This heart-shaped member of the rose family boasts healthy antioxidants and more.
If summer had a flavor, it would be strawberry. These ruby-red gems ripen before other fruits, turning juicy and sweet-tart when the days grow long.
Their popularity is well-deserved: Strawberries rival citrus fruits for vitamin C content, and they're packed with antioxidants, too.
Unfortunately, conventionally grown strawberries rank among the top 10 pesticide-ridden fruits and vegetables, so always choose organic. With farms across the country bursting with these brightly colored berries this month, that won't be hard to do.
Long used in combination with baking soda as a folk remedy for cleaning teeth (thanks to their malic acid) and freshening breath, strawberries hold up to bigger nutritional jobs as well. They get their vivid red color from anthocyanins, potent antioxidants that help reduce inflammation (a major symptom in many chronic diseases) and may also curb the growth of cancer cells. Other antioxidants in strawberries, known as ellagitannins, are effective cancer fighters, particularly against colon and cervical cancers.
But the major source of antioxidant power in strawberries is vitamin C -- and ounce for ounce, strawberries have more than oranges. Eating vitamin C-rich foods keeps your brain functioning smoothly and helps your body rebuild blood vessels, tendons, ligaments, and bones.
Along with potassium (also plentiful in strawberries), vitamin C can help keep your blood pressure low.
How to buy
Look for organic berries that are red all the way to the tip, a sign that they're fully ripe (strawberries don't ripen after picking). Beware of mold: It spreads quickly from berry to berry, so if you're not using them immediately, look through the container and pick out any spoiled or mushy specimens. Plan to use the berries within a day or two.
Without their stems, strawberries get waterlogged, so wash before stemming. If you have extra, make them last by freezing them: Wash whole berries, remove the leafy portion on top, and pat dry. Spread the berries out on a sheet pan and freeze until solid. Transfer to a sealable freezer bag.
Did You Know?
The strawberry is technically not a fruit at all -- at least not the red part. What we think of as the berry is actually the strawberry's fleshy receptacle. The 200 or so tiny golden seeds that dot the outside of each strawberry are the actual fruits, called "achenes." Although the achenes only account for 1 percent of a strawberry's weight, they're responsible for 14 percent of its antioxidant power.
Per 1 cup, sliced, raw
Calories: 53 kcal
Fat: 0.5 grams
Fiber: 3.3 grams, or 13 percent* of DRI**
Vitamin C: 97.6 milligrams, or 130 percent of DRI
Folate: 40 mcg, or 10 percent of DRI
Potassium: 254 miligrams, or 5 percent of DRI
* Percentages are for women 31 to 50 who are not pregnant
** DRI, Dietary Reference Intake, is based on National Academy of Sciences' Dietary Reference Intakes, 1997 to 2004