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As we work our way into the warmer summer months, I have one thing on my mind…fresh local berries! Local berries have a completely different flavor profile than the ones often found in the grocery store. They are ripe, juicy, and very sweet. Not only do these berries add some sweetness to your diet, they also pack a punch nutritionally. Some important components of berries include anthocyanins, antioxidants, dietary fiber, phytochemicals, and Vitamin C.

Anthocyanins are power antioxidants from the blue, purple, and red color pigments that are found in berries. They have been associated with:

  • reduced risk of cancer
  • improved urinary tract health
  • improved memory
  • helping with aging

Antioxidants neutralize free radicals in the body to keep our cells healthy.  Dietary fiber 1) helps to keep our GI system healthy 2) lowers our risk for heart disease 3) reduces our blood cholesterol levels and 4) may prevent some cancers. Phytochemicals are naturally occurring antioxidants that have a disease-fighting, cell-protecting antioxidant capacity. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and a water soluble vitamin.

  • One cup of strawberries provides over 150% of your daily value for Vitamin C, contains folate, fiber, and antioxidants.
  • Blueberries contain about 85 calories per cup, and are loaded with antioxidants.berry
  • Blackberries contain less than 50 calories per cup, have a high antioxidant content, and contain anthocyanins.
  • Raspberries contain about 50 calories per cup, are rich in some flavonoids, and also play a role to keep cells healthy.

Did that convince you to add these nutritious little berries to your diet? The price of berries will go down as the season is approaching.

Another way to get your hands on some berries (besides the grocery store) is to pick them yourself! Pick-your-own is a great way to support local farmers and have fresh produce. Make it a family outing to maximize the amount you can pick! Look at http://www.pickyourown.org/OH.htm to find a pick-your-own farm near you. These berries are great eaten plain, added to a yogurt parfait, blended into a smoothie, baked into a fresh fruit pie, added into a refreshing drink, or can even be frozen to enjoy year round! What sounds delicious to you?

Author: Ashley Parsons, BGSU Dietetic Intern with Wood County Extension and Susan Zies, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences

Reviewer:  Cheryl Barber Spires, RD, LD, SNAP-Ed Program Assistant, Ohio State University Extension, spires.53@osu.edu

References:

Strawberry Nutrition.” Driscoll’s. Driscolls, n.d. Web. 03 May 2016.

http://www.driscolls.com/nutrition-health/berry-nutrition-facts/strawberry-nutrition

“Blueberry Nutrition Facts And Health Benefits.” Driscoll’s. Driscolls, n.d. Web. 03 May 2016.

http://www.driscolls.com/nutrition-health/berry-nutrition-facts/blueberry-nutrition

“Blackberry Nutrition.” Driscoll’s. Driscolls, n.d. Web. 03 May 2016.

http://www.driscolls.com/nutrition-health/berry-nutrition-facts/blackberry-nutrition

“Raspberry Nutrition.” Driscoll’s. Driscolls, n.d. Web. 03 May 2016.

http://www.driscolls.com/nutrition-health/berry-nutrition-facts/raspberry-nutrition

“Fact Sheets.” For Blackbe_wp_link_placeholderrries, Blueberries, Raspberries, and Strawberries ~ Connecting Berry Health Benefit Researchers. Oregon Raspberry & Blackberry Commission, n.d. Web. 03 May 2016.

http://berryhealth.fst.oregonstate.edu/health_healing/fact_sheets/

Photo Credit: Ashley Parsons, Photographs taken at Schooner Farms; Weston, Ohio and Red Wagon Farm, Columbia Station, Ohio

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Local fresh strawberries are here!  These delicious fruit annually welcome the arrival of summer with its grand entrance. Eating locally grown fruit in season provides the assurance that the berries are picked fully ripe and will get to the consumer within a day.

Strawberries are a great source of Vitamin C, potassium, antioxidants and fiber.  A cup of fresh strawberries contains only 50 calories, 11 grams of carbohydrates and 1 gram of protein. Strawberries contain no fat, cholesterol or sodium.

Choose plump and firm strawberries with a bright red color and natural shine.  The size of the berry is not important as the color of the berry. The fragrance is the best indicator of flavor.  Caps should be fresh, green and intact.  Avoid strawberries with a green or white color, wilted, bruised or soft berry.  Strawberries do not ripen after picking. Store immediately in the refrigerator and pick as close to consumption time as possible.

When purchasing strawberries, check the carton for stains, which indicates over ripeness of the berries. Remove the strawberries from the original container and store in a shallow container on a paper towel in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  Do not wash the strawberries or remove the caps until you’re ready to eat them or use them in a recipe.   Handle the berries gently as they bruise easily. Immediately before serving, swish in a bowl of cold water.  Do not soak.

Strawberries are a versatile fruit with many options to serve.  Halve, quarter or slice fresh berries and let stand 5-10 minutes to allow juices to form and enjoy.  Mix in a fruit cup, with other berries or add to a fresh garden salad.

Several of the local restaurants are serving delicious seasonal salads with fresh strawberries, roasted chicken, blueberries, and toasted pecans.  Not only are these salads beautiful, they are healthy as well.  For a nice summer dinner, prepare a salad with greens, grilled or roasted chicken, add vegetables of your choice including fresh strawberries and serve with a whole wheat crusty roll and dinner is ready.

Visit a local farm market or grower to pick your own or purchase fresh local grown strawberries this weekend and enjoy!

Strawberry Spinach Salad

Serves 4

4 cups spinach or other mixed greens

1 cup fresh strawberries or combination of peaches, blueberries, and kiwi fruit (sliced)

Topping options:

2 green onions, chopped

1 small red onion, sliced into thin rings

½ cup asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces, blanched and chilled

½ cup toasted almonds or walnuts

2 Tbsp. sunflower seeds, toasted

½ cup cheese, goat or blue, crumbled

1 cup cooked turkey, chopped

Combine with selected toppings.  Top with your favorite salad dressing.

Source:  Edible, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Author:  Beth Stefura, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension

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