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Preventive Maintenance: Strawberries – a healthy snack

Doesn't this season bring back childhood memories of bending over seemingly endless rows in a strawberry patch, hoping to make a little spending money for the summer? I'm sure the farm owners remember...

Karen Bowen

Karen Bowen

Doesn’t this season bring back childhood memories of bending over seemingly endless rows in a strawberry patch, hoping to make a little spending money for the summer? I’m sure the farm owners remember as well. Not necessarily how much we picked, but rather how much we ate. Boy did those strawberries fresh from the patch taste great! And they still do today.

That’s why I’m still picking strawberries.

Whether piled on top of shortcake or ice cream, or right from the field, strawberries provide a high vitamin, low calorie punch to summer snacking, whether in fruit smoothies, shakes, fruit salads and jam. Fresh, frozen or dried, eaten alone or tossed into cereal, or yogurt, strawberries naturally add a nutritional edge to an ordinary meal or snack.

High in nutrients and low in calories, strawberries are great for your health!

Strawberries are an excellent source of Vitamin C. Eight strawberries hold the same amount of Vitamin C as a glass of orange juice, but just one third the calories. In fact, eight medium strawberries provide 84 milligrams of Vitamin C or 93 percent of the recommended daily intake. That’s more Vitamin C than one medium orange, which only contains 74 milligrams of Vitamin C.

Diets high in Vitamin C from fruits (including strawberries) and vegetables are associated with lower cancer risk, especially for oral, esophageal, stomach, colon and lung cancers.

Strawberries are also rich in the Vitamin B – folate. Although we only need 560 micrograms of folate to stay healthy, most North Americans don’t get enough. Folate is essential for women of child-bearing age because it reduces the chance of fetal neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida.

When it comes to folate, strawberry lovers have good news; eight medium strawberries provide six per cent of what your body needs each day.

Folate may also affect colon cancer risk. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, not getting enough folate in your diet may increase the risk of colon cancer.

Strawberries are the good for your heart too. The folate in strawberries helps break down a protein found in the blood (homocysteine), that has been associated with coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease (problems with the veins and arteries far from the heart). The American Heart Association recommends that persons at high risk for cardiovascular disease get at least 560 micrograms of folate per day.

Eating strawberries also increases antioxidants in the blood that may play a role in reducing oxidation of LDL “bad” cholesterol. In addition, earlier findings showed that strawberries are high and antioxidants such as ellagic acid and anthocyanins, the red pigment in strawberries, which is further evidence that strawberries provide an edge for heart health. In a recent study, after eight weeks of eating a serving of eight strawberries each day, the participant’s systolic blood pressure went down by an average of four per cent!

Strawberries are also packed with fibre. This soluble fibre helps lower cholesterol.

This is important to most North Americans, since we usually only get half the fibre we need.

One serving of strawberries (containing three grams of dietary fibre) goes a long way toward meeting your daily requirement.

On top of that, strawberries are a good source of iron, sodium and potassium.

These nutrients are essential for maintaining a healthy urinary tract and healthy kidneys, and helping fight rheumatism, rheumatoid arthritis and gout.

Strawberries are also good for your memory.

Remember, even though strawberries are ripening in the fields as you read this, strawberries are available year-round.

So when you decide to pick up a box, what should you look for? The fruit should be plump, bright red, and fully ripe.

The top green leaves should be attached, and look fresh.

Don’t worry about the size of the berry; all strawberries, large and small, can be equally sweet and juicy.

But make sure you take out any bruised or damaged berries quickly because spoiled fruit will quickly make the good fruit in the box go bad.

Then, store your berries in cool, well-ventilated containers (32 to 40 degrees F / 0 to 5 degrees C). Since strawberries are full of moisture, store them uncovered or loosely covered.

Wait until you’re ready to serve the berries before you gently rinse and hull them, so they’ll keep their flavour.

So take the time on the road this strawberry season to stop at a road side stand or grocery store and pick up a box or two, just rinse them under the tap, and enjoy.

Strawberries don’t need any special preparation to taste great.

Be a part of the 94 per cent of North Americans who eat three and a quarter pounds of fresh strawberries each year.

They know that strawberries are a delicious way to add nutrients to your diet.

– Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant and she can be reached by e-mail at

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