black currant

Health Benefits of Black Currant

Blackcurrant is more than just an exotic ice cream flavor. These berries are potent antioxidant, antispasmodic, anti-diabetic, and anticancer agents.

Black currants (Ribes nigrum) have an interesting history in the United States. While they’ve been a popular snack in Europe for centuries, these purple-black berries were illegal in the states until recently. Now, they’re making a comeback.

Black currants are native to the more temperate areas of Northern Europe and Northern Asia. Written records of their use date back to the 1500s. While they once grew in the US, they were banned in the early 1910s after they were discovered to host a fungus that killed white pine trees. The ban stayed on the books in most states for years, and the berry remains uncommon in the U.S.

Black currants have a strong flavor that many say is an acquired taste. Though they usually have a tart flavor, they become sweet when ripe. They’re also filled with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, all of which provide major health benefits.

Blackcurrants have a high concentration of:

  • antioxidants
  • vitamin C
  • gamma-linolenic acid (GLA)
  • anthocyanins
  • polyphenolic substances

Health Benefits

Black currants are full of antioxidants, including anthocyanins. Anthocyanins give black currants their characteristic dark color and fight free radicals in the body, reducing oxidative stress and cell damage.

Black currants have one of the highest antioxidant values for fruit, making them effective in treating or preventing a number of health issues.

Boosts immune system

In addition to vitamin C, blackcurrants have plenty of antioxidants and anthocyanins. These can help strength your immune system, soothe sore throats, and ease flu symptoms.

Blackcurrant leaves also have a range of properties, including:

  • antimicrobial
  • anti-inflammatory
  • antiviral
  • antitoxic
  • antiseptic
  • anticancer

One study showed that blackcurrant supplements enhanced the immune response in people who exercised regularly. They could also train harder for longer periods of time.

Another study of healthy older adults showed that blackcurrant seed oil boosted the immune system.

Reduced Inflammation

Black currants are rich in an omega-6 fatty acid called gamma-linoleic acid. This compound can help to reduce inflammation, as well as improve symptoms of inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. Some studies also showed that gamma-linoleic acid helped to lessen joint pain and stiffness for people with arthritis.

Boost Kidney Health

The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of blackcurrants prevent chronic kidney disorders. They protect your excretory system from inflammation and infections. The extracts also inhibit the formation of kidney stones.

Blackcurrant juice/tea makes your urine more alkaline (increases its pH). It also promotes the excretion of excess citric acid and oxalic acid from your body. If not, these two acids can react to form kidney stones when left to pile up.

A hundred grams of black currants has about 4.3mg of oxalate. That makes these fruits safe for individuals with kidney disorders and bladder stones.

Lower Blood Cholesterol Levels

High levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol elevate the risk of cardiovascular, liver, and other metabolic disorders. Research shows that diets rich in anthocyanins cause a decrease in total cholesterol and LDL levels. They also increase serum HDL (good) cholesterol levels.

Animal studies with blackcurrant extracts are supporting evidence to this effect. Subjects treated with this extract showed significantly lower cholesterol levels than the untreated/control ones.

Moreover, blackcurrant juices are abundant in antioxidants. These juices prevent the oxidation of lipids in your body. This way, they can prevent/delay the onset of obesity and chronic conditions like atherosclerosis and Alzheimer’s.

Have Antidiabetic Effects

Blackcurrant has anthocyanins like cyanidin 3-rutinoside, delphinidin 3-glucoside, and peonidin 3-rutinoside. When consumed in fair amounts, these phytochemicals improve insulin sensitivity, particularly in individuals with type 2 diabetes.

Carbohydrate-metabolizing enzymes (like α-Glucosidase and pancreatic α-amylase) are the targets of anthocyanins. They block the activity of these enzymes. As a result, the rapid breakdown of carbohydrates is slowed down. Ultimately, anthocyanins can prevent sudden spikes in your blood sugar/glucose levels.

May Help Manage Eye Disorders

The black currant anthocyanins improve the functions of your eyes/vision. These molecules increase the blood flow in the optical nerves and eyes. Regular consumption of such foods and supplements may decelerate the loss of vision or related symptoms in patients with glaucoma.

Anthocyanins may have positive effects on chronic eye ailments. These include diabetic retinopathy, retinal vein occlusion, and retinal artery occlusion.

These active molecules are absorbed and transferred beyond the blood-retina barrier when taken orally. They reach various parts of the ocular tissues and preserve their function. Thus, blackcurrants or their extracts can slow down the effects of aging and disease on eyes

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Protect Your Brain

Like vitamin C, black currant extract inhibits lipid peroxidation in your body. Experimental studies report about 65% inhibition, thanks to its antioxidant capacity. This activity is most beneficial in protecting your central nervous system (CNS).

In the absence of this effect, free radicals accumulate in your system. Free radicals are known to trigger neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s diseases.

Usually, the accumulation of free radicals leads to inflammation of the brain cells (neurons). Blackcurrants reduce neuroinflammation because they contain anti-inflammatory molecules. A cumulative effect of these properties causes improved memory, learning, and cognitive abilities.

May Promote Liver Health

Alcohol abuse causes permanent changes in the structure and function of liver cells. The proteins and phospholipids get structurally modified. This may have a direct effect on the liver’s functionality.

Another problem that stems from alcohol abuse is the formation of free radicals/reactive oxygen species (ROS). These ROS can react with phospholipids in the liver cell membranes and trigger inflammation.

Adding polyphenol-rich foods like blackcurrants to your diet can pause/stop such detrimental effects. Blackcurrants protect the structural lipids and proteins from the attack by ROS. In several animal studies, the skins of these berries show anti-proliferative effects on cancerous liver cells

Possess Antimicrobial Properties

Recent studies have reported potent antiviral properties in the leaves of wild blackcurrants. Their extracts can particularly eliminate Influenza A viruses (IAV) that cause highly contagious human diseases. The typical symptoms of IAV infections are fever, sore throat, headache, muscle pain, and nasal inflammation.

The leaf extracts prevent the entry and internalization of these viruses at the molecular/genetic level. The essential oil of these leaves also has antibacterial and antifungal properties.

Active compounds like caryophyllene, sabinene, terpinolene, ocimene were identified in this oil. Escherichia coli, Streptococcus faecalis, Staphylococcus aureus, Candida albicans, and Trichophyton mentagrophytes are a few microbes susceptible to blackcurrant seed oil treatment.

Repair And Nourish Skin

Various skin diseases arise due to inflammation, infections, or aging. They leave you with dry skin, lesions, itching, redness, scabs, etc. Atopic dermatitis is an example of a serious skin condition seen in children and adults.

Your skin would need intense repairing and conditioning in such cases. Clinical studies discovered a specific polysaccharide in blackcurrants that exerts anti-inflammatory effects. This molecule controls the production of inflammatory compounds by your immune system.

Blackcurrant seeds contain good amounts of fatty acids, like linolenic acid. Their oil suppresses the inflammation mediators in your skin. So, blackcurrants and the seed oil can nourish and nurse your skin to health without any side effects.

How to Eat Black Currants

You’re more likely to find dried black currants than fresh, but some stores do carry them. When buying these berries fresh, look for deep purple, glossy skin. Keep in mind that, once picked, black currants can go bad quickly. You can slow the process by storing them in the refrigerator or freezer.

While black currants have a strong taste, they’re delicious to eat raw when they’re ripe. You can also use them in a variety of recipes. Some ways to prepare black currants include:

  • Cooking with sugar and other fruits to make a jam.
  • Baking them into muffins, quick breads, or fruit pies.
  • Making fresh black currant juice.
  • Making a refreshing black currant sorbet or ice cream.
  • Mixing them with vodka for a fruity twist.
  • Creating a sauce for grouse or duck.

Bottom Line

Though black currants provide many essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, they may also slow blood clotting for some people. If you have a bleeding disorder or take blood thinning medications like aspirin, you should speak with your doctor before adding black currants to your diet.

Black currants may also lower blood pressure. While this is generally considered a health benefit, it can cause problems if you have low blood pressure or take blood pressure medications. Low blood pressure can lead to dizziness, fainting, rapid breathing, and blurry vision.

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