JUNE AND STRAWBERRIES
June is strawberry season and a sure sign that summer is around the corner. Strawberries are a most delicious and healthy treat. Loaded with vitamins and minerals, they are rich in antioxidants and other healthy plant compounds.
THE STORY OF THE STRAWBERRY
A strawberry is a strawberry, right? Actually, there are three main types and many varieties. The three types are June-bearing, Everbearing, and Day-neutral strawberries.
As the name indicates, the June-bearing variety bears fruit in large quantities, but only once a year, in or around June. Everbearing berries, on the other hand, bear smaller quantities but continue to do so throughout the summer, as long as there are twelve hours of sunlight. Day-neutral strawberries have three periods of fruiting, spread out over the months of June, July, and August. All types are grown here in Maryland.
When selecting strawberries look for plump, bright red flesh that is soft but firm. Since the berries do not ripen further after they are picked, avoid those with a lot of yellow or green. If you are picking your own, look for plants with fresh green leaves, which means that the berries are fresh. Unfortunately most commercially grown produce is farmed with added pesticides, and this includes strawberries. This has prompted many to look for and buy organically grown. However, even organic strawberries are grown with some pesticides.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) oversees the use of pesticides on foods and establishes tolerable levels. The EPA determined these low residue levels are not a safety risk and do not pose a safety concern.
STRAWBERRY NUTRITION FACTS
-Strawberries are a low-calorie snack. For example, there are only about 50 calories and 12 grams of carbohydrates in a one-cup serving. Additionally, with a glycemic index of 40, strawberries are a diabetic-friendly fruit.
-Since strawberries are about 91% water, they contribute to and improve hydration.
-While there is only about 1 gram of protein in a cup of strawberries, they can be deliciously paired with a high protein yogurt.
-Strawberries have essentially zero fat and cholesterol and are sodium-free, yet provide 3 grams of healthy fiber per cup.
-These berries are a rich source of vitamin C, important for immune health and skin integrity. In addition, they provide folate (vitamin B9) which enhances tissue growth and cell function.
-Strawberries also provide essential minerals such as potassium and manganese. Both are important for vital body functions.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF STRAWBERRIES
We’ve always known eating healthy means including lots of fruits and vegetables in our diet. But research has given us more reasons to do so.
In the normal life of a cell, a small percentage become stressed and damaged. These can harm other cells and may lead to disease. Antioxidants are thought to help repair or prevent this stress. Berries, including strawberries, are rich in healthy antioxidants.
Evidence points to the role of antioxidants as a possible explanation for the lower rates of heart disease and cancer in those who consume larger amounts of fruits and vegetables.
Inflammation is the body’s response to infection. It is a good thing and the mechanism by which we fight off illnesses. But too much or chronic inflammation is thought to be harmful and lead to disease.
Anthocyanins are the red and purple pigments found in strawberries and other fruits and vegetables. These offer anti-inflammatory protection against oxidative stress or cell damage by dangerous free radicals.
Research has shown that anthocyanin’s anti-inflammatory role may help reduce the risk of cancer by inhibiting tumor growth and the spread of unhealthy cells.
The role of anthocyanins has also been studied in relation to diabetes by possibly regulating carbohydrate metabolism or improving insulin secretion.
While there is no specific diet for some inflammatory types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, some find choosing fruits and other foods rich in anti-inflammatories to be helpful in reducing symptoms.
An allergic reaction to food occurs when your immune system thinks the food is something that will make you sick and it responds in a way to protect you. Strawberries are fairly common food allergens affecting about 10% of adults.
Allergic reactions can take place immediately after eating the food or up to two hours later. The symptoms may be as simple as a mild rash or far a more serious reaction that causes throat tightness and difficulty breathing.
Strawberries are members of the same fruit “family” as pears, peaches, cherries, apples, raspberries and blackberries. Therefore an allergy to one increases the risk of an allergy to another. A family history of allergies is also a risk factor.
If you suspect a strawberry allergy, your doctor may perform allergy tests such as skin tests or elimination diets. Depending on the severity, avoiding strawberries and foods containing strawberries may be necessary to avoid symptoms.
NATURAL BLOOD THINNER
Berries, including strawberries, naturally contain a significant amount of a compound called salicylates. Salicylates are natural blood thinners. For those taking prescription blood thinners, such as Warfarin, you may need to limit your intake of strawberries to avoid bruising and bleeding. Other foods high in salicylates include blueberries, apricots, oranges, blackberries, pineapple, plums, raisins, and raspberries.
WAYS TO ENJOY STRAWBERRIES
Of course, just washed and ready to eat, is the easiest and most delicious way to enjoy these summertime treats. However, there are so many other ways to savor their goodness:
-Add sliced strawberries to your favorite bread recipes to add color and sweetness.
-Pair them with other fruits in a colorful salad or add them together with chopped walnuts in green salads.
-Whip the berries into a delicious smoothie or milkshake for a cool snack.
-Cooked and preserved into a tasty jam, they can be spread on almost anything or used as a topping for ice cream.
-Infuse water with sliced or whole berries to add flavor and encourage you to stay hydrated.
-Freeze them for enjoying later in the year.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Strawberries have many health benefits, but for or a few, an allergy or interference with blood thinners, pose a downside. It is important that those affected are educated and aware of the risks.
Strawberries can be a delicious part of a healthy diet. But don’t stop there! A healthy diet needs to include all food groups, sufficient calories, and the vitamins and minerals essential for all of our body functions.
Our Registered Dietitians are experienced clinicians and ready to help you plan a healthy diet that’s just right for you. Call to make an appointment today at 240-449-3094.