Not to be confused with dried currants, which are Black Corinth grapes in dried form, black currants are a type of berry, specifically the fruit of the Ribes nigrum bush. "Black currants are nutritional heavy-hitters," says Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RD, coauthor of The SuperFoods Rx Diet. They rival blueberries for their concentration of vitamin C, anthocyanins, and fiber. Research from the U.S. and New Zealand shows that anthocyanins and polyphenolics in black currants may help protect against memory loss associated with Alzheimer's and dementia. Plus, black currants contain quercetin, which may lower the risk of certain types of cancer, while oil from the fruit's seeds reduces "bad" LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Black currants may prove even more beneficial than cranberries for urinary tract health, adds Bazilian. A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that drinking black currant juice reduced the likelihood of forming uric acid kidney stones.
Eat It Up
While black currants are sold year-round frozen, dried, and in juice and syrup forms, you can get them fresh at farmers' markets and specialty foods stores in July and August. Look for berry clusters that are plump and mold-free, with a subtle berry aroma. Black currants are delicate—wait to wash them until just before using, store in the fridge, and eat as soon as possible. Bazilian recommends blending black currants into smoothies, stirring into yogurt or cottage cheese, folding into muffin or quick bread batter, or adding to cobblers. If you can't find fresh berries, dried black currants can be mixed with almonds, walnuts, and cashews for trail mix. Or add a dash of black currant concentrate to sparkling water for a powerhouse soft drink.