Elderberries: Benefits of Elderberries
Elderberries are among the healthiest foods on the planet. Is it December again? Then it is time to bring elderberries to the attention. Not because we can harvest them now, that was at the end of the summer, but because they are your immune system can give a boost. When you talk about a properly functioning immune system, you are talking about elderberries.
Our grandmothers already knew this. They knew from experience that an emerging cold or flu in the winter could be treated perfectly with concentrated elderberry juice. Now we know that elderberry has a powerful antiviral and antibacterial effect.
Elderberries: dark purple gems
They grow in the wild, but it is not a really well-known fruit. In the summer months, many people will undoubtedly walk thoughtlessly past a hanging bush. Maybe you too? I recently found out that year after year, I have passed one of the healthiest foods our Earth has to offer during the summer. But products made from elderberries are also worth having at home. And if you take a nice walk in the summer: bring a big bag and start picking!
Elderberries are small, round berries that grow together in clusters. They are dark purple in color. And there is a lot of good hidden in that beautiful color. Purple fruit and vegetable varieties contain a lot antioxidants. Research shows that purple colored fruits contain more antioxidants than other colors, especially the dark ones.
Catch them if you can
Antioxidants are indispensable in a healthy body. They trap free radicals and make them harmless. Free radicals are aggressive substances that can damage cells and tissues. They are found in many products, especially those of chemical origin. Think of cigarette smoke, highly processed food, make-up, but also in alcohol.
Antioxidants are needed to reduce the debilitating effect of free radicals
You cannot always prevent free radicals from entering your body. For example, the air we breathe contains particulate matter, which in the body translates into an increase in free radicals. Also, stress causes its formation. Even sunshine increases free radicals! However, you can minimize the accumulation of free radicals as much as possible by means of a healthy diet and sufficient exercise. And antioxidants play an important role in this.
Elderberries; high on the ORAC list
The evidence that elderberries contain plenty of antioxidants can be found in the so-called ORAC list (2). ORAC stands for ‘Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity’. This is a list comparing and listing the antioxidant values of foods. This list has been released as a top 100: only foods with the highest antioxidant power are included. Elderberries on the 39 e place. That is a special achievement!
Elderberries are choked with antioxidants, which they mainly owe to their dark purple color.
The mother of antioxidants
There are different types of antioxidants. In elderberries, it is mainly the anthocyanins and anthocyanidins (say that!) That are responsible for this health effect. Anthocyanins are active dyes from the flavonoids (plant dyes) family that are known for their powerful effect. They are also referred to as the mothers of the antioxidants. They also contain other dark berries and cranberries, but elderberries are the real toppers.
Elderberries are the top of the flavonoids; plant compounds also called the mothers of the antioxidants
What are those anthocyanins doing?
Now it gets really interesting. There is, of course, a reason why I am writing about elderberry at this time. This great fabric does a lot for our resistance. It works both antiviral and antibacterial (3):
Anthocyanins in elderberries prevent harmful bacteria from multiplying and viruses from attaching to cells. This process is necessary for the virus to reproduce. And that eventually makes you sick. By anticipating this process, you can prevent a lot of misery.
Researchers think that one of these anthocyanins, cyanidin-3-glucoside, plays a role in preventing flu: this substance disrupts the protein that flu viruses can use to enter cells.
Anthocyanins provide an extra release of specific substances that regulate your immune system and keep it strong.
Anthocyanins ensure that an acquired flu lasts shorter. In a somewhat older study from 1993, a group of people were given a placebo or elderberry extract during a flu wave. While flu patients who received the placebo improved after six days, the patients who received the extract started to feel better within two days. A similar, but larger-scale study took place in Norway a few years later. With similar positive results!
Even more benefits
In addition to this antioxidant boost, elderberries also contain quite a bit fiber and vitamins A and C . These vitamins are also an antioxidant. An extra powerful weapon for good health and a strong immune system.
Do not eat them raw because of the cyanide
In addition to berries, the elderberry bush also produces blossom. You will find these in the spring. Syrup is usually made from it. Elderflower does not have the same positive properties as described above, but it can be beneficial for colds and sore throat.
You pick the berries at the end of the summer. They are great for making jam, syrup, chutney, juice or liqueur. You can also use blossom and berries to make tea.
Don’t eat them raw. Raw elderberries contain the toxic substance cyanide. This can make you nauseous or get diarrhea if you consume too much of it. Cooking or processing breaks down this cyanide.
The growth of pathogenic germs and viruses has been inhibited!
Fortunately, nowadays juice, syrup and extract (in supplements) are available all year round. These products are also effective and can be just as effective as the berries themselves. For example, in a study with healthy subjects who had drunk a large glass of elderberry juice, the researchers found that the ‘antioxidant power’ of their blood had increased ‘significantly’ an hour later.
Researchers who added elderberry extract to cells infected with pathogenic bacilli and influenza viruses saw that the growth of the invaders was inhibited (4). See, that’s exactly what we’re looking for!
Elderberry juice and extract can work just as effectively as the berries. The quality determines the difference.
Avoid loads of sugars
As with so many products, the quality varies enormously. This also applies to anything made from elderberries. When buying, make sure that it is a pure product. Elderberries are not sweet by themselves, which is often compensated by the producer by adding a mountain of sugar. Leave this one aside.
Syrups also always contain sugar, but this differs enormously. There are bottles for sale with only 5% elderberries (and a lot of sugar), but also brands with a little cane sugar and mainly the berries themselves. Do not buy concentrate juice either, but see if you can get a 100% pure variant. You can also find dried elderberries online. Also make sure that they are not (too) sweetened.
Elderberries, so do it! Go out in the summer or opt for a good quality product from the store. I have only found these in organic stores or online until now. So just search. But it will give your health and immune system a huge boost!
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