Did you ever eat a whole pint of strawberries all by yourself? Cathy did, and it saved the day.
She called me at work to say she was starving and wanted to indulge in some diet-breaking treat. I suggested, instead, that she walk to the store and stop at the produce department instead of the cookie aisle.
It worked. Succulent strawberries were too tempting to pass up. And eating them all was a complete indulgence instead of a diet deprivation. Best of all, she ended the day feeling virtuous instead of guilty, and that helped keep her diet on track.
Some people tell me they never think about eating fruit, even though they like it. In fact, a 1990 survey by the Five a Day for Better Health campaign found that, on any given day, 45 per cent of Americans ate no fruit at all. Amazing!
Since those earliest surveys, U.S. fruit and vegetable consumption has increased a little, getting close to the minimum two fruits and three vegetables daily. But most people could benefit by eating even more than that. One recent study, for instance, showed people who eat eight to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily can lower their blood pressure just as much as if they took medication. In addition, hundreds of studies show that people who eat the most fruits and vegetables have the lowest rates of heart disease, cancer and stroke. Mounting evidence helps us understand why.
That pint of strawberries, for instance, satisfies your two fruit servings, yet totals only 90 nutrition-packed calories. Some research shows that people who eat the most calories have the (( highest cancer risks. So here's a great chance to get a lot of satisfaction without eating much.
And while reveling in strawberries' juicy goodness, you'll get more than twice the recommended vitamin C to help you heal faster, whether from a small paper cut or major surgery. It will also help keep your gums healthy so you're less likely to lose your teeth. Also, evidence suggests vitamin C may help prevent plaque buildup in your arteries, reducing your chance of having a heart attack.
As you savor the flavor of fresh strawberries you'll capture some elusive folic acid, the B vitamin shown to reduce birth defects. Older adults can take heart, too. Folic acid may reduce heart attacks as well as colorectal cancer.
And two cups of strawberries contain about 500 milligrams of potassium, as much as a medium banana or eight ounces of orange juice. A recent analysis of 33 studies shows people who average 2,340 milligrams of potassium daily can reduce their blood pressure significantly, even when they don't reduce their sodium intake. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke.
By weight, strawberries (like most fruit) are about 90 percent water. Two cups contribute about one-half cup of water, a delicious part of your eight glasses a day.
Finally, that pint of strawberries will provide about eight grams of fiber. Most Americans get only half the recommended 25 grams of fiber daily, so that's a great head start. Fiber helps reduce your chance of developing colon cancer. It can also help lower your blood cholesterol level, reducing your risks for heart disease.
Strawberries, although available all year long, reach their luscious peak in May and June. It's time to indulge.
Pub Date: 6/17/97