largest strawberry shortcake year after year. Its recipe requires 514 cups of sugar, 2,048 teaspoons of baking powder and serves more than 15,000 people.

Picking
If you decide to pick the strawberries yourself, whether from your own garden or a farm, handle the berries with care. Don't throw them into your container, and only pick the berries that are fully red, as green strawberries will not ripen once they are separated from the plant.

When shopping for strawberries, look for ones with fresh green caps and no visible signs of mold, even if it only appears on one berry. One quart of strawberries equals one and a half pounds, and yields about four cups when sliced. Do not leave the berries out at room temperature for more than a few hours. Eat soon after purchasing, but store unwashed and loosely covered with plastic wrap. When ready to use, wash with cold water.

Recipes
There are many tasty ways to work strawberries into your diet. In addition to eating them fresh, you can make your own jam or spread. Mix them into yogurt, or put them on top of salads, waffles or pancakes. Throw them in the blender to make a smoothie or milkshake. Whip up some fresh cream or use the kind from the can to pair with the strawberries. Make strawberry cheesecake, shortcake, bread, muffins, scones or angel food cake. Let your imagination run wild, and enjoy.