Strawberries Good For The Body And Good For The Heart

Elizabeth S. Reames  |  4/10/2006 9:22:44 PM

Strawberries are an important ingredient in a heart-healthy diet.

News You Can Use For April 2006

With strawberry season in full swing, LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames says to choose Louisiana strawberries for a nutritious, healthy treat.

"Strawberries have important nutrients, which can help maintain a healthy heart," the nutritionist says, adding, "Besides being low in fat and calories, strawberries are naturally high in fiber, vitamin C, folate, potassium and antioxidants."

A study presented at the American Dietetic Association Food and Nutrition Conference and Exhibition about the benefits of strawberries in a heart-healthy diet reported that people eating a daily serving of strawberries (about 8 berries and 50 calories) had significant increases in blood folate levels and decreases in systolic blood pressure.

Decreasing systolic blood pressure (the upper number in blood pressure readings) may reduce the risk of heart disease associated with high blood pressure, Reames explains. Homocysteine is an amino acid that can block arteries. Folate helps to reduce blood homocysteine levels. Folate, also known as folic acid, is one of the B vitamins and is called "folate" in foods.

The LSU AgCenter nutritionist says strawberries are also high in antioxidants such as ellagic acid and anthocyanins, the red pigment in strawberries, which may help prevent heart disease.

According to the American Cancer Society, foods rich in vitamin C, such as strawberries, may lower the risk of cancers of the gastrointestinal tract. Folate may also decrease the risk of some types of cancer.

Ounce for ounce, strawberries have more vitamin C than citrus fruit. One-half cup of strawberries provides more fiber than a slice of whole wheat bread. One cup of strawberries provides 45 calories, 84 mg vitamin C, 26 mg folate and 3.8 grams fiber.

Louisiana strawberries are usually available from early March through the middle of May. New varieties have been developed to begin the season sooner. Most Louisiana berries are grown in Livingston and Tangipahoa parishes. Strawberries are grown commercially in several other parishes.

When selecting berries, Reames says to look for a full red color, bright luster and firm, plump flesh. Choose fully ripe berries. Strawberries do not ripen after being picked. The caps should be bright green, fresh looking and fully attached. Avoid berries with large uncolored or seedy areas or those with mold.

Use strawberries as soon after purchase as possible. Take berries home immediately after purchase. Remove the berries from their market or store container. Leave caps on the berries, sort and spread gently in a flat container. Store in the refrigerator immediately.

Just before serving, wash them in gently flowing cold water in a colander. Drain and remove caps.

Reames says that 1 quart of strawberries yields approximately 3 3/4 cups hulled whole berries or 2 1/4 cups sliced berries.

Strawberries freeze well with or without sugar. Texture, color and flavor are better when sugar is used.

• With sugar. Sprinkle sugar over washed whole or sliced berries. Use 1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar to 4 or 5 cups sliced berries. Turn berries gently with a spoon until all are coated with sugar. Let berries sit 5-10 minutes to make their own juice. Add one teaspoon of commercial ascorbic acid to the sugar to help protect the color and vitamin C.

Pack berries in moisture-vapor-proof bags or containers. Fill containers leaving 1/2 inch of space at top. Place a small piece of crumpled waxed paper or freezer paper on top of berries in rigid containers to hold berries under the juice. Seal and label. Freeze quickly at 0 degrees F.

• Without sugar. To freeze whole berries without sugar, place in single layer on a tray or cookie sheet, cover lightly and freeze quickly until firm. Remove from pan, and package airtight in moisture-vapor-proof containers or bags. If they are to be used for preserves or jam, measure and bag before freezing.

For local information and educational programs in related areas of family and consumer sciences, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office. Also, visit the Family and Consumer Sciences Web site at http://www.lsuagcenter.com/Inst/Extension/Departments/fcs/.

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On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: http://www.lsuagcenter.com/Inst/Extension/Departments/fcs/
On the Internet: www.smallstep.gov

Source: Beth Reames (225) 578-3329, or breames@agcenter.lsu.edu

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