News & tips on health, fitness and nutrition

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Blackcurrant is No 1 superfruit

The blackcurrant is far more nutritious than more exotic fruits such as goji berries and blueberries, favoured by celebrities, including Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna the blackcurrant contains greater levels of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than 20 other fruits 

  • In addition to blackcurrants, researchers analysed apples, apricots, bananas, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, grapefruit, grapes, lemons, mangoes, melons, oranges, passion fruit, peaches, pears, pomegranate, raspberries and strawberries. 
  • Eating blackcurrants can help prevent cancer, Alzheimer's, heart disease, eye strain, MRSA and diabetes, among other ailments. 
  • For some time goji berries, shipped in from the Himalayas, and American blueberries, were thought to offer the best health benefits. 
  • Inexpensive fruit: At £2 for a 60g bag, gojis do not come cheap, whereas pick-your-own farms in Britain offer blackcurrants at about £3.99 per kilo, about 24p for 60g. Blackcurrants are seasonal and harvested in July and August. The total British blackcurrant crop can range from 12,000 to 14,000 tons a year. 

Nutrients and phytochemicals 

  • A superb immunity booster: the fruit has extraordinarily high vitamin C content (302% of the Daily Value per 100 g), good levels of potassium, phosphorus, iron and vitamin B5, and a broad range of other essential nutrients. 
  • Other phytochemicals in the fruit (polyphenols/anthocyanins) have been demonstrated in laboratory experiments with potential to inhibit inflammation mechanisms suspected to be at the origin of heart disease, cancer, microbial infections or neurological disorders like Alzheimer's disease.
  • Blackcurrant seed oil is also rich in many nutrients, especially vitamin E and several unsaturated fatty acids including alpha-linolenic acid and gamma-linolenic acid.
  • Blackcurrants contain a compound called anthocyanosides, which can help improve vision
  • When not in fruit, the plant looks similar to the redcurrant shrub, distinguished by a strong fragrance from leaves and stems. The fruit is an edible berry 1 cm diameter, very dark purple in color, almost black, with a glossy skin and a persistent calyx at the apex, and containing several seeds dense in nutrients. 
  • An established bush can produce up to 5 kilograms of berries during summer. 
  •  Blackcurrants were once popular in the United States as well, but became rare in the 20th century after currant farming was banned in the early 1900s, when blackcurrants, as a vector of white pine blister rust, were considered a threat to the U.S. logging industry.
  • The federal ban on growing currants was shifted to jurisdiction of individual states in 1966, and was lifted in New York State in 2003 through the efforts of horticulturist Greg Quinn. As a result, currant growing is making a comeback in New York, Vermont, Connecticut and Oregon. However, several statewide bans still exist including Maine and New Hampshire.
Origin / Growing regions: 
Although the blackcurrant is native to moderate climate zones, it is grown primarily in Central and Eastern Europe and several Asian countries today. Blackcurrants have been cultivated as a soft fruit in the gardens of Central Europe since the 18th century.

Currants belong to the family of Grossulariaceae (relatives of the gooseberry). The fruits of the blackcurrant grow on summer-green bushes whose typical odour distinguishes them from those of the redcurrant.

The dark-purple colour of the fruits is an expression of the high anthocyanin concentration in the skin. Due to their high acid content, blackcurrants are seldom processed into pure juice but are primarily used in more readily digestible nectars.

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