Strawberries

Nothing says summer like a bowl of fresh strawberries. With their sweet flavour and bright red colour, strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C and disease-fighting phytochemicals making them as nutritious as they are delicious.

Strawberries

Nutrition Notes

On the nutrition front, strawberries serve up a hefty dose of heart healthy nutrients including folate, vitamin C and potassium.  In fact, one cup of sliced strawberries delivers 97 milligrams of vitamin C - more than a day's worth! 

One cup of sliced strawberries also provides 3 grams of fibre, 40 micrograms of folate and 254 milligrams of potassium - all for only 50 calories.

Their unique mix of phytochemicals makes strawberries a berry with heart-protective, anti-cancer, and anti-inflammatory properties. Strawberries are one of the best food sources of ellagic acid, a compound that acts as an antioxidant, helps the body deactivate carcinogens and slows the reproduction of cancer cells. In laboratory studies, ellagic acid has been shown to prevent cancers of the skin, bladder, lung, esophagus and breast.

Ellagic acid in strawberries has also been linked with a lower risk of cancer death in humans. In a study of 1271 adults, aged 66 or older, strawberries topped a list of six foods for their ability to help combat cancer. Compared to people who seldom of never ate strawberries, those who ate the berries often were 70 percent less likely to die from cancer.

Thanks to their potent antioxidant properties, strawberries are also thought to inhibit the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, improve the function of blood vessels and help prevent the formation of blood clots. What's more, lab studies have shown that strawberries can help reduce inflammation, a risk factor for heart disease.

Per 1 cup (250 ml) sliced:

Calories  53 kcal 
Carbohydrate  13 g
Fat  0.5 g
Protein  1.1 g
Fibre 3.3 g
Potassium 254 mg
Manganese 0.6 mg
Folate 40 mcg
Vitamin C 97 mg

Source: Canadian Nutrition File, 2007b

Varieties

Strawberries are thought to have originally been cultivated in Rome, before being grown in Northern Europe.  Today, strawberries are grown all over the world - from Canada to Russia to Chile.  As a result, there are reported to be over 600 varieties of the fruit that differ in size, flavour and texture.  Technically speaking, strawberries aren't berries at all, but are enlarged ends of the plant's stamen. The small black spots on a strawberry's surface are actually the fruit.

Buying

Fresh strawberries are available at most major grocery stores year round.  However, the taste and texture of freshly picked, locally-grown strawberries can't be beat.  This is due, in part, to the fact that strawberries don't ripen after they're picked, As a result, those shipped over large distances don't have the same quality or taste as locally grown fruit.

In Canada, locally-grown strawberries are available from early June to late July.  Look for them in grocery stores, farmer's markets and roadside stands.

When buying fresh strawberries, choose berries that are firm, plump and free of any mold or bruising.  Avoid any fruit that's dull in colour or has white or yellow spots.  Caps should be green and fresh looking. Medium to smaller sized fruit tend to have the most flavour. 

If you're buying packaged strawberries in a container, make sure they're not packed too tightly and that there's no sign of moisture, which can lead to spoilage.  A stained package is a sign that some of the fruit is overripe or damaged.

When picking strawberries, gently fill your basket and don't pack fruit too tightly into your basket.  Avoid letting the fruit sit in the sun for too long, which can cause the berries to soften and spoil.

Storing

Strawberries, like most berries, are highly perishable so care should be taken when storing them.  Do not wash berries before refrigerating them, as this will cause them to soften and spoil quickly.  Your best bet is to lay strawberries out in a single layer on a flat surface, such as a plate or baking sheet, and refrigerate them until you're ready to eat them.  In the fridge, fresh strawberries will keep for two to three days.

If you're not going to immediately eat the strawberries, consider freezing them for later in the season.  Frozen strawberries can keep for up to one year.

Preparing

Strawberries don't require much preparation.  Wash and hull strawberries just prior to eating by running them under cool water or rinsing in a colander.  Pat dry with a towel and enjoy immediately.

To freeze strawberries, wash and hull the berries and pat them dry before laying them out in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Place the baking sheet in the freezer; once the berries are frozen, transfer them to a re-sealable bag or container for storage up to one year.

As a general rule of thumb, a 12 oz basket of fresh strawberries will yield 3 1/2 cups whole strawberries or 2 1/2 cups sliced strawberries.

Eating

From salads to cereal to sauces, strawberries are a delicious addition to just about any dish.  While strawberries are often thought of a breakfast or dessert food, they fare just equally well when it comes to lunch and dinner.

Healthy ways to enjoy

Breakfast

  • Spread low fat cream cheese on whole grain toast and top with sliced strawberries.
  • Add 1/2 cup chopped strawberries to pancake or waffle batter.
  • Blend a handful of strawberries with one banana and 3/4 cup low fat milk or unsweetened soy beverage for a refreshing start to your day.

Lunch

  • Add sliced strawberries to a mixed green salad.  They pair especially well with spinach salad.
  • Make a delicious wrap using a whole grain tortilla, sliced roasted turkey breast, fresh baby spinach, sliced strawberries and chopped green onions.

Dinner

  • Make a gourmet pizza by topping a pre-baked thin crust with crumbled goat cheese, sliced strawberries, chopped watercress, a drizzle of olive oil and fresh parmigiano-reggiano cheese.  Bake at 425º for 8 to 12 minutes, or until crust is slightly crispy.
  • Make a thick reduction, or ‘gastrique' as the French say, by combining 1 cup chopped strawberries, 1/2 cup each sugar and sherry vinegar, 1/3 cup reduced sodium chicken broth and 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes, or until sauce is reduced to about 2/3 cup.  Strain and serve alongside grilled chicken breasts.

Snacks

  • Make a parfait by layering low fat yogurt, sliced strawberries and whole blueberries.
  • Make a low fat salsa by combining 1 chopped cucumber, 1 sliced green onion, 2 tbsp chopped cilantro, 3 tbsp rice wine vinegar, 2 cups diced strawberries and 1 chopped yellow pepper.  Serve with whole grain tortilla chips.

More Information

Ontario Berry Growers Association - http://www.ontarioberries.com/sbinfo.htm

Government of British Columbia - BC Farm products from A to Z - http://www.agf.gov.bc.ca/aboutind/products/plant/strawberry.htm

Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strawberry

Did you know?

  • Strawberries were cultivated in France in the 13th century as a medicinal herb to treat everything from digestive disorders to gout.
  • Canadians love their strawberries!  We eat more than we grow, with most imports coming from California and Florida.
  • Visit Belgium to see the world's only strawberry museum. 
  • On average there are 200 tiny black seeds on the outside of every strawberry...not that we're counting.