Low-fat, Vitamin Rich Superfoods: Do You Need To Eat More Blackcurrants?
Blackcurrant Syrup, Blackcurrant Squash, Blackcurrant Cordial - Ribena For The Kids?
When you think of blackcurrants, what does it bring to mind? For most Brits of a certain age, just one thing is going to spring to mind. That's the old Ribena ads, full of smiling cartoon blackcurrants racing across field and stream, in order to wind up squashed and liquefied in a delicious sugary blackcurrant cordial! (Or perhaps for Agatha Christie fans, Poirot and his beloved sweet cassis are an alternative association for this small nutritious fruit.) Or maybe plain ol' blackcurrant jam or jelly, which is always good and delicious on nice hot toast. Or expensive fruit leather, from your nearest whole-food store.
Blackcurrants And Nutrition?
But what else do blackcurrants have to offer (other than a sweet fruity drink for kids?) Blackcurrants are a fruit belonging to the family Grossulariaceae, and have the Latin name Ribes nigrum. They are small black (or densely purple) spheres, with a taste that to my palate is a little tart and short on sugar. This makes them great and versatile for many culinary purposes, however! In Britain and other parts of Europe they are vastly popular, especially as a constituent of jams, jellies and cordials. In America, however, they are perhaps a little less well known (especially in the states where it is still against regulations to grow them due to a link with pine disease.) This is a shame, considering their wonderful potential health benefits.
But how do blackcurrants measure up when compared with other fruit?
According to the blackcurrantfoundation.co.uk website, they rank very highly against other fruits when considering the parameters of health benefits and nutrition. (Although they would say that, I guess!) According to the nutritiondata website, blackcurrants in their raw state, for a hundred and twelve gram serving, score just 71 calories, seventeen grams of carbohydrate content, zero total fat content and two grams of protein content. Their fibre content comes in at 4.9 grams per hundred grams.6 According to the requirements laid out by the National Academy of Sciences in 2002, the daily fibre requirement for a female is twenty-five grams, for a male thirty-eight – which means blackcurrants could clearly make a very respectable contribution to your daily fibre intake.7 And if you're following a low-fat diet, they're clearly awesome!
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How about vitamins and minerals?
Can blackcurrants make a useful dietary addition in this respect? In fact blackcurrants are famous – especially in the UK – for their Vitamin C content. At 338% of the recommended daily amount per 112 gram portion (according to nutritiondata.com), they are superior even to navel oranges, with 163% of the RDA per 165 gram serving. As far as minerals go, they are notable for their useful calcium and iron content.
What other good things do blackcurrants contain? Phytonutrients are the new nutritional buzzword – just take a look at the groaning shelves of your local pharmacy or healthfood shop. Do blackcurrants contain phytonutrients? You betcha! Blackcurrants are packed full of anthocyanins, a type of polyphenol, which is a class of antioxidant. Antioxidants can neutralise 'free radicals' in the body: these are charged molecules that are potentially harmful. How much anthocyanins do blackcurrants contain? According to many sources they are notably rich in these potentially helpful substances.
If you've just bought yourself a punnet or two of blackcurrants and you're wondering just what to do with them, then what are your options? Personally I always enjoy an apple and blackcurrant crumble with plenty of custard – delicious! Alternatively a fresh fruit salad with greek yoghurt is hard to beat. Maybe you could add some to sparkling wine for a fabulous glass of kir. Or some people even like to add them to hot cross buns! Whatever you choose, I'll bet it'll be yummy – and with health benefits into the bargain!
1. Vaughan, J., Geissler, C. "The New Oxford Book of Food Plants." New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
2. Gross, P. "Superfruits." U.S.A.: The McGraw-Hill Companies, 2010.
3. The Blackcurrant Foundation. "Overview." 2009 (11/04/2010). <http://www.blackcurrantfoundation.co.uk/nutrition_health.html>
4. The Blackcurrant Foundation. "FAQs." 2009 (11/04/2010). <http://www.blackcurrantfoundation.co.uk/faqs.html>
5. "Currants, european black, raw." Nutritiondata website. 2009. (11/04/2010). <http://www.nutritiondata.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1878/2>
6. Hanas, R. "Type 1 diabetes in children, adolescents, and young adults." London: Class Publishing, 2007, p.224.
7. Haas, E.M., Levin, B. "Staying healthy with nutrition: the complete guide to diet and nutritional medicine." Berkeley: Celestial Arts, 2006, p.34.
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