What are Currants? Health Benefits of Currants
What are currants? The currant or spray berry is a berry that comes from a deciduous shrub, normally 1 to 1.5 meters high, sometimes even 2 meters. There are black, red and white currants. The cultivation of red currants started in the 15th century in monastery gardens. The refreshing berries grow in clusters on a small shrub of the saxifrage family (Saxifragaceae), a family of dicotyledonous plants. They are available in three colors: berries of the genus Ribes rubrum turn bright red or white, and those of the genus Ribes nigrum black. They differ considerably in taste: the red currant mainly has a sour note, the white has a milder taste and the black has a more herbaceous aromatic. The red ones are the best known and have a fresh and sour taste. They are small round berries that are shiny and bright red in color.
What are currants?
Currants, also known as cranberries, are small fruits that grow in clusters on twigs. The currant grows on a bush. Red, white (and pink) or black currants are distinguished and all three are healthy and delicious. The red berries are the best known. These are juicy and have a fresh sour taste. The red, black or white fruits can be harvested in the Netherlands from the end of June to the end of August. You can eat currants separately, but you can also put them very well in oatmeal. The berries are also delicious in fruit salads or cottage cheese dishes. But the currants are also ideal as a cake or pie topping, jam, fruit drinks, liqueurs or wines.
Currants excel in the amount of vitamin C they contain and they also contain the following substances:
- manganese , a mineral that you need for the formation of bone tissue
- flavonoids: these are antioxidants that scavenge free radicals
- proanthocyanidin, a group of flavonoids.
- polyphenols, a group of chemical compounds found in plants
- linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid for humans, meaning the body can’t make it on its own
Red currants contain 41 mg of vitamin C per 100 grams. However, black currants provide 175 milligrams of vitamin C per 100 grams, more than four times as much as the red ones. Black currants contain more than three times the concentration of vitamin C as lemons (about 45 milligrams per 100 grams). Vitamin C has numerous health benefits, and when combined with the phenolic acids and flavonoids also found in currants, it also prevents the build-up of cholesterol on artery walls, reducing the risk of high blood pressure and heart attacks . In addition, currants contain a relatively high amount of fiber , which also helps lower cholesterol and aid digestion.
Vitamin C strengthens the cells of the body, supports wound healing and helps the body process iron from plant products. Because currants also contain a higher amount of iron than other fruits, about 1 mg per 100 grams, they counteract iron deficiency . Iron promotes the production of red blood cells and ensures that the body receives sufficient oxygen. Currants also contain potassium ; 238 mg per 100 grams of berries. Potassium, together with chloride and sodium , regulates the fluid balance and blood pressure in the body.
Black currants provide seven grams of fiber per 100 grams of berries, which is almost a quarter of the daily recommended amount. The Nutrition Center advises to eat about 30 to 40 grams of dietary fiber per day. The fibers fill you up quickly, give you a feeling of fullness and it takes a while before you get hungry again. They also support effective digestion that allows you to poop properly and they lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels .
A large amount of anthocyanins, that is, color pigments, in currants, counteracts diseases of the cardiovascular system. This substance is beneficial for the heart and blood vessels .
Uses of currants
In folk medicine, currants have traditionally been used for the following ailments:
- common cold
- a sore throat
- urinary tract infections
- metabolic complaints
- cardiovascular complaints
- mild depression
The fact that currants have these uses in folk medicine does not mean that it has also been scientifically proven.
Health benefits of currants
Red currants are a good source of antioxidants such as vitamin C and manganese. Antioxidants protect the body from the effects of oxidative stress, which indicates the attack of free radicals on your cells. Antioxidants can help strengthen the immune system and ward off disease.
Red currants are packed with nutrients that are beneficial for the skin, the largest organ of the human body. Red currants are rich in B vitamins as well as vitamin C. A high dose of powerful antioxidants (including vitamin C) is known to help prevent skin aging. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that fights and even reverses free radical damage in skin cells. Said vitamins also help regenerate skin cells and promote healing from harmful UV rays.
Formation of red blood cells
Red currants are a good source of non-heme iron, a form of iron found mainly in plant products. Your body needs iron for the formation of red blood cells (red blood cells, erythrocytes). Red blood cells make up about 40-45% of the total composition of blood. Red blood cells in the blood carry the oxygen. Red blood cells also transport other nutrients to various cells and organs in the body. An iron deficiency can have far-reaching consequences, but fortunately it can be prevented by eating iron-rich foods, including fruits such as red currants.
Strengthening the immune system
Currants are rich in vitamin C, especially black currants. Vitamin C also has an antioxidant function in the body. This vitamin strengthens the immune system, making you more resistant to viral and bacterial attacks. It not only prevents colds and flu , but also gives the body the ability to fight against the formation of certain types of cancer. Vitamin C plays an antioxidant role in the respiratory tract and thus provides relief to people with asthma . Vitamin C in red currants also contains anti-histamine properties, which prevent and reduce the effect of allergies .
Currants contain a relatively high amount of fiber. Dietary fiber (fiber) is important for health. They ensure regular bowel movements by absorbing water in the lower digestive tract and by absorbing and removing waste products. It helps fill the colon and activate bowel movements. Fiber therefore helps to prevent constipation or constipation. Many people suffer from constipation because they eat too little fiber on a daily basis.
Potassium is a mineral found in many foods, including currants. Potassium is a mineral that contributes to cardiovascular health. It also helps prevent high blood pressure and lowers blood pressure. Higher potassium intake appears to reduce the risk of hypertension and chronic kidney damage .
Promote weight loss
Currants are low in calories, with only 38 kcal per 100 grams. They’re also low in fat and high in dietary fiber, making them ideal if you’re looking to shed a few pounds. Fiber makes you feel full faster, so you are full faster and eat less.
Harvest your own currants
Currants taste best freshly picked from the bush. You can easily plant a berry bush in your garden yourself. Choose a sunny to partially shaded location with humus-rich soil. Do not plant the bushes too close together. Currants have fairly flat roots, so their roots spread horizontally under the ground. Give enough water, because currants need a lot of water. Therefore cover the soil with a little bark mulch, because it retains the moisture better. By the way, the shrubs are hardy and resistant to severe frost.
Pruning the bush
In order for the shrub to bear more fruit each year, the shrub should be pruned after harvest. At the base of the shrub, cut old, thick and woody branches directly above the ground. Correct pruning differs slightly for red, white and black currants:
- With red and white currants, you should remove all branches that are older than three years.
- Pruning blackcurrants should be more radical. You can prune this shrub back without any worries; the most generous harvest is produced by the new shoots.
- As a rule of thumb for all currants, leave no more than 12 main branches.
Harvesting and storing currants
You can enjoy freshly picked currants the most. If you buy them at the supermarket or greengrocer’s, the berries should be eaten or processed quickly, as they only keep for a few days in the refrigerator. One way to enjoy currants longer is to freeze them:
- Wash the freshly picked currants, remove the stems and rotten fruits.
- Let the berries dry a little on kitchen paper or a clean cloth.
- Spread the currants on a sheet or plate so they don’t lie on top of each other and don’t stick together when frozen.
- Then take them out of the freezer and pack them in a plastic container or freezer bag and put them back in the freezer.
- In the freezer (at -18°C) the berries can be stored for about a few months.