"Choose Louisiana strawberries for a nutritious and delicious treat," advises LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames. She says strawberries have important nutrients, which may help maintain a healthy heart.
In addition to 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 showing the benefits of strawberries in a heart-healthy diet reported that people eating a daily serving of strawberries – about eight berries (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 says homocysteine is an amino acid that may 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 nutritionist adds that 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 may decrease the risk of some types of cancer.
"Ounce for ounce, strawberries have more vitamin C than citrus fruit," Reames says, adding, "One-half cup strawberries provides more fiber than a slice of whole-wheat bread."
One cup of strawberries also 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.
Reames offers these insights about the beneficial fruit:
Selection.Berries should have 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.
Storage.Use strawberries as soon after purchase as possible. Take berries home immediately after purchase. Remove the berries from their market or store container. Leave the caps on the berries, and sort and spread the berries 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.
Yield.As a rule, 1 quart strawberries equals approximately 3 3/4 cups hulled, whole berries or 2 1/4 sliced berries. When purchasing strawberries by the pound, 1 1/2 pounds equal 1 quart. This will yield about 4 cups of sliced strawberries.
Freezing.Strawberries freeze well with or without sugar. Texture, color and flavor are better when sugar is used. To freeze 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 set 5-10 minutes to make their own juice. Add 1 teaspoon of commercial ascorbic acid moisture 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.
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.