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Nutrient-rich, versatile and jam-packed with health benefits, the black currant may not be well-known around the world, but it should be.
With emerging evidence showing that the black currant possesses antioxidant, antibacterial and antiviral properties and may be useful in slowing cancer growth, enhancing immunity and even preventing eye disease, this sour berry should be a must-try on everyone’s list.
Not only can you enjoy this flavorful berry all on its own, but it can also make a delicious addition to everything from baked goods to glazes and more. For even more added convenience, you can also pop a quick capsule of black currant oil to get an instant megadose of its many health benefits.
Whether you’re just hearing of black currants for the first time or they’ve been a longtime favorite in your household, these tart berries are high in health benefits and can be a nutritious addition to any diet.
Known by its scientific name Ribes nigrum, the black currant (also sometimes called blackcurrant) belongs to the gooseberry family of plants. This small shrub is native to certain parts of northern and central Europe as well as Siberia and thrives in the cold temperatures found in these regions.
The black currant bush can produce up to 10 pounds each year of dark purple edible berries that have a tart taste and can be eaten raw or used to make flavorful jams, jellies and juices.
Black currants are nutrient-dense foods, meaning they are low in calories but contain many important nutrients. They are particularly high in vitamin C and can meet and exceed your daily needs in just one serving.
The deep purple pigment of the black currant is attributed to its high anthocyanin content. Anthocyanins are plant pigments that produce a red, purple or blue hue depending on their pH.
Black currants contain a good variety of different anthocyanins, with some studies showing that they contain up to 15 unique types.
In addition to their role as a plant pigment, anthocyanins also possess many health-promoting properties. Research has shown that anthocyanins may play a role in cancer prevention, heart health, obesity and even diabetes.
They also act as antioxidants, which are compounds that neutralize harmful free radicals to prevent cell damage as well as chronic disease.
In addition to black currants, other anthocyanin-rich foods include berries, eggplant, red cabbage and grapes. Including a good amount of these foods in your diet can have a lasting impact on your health.
One of the most impressive benefits of the black currant plant is its powerful effect on cancer. Thanks to its high anthocyanin content, some research has found that black currant extract may help slow the growth of cancer.
In one test-tube study conducted by Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy, black currant extract was shown to help inhibit the growth of liver cancer cells. Another study out of Japan found that black currant extract blocked the spread of breast and endometrial cancer cells.
Other research published in the Journal of Medicinal Food has shown that black currant extract may also be effective in killing off stomach and esophageal cancer cells.
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that can cause blurred and distorted vision and may even lead to blindness. This is typically a result of damage to the optic nerve, the nerve that connects the brain to the eyes.
Some studies show that the compounds found in black currants could help prevent glaucoma and promote the health of your eyes.
When used in combination with traditional treatments, black currant may be effective in promoting eye health and preventing vision loss.
Black currant is bursting with vitamin C. In fact, just one cup of raw black currants can provide triple the amount you need for the entire day.
Vitamin C is well-known for its immune-enhancing properties. Studies show that vitamin C can shorten the duration of respiratory tract infections and protect against malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea infections, among others.
Vitamin C also acts as an antioxidant, which can help prevent damage to tissues caused by harmful free radicals and may even reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and stroke.
For best results, pair black currant with other high vitamin C foods, such as fruits and vegetables, to keep your immune system strong.
In addition to its powerful abilities as an antioxidant, black currant also contains antimicrobial properties that could help protect against harmful bacteria and viruses.
Another study from the Department of Microbiology at Asahikawa Medical College in Japan demonstrated that treating strains of influenza with a concentrated amount of black currant extract was able to completely suppress virus growth.
Other research has found that blackcurrant oil may be effective against H. pylori, a type of bacteria that can cause stomach ulcers, abdominal pain and nausea.
Black currant may also be helpful in treating other types of illnesses caused by bacterial infections, such as whooping cough.
Herpes is a common viral infection that affects millions of people worldwide. Symptoms can vary, causing fever blisters on or around the mouth in some people and painful, itchy genital sores in others.
Some studies show that the compounds found in black currant may help kill off the virus that causes both oral and genital herpes.
A study published in Phytotherapy Research showed that black currant extract stopped the herpes virus from adhering to cells and prevented the spread of the virus.
Coupled with traditional treatments and other natural remedies like L-lysine and zinc, black currant may be a useful addition to the diet to help prevent herpes outbreaks.