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Currant: Health Benefits, Nutritional Facts, and Side Effects

Currants are small berries like gooseberries that grow on medium shrub-like plants. They belong to the Ribes genus of flowering plants, and you can usually find them in the northern hemisphere since they favour warm summers and cold winters. There are nearly 200 species that come under the Ribes Genus (Flowering plant). Typically classified by colour, currants are of four different varieties: black, white, red, and pink. They are rich in vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium, among other nutrients. Black currants are among the fruits with the highest antioxidant value, giving them numerous health benefits.

Unfortunately, currants were banned in the US in 1911. These seemingly harmless small fruits were a threat to the pine vegetation of the US. Currants are the primary alternate host for white pine blister rust (tree-killing disease). As a threat to the timber industry, growth and distribution of currants were banned. Although the federal ban has been lifted, many states continue some restrictions. Driven into near-extinction by their ban, currants have come a long way. 

Currants have variable flavours according to their varieties. Black currants have a strong tart flavour, while red currants are equally tart and sweet. White currants are more delicate in flavour and the sweetest among the four. Pink currants are rare; their flavour profile is somewhere between red currants and white currants, just like their colour. Their varied flavours make different currant varieties suitable for various dishes, from jams and jellies to meat. Additionally, currants’ utility goes beyond just culinary uses. For example, people use them as ornamental plants because of their beautiful appearance.

Nutritional Value of Currant

Red/White Currant

As per USDA data, 100 grams of red/white currants have the following nutrients.

Energy: 56 kcalFat: 0.2 gProtein: 1.4 g Carbohydrate: 13.8 gFibre: 4.3 gSugars: 7.37 gCalcium: 33 mgIron: 1 mgMagnesium: 13 mgPhosphorus: 44 mgPotassium: 275 mgSodium: 1 mgFolate: 8 µgVitamin C: 41 mgVitamin A: 42 IUVitamin K: 11 µgFolate: 8µgCholine: 7.6 mg

Black Currant

As per USDA data, 100 grams of black currants have the following nutrients.

Energy: 63 kCalProtein: 1.4 gFats: 0.41 gCarbohydrates: 15.4 gCalcium: 55 mgIron: 1.4 mgMagnesium: 24 mgPhosphorus: 59 mgPotassium: 322 mgVitamin C: 181 mgVitamin A: 230 IU

The HealthifyMe Note

As per their nutritional properties, the nutrients in various currant types are not significantly different. They offer similar nutrients with slightly different values. For example, Black currant contains more vitamin C and A than white/red currant. At the same time, white/red currants are more fibre-rich and have fewer calories than black ones. However, their nutritional profiles are not too different. As a result, they offer similar health benefits. 

Health Benefits of Currants

Currant’s nutrient profile makes them excellent antioxidants. In addition, they are also anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antimicrobial, rich in fibre (both soluble and insoluble), nearly fat-free, and great for your eyesight.

Here are some of the significant benefits of currant.

Boosts Immunity

Currants are one of the foods with the highest amount of antioxidants. Foods rich in antioxidants boost your immune system by limiting the damaging effects of free radicals and help fight viruses and infections more effectively. Thus, they help prevent various chronic diseases. The phenolic and anthocyanin content in black currants is primarily responsible for their antioxidant properties, followed by vitamins.

Black currants, in particular, are rich in vitamin C, with 181 mg of vitamin C per 100 grams of black currants. According to research, they are particularly beneficial for postmenopausal women with coronary disease.

Healthy for the Skin

The vitamin C content in currants makes them beneficial for your skin. According to research, vitamin C is instrumental in collagen synthesis. Vitamin C, in association with vitamin E, is also responsible for protecting your skin from UV damage. It also promotes epithelium formation and helps your skin heal more rapidly. In addition, it helps heal wounds and minimises scars. Vitamin C is also known for its anti-ageing properties since it boosts collagen in the skin. The copper content in currants is also responsible for collagen synthesis.

Anti-inflammatory

Black currants are rich in gamma-linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid that improves inflammatory disease symptoms. As per research, the anti-inflammatory properties of blackcurrants can help prevent inflammation and related disorders. In addition, vitamin C in currants also helps absorb non-heme iron, which has anti-inflammatory effects.

Black currant oil is rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and is known to help joint inflammation. In addition, currants are a better source of phenolic acids, which, according to studies, promote anti-inflammation capacity.

Weight Loss

Currants are rich in both soluble and insoluble fibre and sugar. Fibre adds bulk to your diet. It helps you feel fuller for longer and decreases hunger. The amount of fructose sugar also contributes to the satiety achieved. Currants also contain a minimum amount of lipid, making them nearly fat-free. Therefore, it can assist in weight loss.

Improves Brain Health

Currants are rich in magnesium, essential for nerve transmission and neuromuscular conduction. According to studies, magnesium deficiency can lead to migraines, strokes, anxiety, and depression. 

Magnesium-rich diets have positive effects on improving post-stroke outcomes. The antioxidant properties of black currant are proven to have neuroprotective effects. In addition, blackcurrant seed oil improves serum fatty acid composition, which mitigates the poor lipid profile in patients afflicted by a stroke.

Promotes Heart Health

Currants are high in potassium and Gamma-linolenic acid, which help decrease your blood pressure. In addition, GLA might slow down blood clotting by slowing down platelet clumping in your blood vessels.

Research shows currants have heart benefits contributing to free radical generation, anti-inflammatory properties, and downregulating foam cell formation. In addition, they preserve normal vascular function and blood pressure. The magnesium content in currants is also responsible for low blood pressure, making it healthy for the heart.

Red currants contain an antioxidant carotenoid known as lycopene, which can lower the risk of heart diseases. Furthermore, currant extract increases vaso-relaxation, which increases blood flow to organs such as the heart or brain, thus preventing the occurrence of myocardial infarction or stroke.

Benefits Pulmonary System

Black currants are known to improve lung conditions. The proanthocyanidin content in black currants prevents inflammation of the membrane during infection. In addition, it inhibits neutrophilic cellular infiltration, thereby inhibiting lung injury caused by the endogenous inflammatory process. Black currants could also have the potential to relieve asthma. 

Good for the Eye

Currant’s antioxidant content helps increase the blood flow to the eyes, relieve fatigue and improve eye function. Furthermore, cyanidin in currants can improve rhodopsin regeneration and dark adaptation, which helps improve eyesight. Black currants are also healthy for ocular conditions like Japanese Cedar Pollinosis. A recent study proved that black currants could also help treat glaucoma.

The HealthifyMe Note

Currants are abundant in their health benefits. They are full of antioxidants and polyphenol compounds. Due to their genus, they are also considered better phenolic sources than grapes. Currants are rich in vitamins, the most significant one being Vitamin C. They also contain a reasonable amount of minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. 

Ways to Use Currants

Currants have a diverse flavour, depending on their variety. For example, when eaten raw, black currant has a strong tart flavour. You can also use them for making jams and jellies.

You can also moderate the strong flavour by adding other berries like strawberries, raspberries, etc. People also use black currants in savoury cooking. Also, because of their astringency, people use them widely in sauces, meats, and other dishes. 

Red currants are more tart in flavour than black currants but have similar sweetness. It makes for excellent jams and jellies but is preferably eaten raw in salads, garnishes, or drinks.

White currants are slightly sweeter than red currants. It is an albino cultivar of red currant but marketed as a different fruit. They are usually eaten raw or made into preserves, jellies, wines, etc.; people rarely use them in savoury dishes.

Recipes Using Currants

Here are some of the common ways to use currants.

Top your breakfast bowl with a few currants to add a sweet-tart flavour.Make a jam from currants to have with bread.Make a fresh currant juice out of black currants.Use currants as a topping in baked goods, waffles, and pancakes.  Make a black currant sauce with duck.Use it to top your cocktails or mocktails.

Here is an easy homemade recipe.

Honey Kale Currant and Almond Salad

Servings: 4

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

Thinly sliced fresh kales: 4 cupsSlivered almonds: ¼ cupsDried currants: ¼ cupsGrated Asiago cheese: 2 tbsp Balsamic vinegar: 1 tbspOlive oil: 1 tbspHoney mustard: 1 tbspHoney: 1½ tspCoarsely ground pepper: ¾ tspSea salt: ½ tsp

Method

Put thinly sliced kale, slivered almonds, and dried currants in one bowl.Put balsamic vinegar, olive oil, honey mustard, honey, pepper, and sea salt in another bowl. Whisk until they are blended perfectly.Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss to coat.

Precautions and Possible Side Effects

Allergies

Black currant allergies are rare. One might be allergic to currants if they also have peach, apricot, raspberry, pollen, or nectarine allergy. There is anecdotal evidence of food allergy caused by red currants, but there are insufficient research studies to back the adverse effect. However, consult your doctor if you experience food allergy symptoms like rashes, skin irritation around the mouth, or nausea.

Slows Down Blood Clotting

Currant helps slow down blood clotting. However, if you are already taking blood-thinning medication like aspirin, ibuprofen, etc., you should avoid currants. It is also not recommended to consume them before surgical procedures, getting tattoos, etc.

Reduces Blood Pressure

Currants reduce blood pressure. So, if you have hypotension or take blood pressure medication, avoid currants.

High Vitamin C Concentration

Currants have a very high vitamin C concentration. Even though vitamin C doesn’t have adverse effects, overeating currants may cause gastrointestinal disturbances if it remains unabsorbed. 

Research says that high vitamin C intake also can increase urinary oxalate and uric acid excretion, which could contribute to the formation of kidney stones, especially in individuals with renal disorders.

Summary

Currants are flavourful fruit with ample nutrients. Due to their nutritional properties, they offer several health benefits. For example, currants enhance your immune system, improve heart health, help with vision-related disorders, weight loss, etc. 

Currants’ versatility makes them suitable to be incorporated into various dishes. You can also eat them raw. However, adding them to your dishes will enhance the flavour and provide health benefits. You should avoid currants if you take blood-thinning medicines like ibuprofen, have low blood pressure, and are allergic to raspberries.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. What are the benefits of currants?

A. Currants have an extensive nutrient profile. They are multifaceted in their benefits, from weight loss, improving eyesight, promoting brain health, slowing down blood clotting, helping asthma patients, preventing glaucoma, etc. They are also delicious, and you can easily include them in your diet.

Q. Are currants a Superfood?

A. Since currants have a rich nutritional profile, they can potentially be considered a superfood. They are one of the richest sources of antioxidants. Black currants, in particular, have a high quantity of vitamin C, which can benefit your health in many ways. For example, vitamin C in currants can help prevent the common cold, heal wounds, boost skin collagen, etc. They are also rich in minerals like magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus, which help improve brain health and strengthen your bones. 

Q. What is the main nutrient in currants?

A. The main nutrient in currants is vitamin C. It is abundant in currants; black currants, in particular, have 181 mg of vitamin C per 100 grams. Vitamin C has a lot of benefits, including boosting the immune system, lowering blood pressure, preventing iron deficiency, lowering risks of coronary diseases, etc.

Q. What are the benefits of eating red currants?

A. Like many fruits with red pigment, red currants contain an antioxidant carotenoid known as lycopene. Lycopene reduces the risk of heart disease and cancer, especially prostate cancer. In addition, it protects the body from free radical stress that can damage DNA and other cell structures. 

Q. Are currants healthier than raisins?

A. Currants and raisins both have beneficial nutritional properties. Currants are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin K. Raisins have a good amount of Vitamin B, iron, and less sugar. One can include both in their diet by personalising it according to their health benefits. 

Q. Are currants high in sugar?

A. Currants have a lot of natural sugar, with a hundred grams offering nearly 7.37 grams of sugar. However, currants have fructose sugar, which has a low GI than glucose. It is incredibly sweet and thus contributes to the sweet flavour of currants.

Q. Are currants healthy?

A. Yes, currants are incredibly healthy. They offer immense health benefits, including weight loss, improving eyesight, promoting brain health, slowing down blood clotting, helping asthma patients, preventing glaucoma, etc.

Q. Are currants a laxative?

A. No, currants are not a laxative. However, if consumed excessively, they might cause gastrointestinal disturbances like diarrhoea, nausea, and abdominal cramps. It is because they are rich in vitamin C.

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