Why you should pick purple

Seven top healthy compounds in berry fruits

There is heaps of recent scientific research that indicate positive effects of blackcurrants on both the mind and body – from inhibiting the flu virus and reducing inflammation to enhancing gut health, improving skin, lifting moods and improving cognitive function. So what is it in these berries that packs the power?

In this article we aim to give you an idea of the compounds which seem to be proving to provide the health benefits. On-going research programmes in New Zealand and around the world continue to explore how and why blackcurrants may be beneficial in so many areas of health and wellness.  The value of vitamin C is already well understood to contribute to reduction of tiredness, normal immune and psychological and neurological function, protection from free radical damage and more. As yet, science is not in a position to make other definitive claims about the phenolic antioxidants, including the deep red anthocyanins. This will take more clinical trials and the compilation of material to substantiate approved health claims.  However, enough is understood to know that blackcurrants really do deliver a daily dose of goodness.

So what’s in blackcurrants?

Most people are unaware of the nutritional benefits of the great Kiwi blackcurrant. Like most fruits, blackcurrants contain a lot of water, but they are also bursting with a wide variety of important antioxidants, fibre and energy. Here are 7 top healthy blackcurrant nutritional compounds;

  1. Vitamin C. Perhaps the best known of the antioxidants, vitamin C is also called Ascorbic Acid. It is a water-soluble nutrient that is believed to “sponge up” free radicals (dangerous by-products of the natural oxidation processes in the body). These free radicals can cause irreversible damage to healthy cells – this is why antioxidants are considered an essential part of a body’s defences. Vitamin C may also be a key component in the body’s manufacture of collagen, its wound-healing protein. Blackcurrants contain massive doses of the antioxidant, vitamin C – about four times more vitamin C than oranges and 16 times more than blueberries.

  2. Quercetin: This is a flavonol that works as an antioxidant and potential anticarcinogen. It has also been shown to reduce the release of histamine, which may make it an effective treatment for allergies. Quercetin is presenting in many red and dark berries, especially blackcurrants and boysenberries.

  3. Salicylic Acid: The salicylic acid found in dark berry fruits may prove to have the same protective effect against heart disease as aspirin (which is synthetic form of salicylic acid). Pharmacists know aspirin as “salicylic acid acetate”, and have long been aware of the ability of small daily doses to inhibit arteriosclerosis (“hardening of the arteries”). It’s now believed that salicylic acids consumed in foods may provide a similar benefit.

  4. Catechins: These are flavonols that support the antioxidant defence system. As well as berries, catechins are the active substances found in green tea and studies are showing that they may contribute to cancer prevention.

  5. Ellagic Acid: This is a member of the family of phenolic compounds, which are known to influence the quality, acceptability and stability of foods by acting as flavourants, colourants or antioxidants. More importantly, it is a substance that appears to block various hormone reactions and metabolic pathways associated with the development of cancer.

  6. Fibre: Blackcurrants contain soluble and insoluble fibre as well as important carbohydrates to give you energy. Soluble fibre helps to slow down the release of nutrients, particularly glucose, into the blood stream which is healthier for the body. Insoluble fibre speeds up the movement of food through the large intestine. This will help keep you regular and make you feel full, maybe even helping to reduce the risk of cancer, reduce blood cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease.

  7. Anthocyanins: Many of the antioxidant characteristics associated with berries can be attributed to the anthocyanin content. These anthocyanins are a major component of the phenolic/flavenoid class, and they are the deep pigments that give berries their rich dark colours. Researchers are currently potentially linking anthocyanin activity to improving vision, controlling diabetes, improving circulation, preventing cancer, and retarding the effects of aging (particularly memory loss and motor skills). Numerous studies have shown that blackcurrants are an important source of anthocyanins with concentrations up to four times more than in other common fruits tested.
They may be small, but blackcurrants are one of the richest natural sources of important antioxidants like anthocyanins and Vitamin C, as well as containing soluble and insoluble fibres, good amounts of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals (substances made by the plant).

  • Ashwin Gopalan, Sharon C. Reuben, Shamima Ahmed, Altaf S. Darvesh, Judit Hohmann, Anupam Bishayee. The health benefits of blackcurrants. Food & function 2012, 3, 795-809.
  • The Concise New Zealand Food Composition Tables 11th Edition 2014. Retrieved from http://www.nzblackcurrants.com/vitamin-c/