by J. E. Davidson

Strawberries are beautiful, fragrant and delicious, but did you know that they are also low in calories and loaded with nutrients and fiber? A serving of eight medium strawberries a day provides 140% of our daily recommended allowance of vitamin C, 12% of our RDA for fiber, 6% of our RDA for folate, 210 mg of potassium, and is also high in vitamins K, B2, B5 and B6, copper, magnesium, and omega-fatty acids. Strawberries are free of sodium, saturated fats and cholesterol and only contain 45 calories per serving.

A diet high in fruits and vegetable containing vitamin C, an antioxidant, can have a preventive effect on aging, cardiovascular disease, cancers and cognitive dysfunction. When we eat the food that is not turned into energy produces “free radicals” which build up over time and cause our bodies to age. Antioxidants block the aging effects of the free radicals, and can help reduce damage to our bodies from environmental toxins such as cigarette smoke and pollution. Vitamin C is necessary for the production of collagen, which is the protein that enables the body to grow and repair tissues. We do not store or manufacture vitamin C in our bodies so we must have a continuous supply in our diet.

Potassium is a vital mineral that regulates the electrolytes in our bodies which send oxygen to the brain and regulate our heartbeat and the body’s water balance. A diet high in potassium lowers the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Our bodies need folate to manufacture and maintain new red blood cells. This vitamin is especially important during pregnancy and infancy, when red blood cells need to reproduce and grow rapidly. A lack of folate may result in anemia in the mother or child. Studies have shown that adequate folate intake may also slow cognitive decline and lower the risk of diseases such as Alzheimer’s (Alzheimer’s and Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association).

Fiber is the indigestible portion of a plant that absorbs water and move food through the digestive system. An adequate fiber intake also plays a role in the absorption of nutrients, stabilizing blood glucose levels, and reducing cholesterol by suppressing the manufacture of cholesterol in the liver.

This versatile fruit is easy to work into the diet. To take advantage of the most health benefits, eat them raw since cooking will reduce the vitamin C content. They can be eaten plain or dipped, sliced into cereal with milk, blended into beverages, added to mixed green salads or baked into pies and other desserts. Here are a few quick and easy ideas for healthy, tasty, low-cal summer treats, and you can find many more strawberry recipe ideas online:

Puree strawberries in a blender, alone or with other berries or a little yogurt, for a fruit smoothie.

For a cool treat, freeze your smoothie in popsicle molds or ice cube trays. This is a summer snack kids will love without all the added sugar of store-bought ice pops.

Mix fresh strawberries with cottage cheese, yogurt, or cottage cheese for a high-protein snack or breakfast.

Boil strawberries with a little sweetener for a yummy topping for ice cream or pancakes.