The Audacity of Strawberries

strawberry smoothieHow can such a sweet li’l thing be so nutritious? Who does it think it is having more vitamin C than an orange? Enough antioxidants to rival a raspberry? Half the calories of a banana? And as much fiber as an apple? The nerve of this good-for-you goldmine!

Let’s start with vitamin C and why it’s so important to our health. An essential nutrient, vitamin C — which is integral to collagen synthesis — works hard to keep bones, muscles and tissues in tip-top shape. Current research suggests it may even protect against skin wrinkling. And even though this immune-boosting vitamin may not be the cure for the common cold, it has been shown to reduce the length and severity of some colds. A cup of strawberry halves delivers a confident dose: 150 percent of our daily needs.

Strawberries are antioxidant superstars, boasting enough of these magical molecules to rank among the top 10 fruits and vegetables for antioxidant content. Antioxidants are important compounds that protect our body from disease and accelerated aging by gobbling up harmful free radicals — byproducts of the oxidation process that have been linked to cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and more. Strawberries, already crazy-high in vitamin C (a powerful antioxidant!), are boldly loaded with the Michael Jordan of the antioxidant world: phytochemicals.

Moving briskly to fiber: Strawberries are a darn good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, delivering about 3 grams per sliced cup. While soluble fiber helps to stabilize blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol, insoluble fiber promotes regularity. Both contribute to a full feeling that helps curb snacking between meals, a boon for weight watchers.

Think we’re all done with this heart-shaped hotshot? Hardly! This sassy superfruit flaunts an arsenal of “lows”: low in calories (only 50 per cup), fat, sodium and cholesterol; and, also, according to the American Diabetes Association, on the “low end” of the glycemic index. On top of everything, strawberries strut out an impressive amount of manganese, a mineral that’s good for bones and energy production.

Healthy Strawberry Smoothie

2 cups ripe strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
1 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
¾ to 1 cup orange juice, almond milk or low-fat milk
¼ teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon sweetener of choice
1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds (optional)

Add the ingredients to a food processor or blender. Process until a well-blended puree forms, about 15 seconds, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container once or twice. Taste the mixture and adjust sweetener, if needed. If smoothie is too thick, add water, juice or milk. If smoothie is too thin, add more fruit.

strawberryHelpful tips

Strawberries, once picked, do not ripen further, so choose berries that are firm, plump, and deep red with their caps attached. Medium-sized strawberries are often the most flavorful. Buy organic if possible and consume within a few days of purchase. Place unwashed berries in refrigerator until ready to use. Do not leave berries at room temperature or exposed to sunlight for too long, as this will cause spoilage and possible loss of nutrients.

Anne Palumbo is a lifestyle columnist, food guru, and seasoned cook, who has perfected the art of preparing nutritious, calorie-conscious dishes. She is hungry for your questions and comments about SmartBites, so be in touch with Anne at avpalumbo@aol.com.

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