Eat berries to your heart’s content

Berries and other produce are good for heart health. Pexels

It’s American Heart Month and as we end February, we can continue with the heart-shaped and red theme by observing National Strawberry Day today.

It will be a few months before we have local strawberries — my dad always used to tell me strawberries would be ready for my birthday (in June). However, frozen, with no-sugar added, are a great economical winter substitute — and perfect for smoothies or in oatmeal (remember, it’s my favorite).

Strawberries and all produce, in fact, are good for heart healthy eating. Vegetables and fruits are good sources of vitamins and minerals. Like other plants or plant-based foods, they contain substances that may help prevent cardiovascular disease. Eating more produce can help you cut back on higher calorie foods, such as meat, cheese and snack foods.

So how much should you eat? USDA MyPlate recommendations make it easy to visualize — for each meal or snack, fill half of your plate with vegetables and fruits. If you have kids or grandkids, let them help you pick out produce (fresh, frozen or canned — it’s all good!) at the grocery store, at the farmers market, or online. Kids are much more likely to eat what they have picked out.

Let them help you prepare and serve it too. It may take slightly longer in the kitchen, but will save food fights at the table. Eat a rainbow of colors each day — red strawberries, orange carrots, yellow squash, green beans, blueberries, purple eggplant. This is another activity you can do with kids — challenge them to think of a rainbow of produce to try. This is particularly fun at the farmers market when they can go from booth to booth to see what is available. Can you tell I’m dreaming of summer over here? (my birthday, strawberries, farmers markets ... )

When June does come around, check out the CCE local food guide and help me celebrate (and support local farmers) by buying some fresh strawberries to enjoy. For now, end American Heart Month by filling half your plate with that rainbow of produce colors.

Email Amanda Root at arr27@cornell.edu.

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