St. Charles Herald-Guide

Louisiana sweet treats in season

By M. Susanne Hinkle - April 19, 2006

"This year was a very successful crop," says Rene' Schmit, County Agent for St. Charles Parish, and April is an especially good time of year to enjoy Louisiana strawberries.

In addition, it is Cancer Control Month and researchers say that strawberries can reduce the risk of certain cancers. Most people know strawberries are delicious, but they are also nutritious, adding them to your daily diet may help your body fight certain diseases.

Louisiana strawberries are usually available from early March through mid May. Most Louisiana berries are grown in Livingston and Tangipahoa parishes, but some locals in the parish have begun growing strawberries in their home gardens. While these home grown plants don't produce an extensive crop, many feel that growing their own strawberries is a pleasurable experience.

"This year many strawberry crops are big. The quality and quantity is there. People should have no problem finding beautiful and nutritious strawberries locally," said Schmit.

According to the USDA, it is recommended that every American eat at least five servings of fresh fruit and vegetables daily. Unfortunately, most people don't even come close to that. Nutritionists add that strawberries are also an excellent source of folic acid, a B vitamin that can help prevent devastating birth defects involving brain and nerve disorders, such as spina bifida and anencephaly, which can cause death or permanent paralysis to the baby.

Another area of strawberries’ benefits are for pregnant women, as they contain large amounts of folic acid. Studies show that women consume the recommended amounts of folic acid before and during pregnancy, the number of infants born with these defects can be cut by at least half.

Since this birth defect occurs in the first month of pregnancy, the U.S. Public Health Service recommends that women of child-bearing age consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily before becoming pregnant.

Folic acid may have other significant health attributes. Preliminary research indicates a potential for decreasing the risk of some types of cancer. It is also being studied for possible benefits in reducing the risk of death from heart disease.

Researchers say that folic acid has many health benefits and that adding a healthy dose of strawberries to your diet can help reduce the risk of certain cancers.
Researchers say that folic acid has many health benefits and that adding a healthy dose of strawberries to your diet can help reduce the risk of certain cancers.