EAT THIS

Strawberries: Good for the head, the heart and the taste buds

Posted June 10, 2013, at 12:59 p.m.
Last modified June 11, 2013, at 7:54 a.m.
Freshly picked strawberries sit in their quart containers at Tate's Strawberry Farm in East Corinth. Strawberries are considered an effective disease management and health-promoting dietary regimen.
John Clarke Russ | BDN
Freshly picked strawberries sit in their quart containers at Tate's Strawberry Farm in East Corinth. Strawberries are considered an effective disease management and health-promoting dietary regimen. Buy Photo

It doesn’t quite make sense that Feb. 27 is National Strawberry Day, June 9 is Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Day, and June 14 is National Strawberry Shortcake Day. Strawberries are a great fruit to celebrate, but why not celebrate them all on the same day?

The strawberry is a member of the rose family. It is unique in that it is the only fruit with seeds on the outside rather than the inside. Many medicinal uses have been claimed for the leaves and roots as well as the wild strawberry itself.

This popular fruit is pretty much available throughout the year. Strawberries are very much a functional food. They are a rich source of phytochemicals such as anthocyanins and catechins, and an importance source of essential nutrients including ascorbic acid (160 percent of the daily value of vitamin C in just one cup), potassium, folic acid, carotenoids, and B-vitamins. One cup of strawberries provides just 50 calories, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 1 gram of protein, and 11 grams of total carbohydrates.

Strawberries are consistently ranked among the top food sources for polyphenols and antioxidant capacity. Their preventive and therapeutic health benefits are attributed to the synergistic effects of these bioactives and the nutrients contained in the fruit. Whether consumed fresh or frozen, strawberries are considered an effective disease management and health-promoting dietary regimen.

Eating more strawberries may delay cognitive and memory decline in older women, based on a study published in the Annals of Neurology. Strawberries and blueberries, both high in flavonoids, appear to delay cognitive aging by up to 2.5 years in elderly women. The flavonoid anthocyanins affect the areas of learning and memory in the brain, and since flavonoids have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, the increased consumption of strawberries and other berries could be a strategy for reducing cognitive decline in older adults.

Research also indicates that eating strawberries helps to lower markers of cardiovascular disease, such as levels of homocysteine and blood pressure.

When possible, choose locally grown fruit. It hasn’t traveled far and will hopefully be the freshest and most flavorful. The best-tasting berries are the ones that smell best. Aroma is a great indicator of flavor – size doesn’t necessarily matter. Strawberries should be used as soon after harvesting as possible for best quality. Don’t leave berries at room temperature for more than a few hours. Warm temperatures can cause a browning effect on berries.

It is best to not wash berries until you are ready to use them for best quality, however it’s nice to know that chilled, cut-up fruit can retain its nutrients for about six days, according to a report from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. So it’s okay to cut up strawberries and have them ready in the refrigerator for a quick snack (a little of the quality may be compromised). One cup of fresh strawberries is equal to about two-thirds cup frozen berries.

To wash berries, place them in a colander and rinse under cold water. Don’t allow berries to sit in water or they will lose flavor and color.

Strawberry Muffins

Firm, fresh strawberries work best in this recipe.

2-1/2 cups flour

½ cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1-1/2 cups buttermilk

1/3 cup melted butter

2 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray or line muffin cups with paper liners. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt – stir until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, butter, eggs and vanilla. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour liquid mixture in and then the strawberries. Using a large spoon, gently fold ingredients until just moist. Spoon batter evenly into 12 muffin cups. Sprinkle each with a little sugar. Bake 20 to 25 minutes.

Strawberry and Spinach Salad

This salad is a great source of vitamin A and vitamin C. Greens and reds make a beautiful presentation.

1 pint fresh strawberries

2 bunches fresh spinach

½ cup sugar

1-1/2 tablespoons minced green onion

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ teaspoon paprika

½ cup olive oil

½ cup balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Wash strawberries under cold running water. Remove caps and set aside to drain. Wash spinach and remove large tough stems. Tear large leaves into small pieces. Drain. In a medium bowl combine remaining ingredients and whisk together. Slice strawberries into halves or quarters and place in a large bowl. Add dry spinach. Pour dressing over all and toss.

Georgia Clark-Albert is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator at Penobscot Community Health Care in Bangor. She provides nutrition consultant services through Mainely Nutrition in Athens. Read her columns and post questions at bangordailynews.com or email her at GeorgiaMaineMSRDCDE@gmail.com.

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