Elizabeth S. Reames | 10/4/2004 4:26:31 AM
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. 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. When purchasing strawberries by the pound, 1 ½ pounds equal one quart. This amount will yield about four cups of sliced strawberries.
Strawberries freeze well with or without sugar. Texture, color and flavor are better when sugar is used.