Richard Bogren, Reames, Elizabeth S. | 1/4/2011 1:13:54 AM
You can show your Valentine how much you care by surprising her or him with a special treat – luscious red fruit, says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.
“Red fruit not only reflects the traditional Valentine holiday color, it's delicious and heart healthy,” Reames says. “Red fruit – such as strawberries, cherries, red grapes, apples and watermelon – provide important nutrients that promote good health.”
Bright red, heart-shaped strawberries are the perfect Valentine fruit, she says. Although spring marks the height of the Louisiana strawberry season, Louisiana strawberries are often available from November through May.
Reames suggests arranging fresh strawberries in a heart-shaped container, covered with clear wrap and tied with a bright red bow.
“Strawberries are naturally high in fiber, vitamin C, folate, potassium and antioxidants,” she says. “And they’re low in calories and practically fat- and sodium-free. Ounce-for-ounce, strawberries have more vitamin C than citrus fruit.”
If you want a really novel Valentine gift idea, Reames suggests presenting your special someone with a personal watermelon. The personal watermelon usually weighs about two or three pounds and is sweeter than other varieties. It can be a one-meal melon, or it can be cut in half and shared.
“Most types have a deep red flesh and a thinner rind than the larger varieties and are seedless,” Reames says. “The small size of personal watermelons makes them easy to store in most refrigerators.”
If you're a watermelon fan, you don't have to wait for the classic summer fruit. Several grocery stores, especially larger chain stores, offer personal watermelons most of the year. Tie a bright red ribbon and bow around the middle of the melon to enjoy as a centerpiece for a Valentine dinner or party. After the meal, cut the melon and serve it as dessert.
Reames says watermelon has heart-healthy properties because it is naturally low in saturated fat, total fat and cholesterol. It is an excellent source of potassium and vitamins A, C and B6.
Watermelon also contains more lycopene than any other fresh fruit or vegetable. Lycopene is the red pigment that gives the watermelon its color and is an antioxidant that may be linked to lower risk of certain cancers, the LSU AgCenter nutritionist says.
For another idea, Reames suggests arranging several pieces and types of hand fruit in an attractive basket decorated with a bow and hearts. The fruit and the arrangement can be enjoyed for several days.
Remember, she adds, tomatoes are botanically classified as fruit. So pop some vitamin C-rich, red tomatoes into the basket along with the other hand fruit to use in a salad or eat with your favorite dip.
“Fruit and chocolate are a delicious combination,” Reames says. “Enjoyed in moderation, dark chocolate is a satisfying treat that can provide nutritional value. Dark chocolate contains flavonoids that come from extracts of the cocoa bean. Choosing dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa gives your body more of these healthy antioxidants.”
Reames suggests preparing a low-fat, dark-chocolate fondue for dipping fruits slices or mixing cocoa powder and a small amount of sugar or non-nutritive sweetener in a shaker to sprinkle on fruit.
More information about healthful eating is available from the LSU AgCenter office in your parish or on the Internet at www.lsuagcenter.com.Rick Bogren