Health Corner 02-06-2015

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Have some healthful, heart-ful strawberries

By Patricia A. Woodbury

It is strawberry season in Florida and here are some facts about this luscious berry you might want to know. Strawberries are the world’s most popular berry, with Americans annually consuming about 6.5 pounds of fresh strawberries per capita
Native Americans know strawberries as “heart-seeds.” Mythology tells how the tears of the goddess Venus, which were shed over the death of Adonis, fell to earth and became strawberry plants. The wild strawberry which is native to the Americas, Europe and Asia, is now cultivated worldwide and enjoyed with shortcake, in frozen delights and straight from the vine as a fresh welcome to spring and a cool repast on hot summer days.
The strawberry is not a berry at all, but a multiple fruit made up of fleshy tissue and the many seeds which actually house seeds themselves.
The strawberry is the member of the rose family and a hybrid species with many varieties that differ in size, color, flavor, and season of ripening.
Heart-shaped and heart-healthy, one serving--about one cup of 8 whole berries—has three grams of heart-disease-fighting dietary fiber and 220 mg of potassium for blood pressure health and also contains the antioxidant vitamin C to protect against chronic diseases.
Various scoring systems have put strawberries fourth among all fruits in antioxidant content or even third among all foods. However strawberries’ nutritional content is surprisingly fragile, dropping sharply after only a couple of days
An evidence-based review published in the Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, examined the health-promoting benefits associated with eating strawberries.
 This review reported that strawberries had an important source of nutrients and plant chemicals, such as ellagic acid and anthocyanin’s, responsible for the bright red, blue and purple hues in berries and other foods. Strawberry consumption was associated with reduced risk of several chronic diseases and conditions, including hypertension and inflammation.
When purchasing fresh strawberries they should be firm and plump, free of mold (examine prepackaged berries closely), and deeply red, as they will not ripen further once picked.
Use them the same day or two days at most from purchase for peak flavor and highest vitamin C and antioxidant retention, which studies show decrease with age.
Store unwashed strawberries in the refrigerator storage bin in a sealed container, or wash and freeze separately. These red luscious berries transform salads, cereals and frozen yogurt into refreshing summer treats, but may taste best of all on their own.
The Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org) ranked strawberries fifth among all produce likely to contain pesticide residues. If you are concerned about pesticides consider choosing organic strawberries.
Source: Environmental Nutrition, The Newsletter of Food, Nutrition and Health, June 2013. Tufts University, Health and Nutrition Letter, June 2013.

Patricia A. Woodbury is an RN, MSN and a regular contributor to the South Marion Citizen.