Friday, May 31, 2013

Strawberry Fields Forever

“Let me take you down, ‘Cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields
Nothing is real, and nothing to get hung about
Strawberry Fields forever.”
-The Beatles, “Strawberry Fields Forever” (1967)

First Berry of 2013 Season (Photo: Mireille Blacke)
One cup of unsweetened strawberries provides 50 calories and three grams of fiber, making strawberries a filling, low-calorie snack option. Strawberries have no saturated fat or cholesterol, and are low in sodium. Strawberries are also a good source of vitamin C, folic acid, potassium, and manganese. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant in the body, helping to boost immunity and fight infection, counter inflammation, prevent heart disease, and protect against cancer. B-complex vitamins (such as folic acid) in strawberries help the body with carbohydrate, protein, and fat metabolism. Potassium is a mineral involved in the body’s cell and body fluid regulation, heart rate control, and blood pressure stability. The mineral manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for enzymes needed in fat and protein metabolism, and antioxidant utilization. Strawberries rank in the top fruits with regard to antioxidant content (others include blueberries, cherries, and raspberries).

Recommendations from this Registered Dietitian (RD):
  1. Rah-rah raw. To get the most nutrients from your strawberries, eat them raw. Assure ripeness by avoiding those with green or white tips. Strawberries absorb high levels of pesticides when grown conventionally. According to the Environmental Working Group, strawberries are the second highest of pesticide-laden and most consistently contaminated fruits and vegetables. Translation: splurge for organic strawberries.
  2. Scratch that itch. Individuals with an allergy to strawberries or Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) may experience symptoms ranging from acute anaphylaxis to simple dermatitis. If you exhibit physical reactions after ingesting strawberries, consult with your healthcare professional to assess your food allergy or sensitivity status.
  3. Be berry gentle. Eight medium-sized strawberries equal one serving. Handle those with care; heating, capping, injuring, cutting, or juicing strawberries will reduce the strawberry’s vitamin content.
  4. Strive for five. The average adult requires 1 ½ – 2 cups of fruit per day, according to the USDA’s MyPlate guidelines (this site will also help you determine your daily nutritional needs). Cover half of your plate with fruits and vegetables at each meal. Add strawberries for color and variety in your diet and also reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, and numerous other conditions. Strawberries are a great addition to green or fruit salads, as a between-meal snack, or added to muffins, pies, cakes, dry cereals, and dairy (ice cream, milkshakes, smoothies, and yogurts).    
  Click here for the rest of my online article on strawberries for OKRA Magazine. For a full nutrition    article archive, click here.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Sweet Potatoes (There and Back Again)

Follow this link to a re-post of my sweet potato article from September 2012 on OKRA's new web site.

Slice of Life: Sweet Potato (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)
One cup or one medium sweet potato with its skin (5”) contains 114 calories, 4 grams fiber, 2.1 grams protein, 40 mg sodium, and is negligible in saturated fat and cholesterol. Sweet potatoes are most notable as excellent sources of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, a cancer-fighter and antioxidant that helps to prevent sun damage and premature aging. Sweet potatoes with dark orange flesh are richest in carotenoid pigments and bioavailable beta-carotene.

As a rich source of complex carbohydrates, sweet potatoes provide sustained energy. With regard to complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, protein, vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium, the sweet potato ranks higher in nutritional value than the white potato, spinach, or broccoli.

Health benefits associated with sweet potatoes include blood sugar regulation, reduced inflammation, and successful blood clotting. As starchy root vegetables, many people would expect sweet potatoes to quickly elevate blood sugar levels, because concentrated starches are easily converted by the digestive tract into simple sugars. However, sweet potatoes contain dietary fiber (4 grams per medium sweet potato) and help to modify insulin metabolism, and actually improve blood sugar regulation, even in Type 2 diabetics. Boiling sweet potatoes seems to favorably impact glucose regulation more than roasting or baking.

Reduced inflammation following the consumption of sweet potatoes has been linked to vitamins A and C in particular, especially in purple sweet potatoes. These anti-inflammatory properties are due to the phytochemical and antioxidant anthocyanin and other color-related pigments; the purple sweet potato owes its rich color from phytochemical anthocyanin and other polyphenols. In addition to reducing inflammation, these substances help to reduce cardiovascular disease, improve vision, and increase memory.

Some of the same color-related phytochemicals in sweet potatoes impact fibrinogen, which is critical for successful blood clotting (stopping blood loss and closing wounds).  It is important for individuals who take medications for clotting issues to keep this in mind if sweet potato consumption is high.

Continue reading the full OKRA article here. For a full nutrition article archive, click here.