Blackcurrant, whose scientific name is Ribes nigrum, is the fruit of a shrub native to Asia and Europe. It is also called cassis or black sarsaparilla. It belongs to the same family as the red and white currant, but its raw consumption is less frequent than the other varieties.
It is born in clusters formed by small berries with smooth and dark skin; in addition, its flavor is acidic and astringent. You could say that they have a strong flavor, but when they mature, they acquire a certain sweetness. Either way, they are linked to several positive health effects.
In the seventeenth century a document called “the admirable properties of Cassis” was published in which its medicinal benefits were disseminated. Since then, it has been known as an ally against skin, inflammatory and aging-related diseases. Do you want to know more about it? Keep reading!
Nutritional Value of Blackcurrant
Blackcurrant is low in calories, making it ideal for weight-loss or weight-maintenance diets. This fruit provides good amounts of fiber, a nutrient that improves intestinal transit. Likewise, it stands out for its abundant vitamin C content.
According to U.S. Department of Agriculture, every 100 grams of blackcurrants provide the following:
- Water: 82 g,
- Calories: 63 kcal,
- Proteins: 1.4 g,
- Carbohydrates: 15.4 g,
- Crude fiber: 4.0 g,
- Vitamin A: 12 µg,
- Thiamine, B1: 0.05 mg,
- Riboflavin, B2: 0.05 mg,
- Niacin: 0.3 mg,
- Vitamin C: 181 mg,
- Calcium: 55 mg,
- Phosphorus: 59 mg,
- Potassium: 322 mg,
- Iron: 1.54 mg.
Blackcurrants are also rich in antioxidants, which have a favorable impact on health and vitality. The most prominent are the following:
- Proanthocyanidins: These compounds are precursors of anthocyanins, which give red, white, or green color to gooseberries. The most common are delphinidin and cyanidin.
- Vitamin C: contains 181 milligrams per 100 grams of fruit. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that participates in the neutralization of free radicals and the functions of the immune system.
- Flavonoids: contains derivatives of flavonoids such as quercetin, myricetin and kaempferol.
Health Benefits of Blackcurrants
As stated in a review published in the Journal of Food Science, black currant is an interesting source of phytochemicals with antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects. Hence, much of its benefits. Let’s see in detail.
1. Kidney health
The presence of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories in black currants could prevent chronic kidney disease. According to a publication in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the extract of this fruit helps to inhibit the formation of kidney stones and protects the excretory system from infection and inflammation.
In this same document, the specialists explain that cassia extract, juice and tea increase the pH of the urine, which makes it more alkaline. By the way, it stimulates the elimination of oxalic acid and citric acid when they accumulate in excess.
The consumption of anti-inflammatory foods such as blackcurrants helps in the prevention of inflammatory diseases. Some of these are liver, kidney, heart, neurodegenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer’s and dementia), among others.
In Nutrients magazine they refer to the anthocyanins present in black currants. This study determined that cassia extracts are capable of suppressing the activity of pro-inflammatory components in the immune system of laboratory animals.
On the other hand, the currant seed provides omega-6 fatty acids, gamma-linolenic acid or GLA. According to another study, it reduces inflammation in the body. In this way, both the anthocyanins and the GLA found in blackcurrant could reduce pain and inflammation in the joints and muscles.
3. Immune system
Vitamin C and anthocyanins can strengthen the immune system. Furthermore, research in rats found that gamma-linolenic acid may have an immunomodulatory effect.
On the other hand, in a group of healthy elderly who were supplemented with black currant seed oil, a moderate immunological enhancing effect was found attributable to the presence of the fatty acid GLA.
Animal studies found that black currant extract may have an antispasmodic effect on the gastrointestinal tract. These qualities may have to do with its flavonoid content. This could even be a reason to declare it as a functional food.
Other research has also looked at the antispasmodic effect of blackcurrant. The presence of flavonoids in the fruit and leaves inhibit spasms in the stomach and intestines. Its astringent effect allows its use in case of diarrhea.
5. Visual health
A study published in Journal of Ocular Pharmacology and Therapeutics found that regular consumption of black currants can stop vision loss or symptoms associated with glaucoma.
The study highlights that anthocyanins increase blood flow in the optic nerves and in the eyes. In addition, they can improve diabetic retinopathy and retinal vein and artery occlusion.
6. Type 2 diabetes
Research concluded that the different anthocyanins of blackcurrant, such as cyanidin, delphinidin and peonidin can improve insulin sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes.
On the other hand, the journal Nutrients reports that anthocyanins are capable of inhibiting the activity of enzymes that break down carbohydrates. In this way, the digestion of carbohydrates as a source of glucose is slowed down, and unexpected spikes in blood sugar levels are prevented.
7. Heart health
Consuming black currant is also good for taking care of the heart. Research done into the effect of anthocyanins in the control of cholesterol in the blood revealed that diets rich in this pigment lower the levels of total cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol or LDL. In turn, it was associated with an increase in “good” cholesterol, or HDL.
In another study, pure blackcurrant juice was analyzed as an antioxidant drink. In this it was determined that its intake for one week was useful in preventing the oxidation of body fat.
In turn, through the Journal of Nutrition it was reported that blackcurrant powder increases the blood flow of the heart and decreases the general peripheral resistance.
8. Skin health
A group of skin health specialists found that a cassis polysaccharide, or CAPS, has anti-inflammatory effects. This makes it possible to control the production of pro-inflammatory compounds in the immune system.
In turn, the fatty acids in the seed of this fruit help to suppress the inflammatory mediators of the skin. For this reason, the American Journal of Clinical Nurition recommends applying black currant seed oil to care for and nourish the skin without complications.
9. Neurodegenerative diseases
It has been reported about the potential of blackcurrants as antioxidant, reporting an inhibition of 65% of lipid peroxidation in the body. In laboratory animals, the protective role of black currants on the central nervous system was observed.
It seems that these fruits help reduce neuroinflammation, which also improves memory, learning and cognitive abilities. In addition, since it inhibits the action of free radicals, it acts as a protector against diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Where to find them and how to consume them?
The cassis or black currant can be found in supermarkets and greengrocers. It is also available in other forms, such as oils, syrups, shakes, puddings, liqueurs, pills, capsules, and powders.
It is also present in certain products. For example, due to its acidic and astringent taste, it is used in the following:
- Ice creams,
- Cassis cream (recipe appreciated in France).
It has a high content of pectin type fiber and other properties that make it a good option to improve certain recipes, especially those that require spicy sweetness.
Some recommended doses according to the herbal medicine book are the following:
- A glass of cassis or blackcurrant juice a day.
- 5 to 10 milliliters of cassis syrup per day.
- About 4 capsules of 250 milligrams per day, 2 times a day.
- 1 to 2 teaspoons of leaves, blackcurrant tea, three to four times a day.
The blackcurrant is one of the varieties of berries with more nutrient concentration. Its content of antioxidants, vitamin C and fatty acids enhance its health benefits. In addition, it is versatile in relation to gastronomy, since it has different forms of consumption, such as jams, combined with yogurts, ice cream, juices, etc.