Monday, January 14, 2008

Start strawberry season, and healthier eating, now

The strawberries I've been seeing and buying in my local supermarket and produce market have been terrific lately.
Although peak season for strawberries is considered to be April-June, our farmers are doing something right, because these Florida and Louisiana strawberries are delicious.
We've been enjoying them sliced on cereal, layered in peanut butter and jam sandwiches and in brown-bag lunches.
But if you want something a little more special without overdoing your calorie and fat budget, today's recipe may be just what you are looking for. You might even think ahead to Valentine's Day. This dessert would be special enough for a romantic dinner.
Strawberries are delicious and nutritious. Just eight strawberries contain more vitamin C than a medium orange. As you may know, vitamin C is important for our immune system and for keeping the body's cells healthy and strong.
Like most fruits and vegetables, strawberries have plenty of phytochemicals that do wonders for our health. Strawberries are a rich source of anthocyanins and ellagitannins, two types of phenols. The anthocyanins help give strawberries their beautiful color and protect the body's cells from the harmful effects of oxygen.
The ellagitannins in strawberries may help lower the risk of developing cancer.
In addition, strawberries, and fruit in general, may help lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD). This disease is the main cause of vision loss in adults.
A study published in Archives of Ophthalmology showed eating three or more servings of fruit a day could cut the risk of ARMD by 36 percent, when compared to adults who eat less than 11/2 servings of fruit daily. In this study, researchers found, while vegetables also contain many of the same antioxidants and phytochemicals, fruit consumption made the most difference in lowering incidence of ARMD.
Strawberries can help you work in all those fruit servings. Slice them into yogurt or cottage cheese, or put them in a blender with blueberries and bananas and a little soy milk for a quick breakfast smoothie. Add cut-up strawberries to green salads or mix them into muffin batter. Or eat them for dessert, plain or embellished, like the shortcake recipe I've included today.
The more you add fruit -- including strawberries -- to your diet, the better your health can be.
A serving of the strawberry shortcake recipe offered today will provide just a tad over a half-cup of fruit. For most men and women, the recommended amount is 11/2 to 2 cups of fruit per day.

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