Monday, April 19, 2004

Go big red: Strawberries can build healthy hearts


Nutrition

By Hollie W. Best
The (Monroe, La.) News-Star

It wouldn't be spring without the taste of fresh strawberries. These plump, glistening, ruby-red gems are everywhere from grocery store displays to farmers markets and roadside stands. Packed with vitamin C, fiber, folic acid, potassium and only 48 calories per cup, you can enjoy fresh strawberries without guilt.

Recent research stresses the importance of strawberries in a heart-healthy diet. A daily serving of strawberries (eight berries) can increase blood folate levels and decrease systolic blood pressure, says Dr. Gene Spiller of the Nutrition and Health Research Center. So strawberries may reduce the risk of heart disease associated with high blood pressure, the study suggests.

The best strawberries are the ones you pick yourself or buy from your local fields. Farm-fresh strawberries are hours old with little or no handling and no traveling. Look for plump, bright red and fully ripe berries. Caps should be attached, green and fresh looking. The size of the strawberry is not important. All strawberries, large and small, are equally sweet and juicy.

Unfortunately, even though strawberries will continue to get redder and softer once they have been picked, they will not get any sweeter. Strawberries are best used within two to three days of picking. Cover and store them unwashed in the refrigerator. Do not crowd or press.

Here is a couple of ways to use your sweet strawberries.

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FRESH STRAWBERRY PIE

2 (8-inch) pie shells, baked
2 and one-half quarts fresh strawberries, cleaned and hulled
1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup boiling water
1 (3-ounce) package strawberry flavored gelatin

In a sauce pan, mix together the sugar and cornstarch; make sure to blend cornstarch in completely. Add boiling water and cook over medium heat until mixture thickens. Remove from heat. Add gelatin mix and stir until smooth. Let mixture cool to room temperature.

Place strawberries in baked pie shells, position berries with points facing up. Pour cooled gel mixture over strawberries.

Refrigerate until set.

Makes two pies (16 servings).

Nutritional information: 165 calories per serving, 4.5 grams fat per serving.

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STRAWBERRY TRIFLE

1 (5-ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix (can use sugar-free)
3 cups cold skim milk
1 (9-inch) angel food cake, cut in cubes
4 bananas, sliced
2 and one-half quarts fresh strawberries, cleaned, hulled and sliced
1 (12-ounce) container frozen, fat-free whipped topping, thawed

Prepare pudding with milk according to package directions.

In a trifle bowl or other glass serving dish, layer half the cake pieces, half the pudding, half the bananas, half the strawberries and half the whipped topping. Repeat layers ending with whipped topping.

Cover and chill in refrigerator at least 4 hours.

Yields: 18 servings.

Nutritional information: 162 calories per serving, 3.2 grams fat per serving.




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