In the U.S., “currants” often mean Zante currants, or dried Corinth grapes, that are more or less just small raisins.
Dried black currants look a lot like Zante currants, yet are even smaller. Many people think they taste better, with a deeper, berry flavor. They are often used in baking.
- anthocyanins – dark flavonoid pigment
- vitamin C
- gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) – Blackcurrant seed oil contains gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), a type of omega-6 fatty acid that’s been said to help ease inflammation in the body. The high GLA and anthocyanin content of currants can help reduce joint or muscle pain and stiffness. Grape-based drinks like wine and juice are known to help decrease plaque buildup, but blackcurrant juice, as well as pomegranate juice, is far more potent.
- potassium and GLA can help lower your blood pressure. The GLA also helps cells in your heart resist damage and slows down platelet clumping in your blood vessels.
One cup of currants have:
- Calories: 63
- Fat: 0.22g
- Sodium: 1.1mg
- Carbohydrates: 15.5g
- Fiber: 4.8g
- Sugars: 8.25g
- Protein: 1.6g
- Vitamin C: 46mg
Currants are high in vitamin C, which supports healthy immune function. They also contain iron, which helps prevent anemia; calcium, which supports strong and healthy bones; and phosphorus, which aids in muscle contraction.
Black currents have a glycemic index of 22, which is considered low.
Adults over 19 years old need 900 micrograms of copper each day and dried blackcurrants provide 367 micrograms of copper in every cup, or about 37 percent of an adult’s required daily intake. Copper is used by the body to synthesize collagen and to promote the absorption of iron. It is also necessary for energy metabolism and to inhibit free radical compounds from damaging cellular tissue and DNA. Adequate copper intake may lower your chances of developing osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, thyroid problems and anemia.
A 1-cup serving of dried black currants has 0.34 milligrams of the mineral manganese. For a man, this amount fulfills nearly 15 percent of his daily manganese requirement. For a woman, a cup of dried black currants supplies 19 percent of her manganese RDA. Without enough high-manganese foods in your diet, you may suffer from weakness, infertility or bone problems. Manganese is crucial for the health of the nervous system and as a factor in the production of hormones, bone tissue, the proteins involved in blood coagulation and the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase. Being chronically deficient in manganese can increase your risk of diabetes, osteoporosis and arthritis.
Potassium is both a mineral and an electrolyte and is required for the growth, development and maintenance of bones and to help establish the electrochemical balance that allows muscle contraction and nerve cell impulse transmission to occur properly. Dried black currants contain 642 milligrams of potassium in every cup, or 14 percent of the 4,700-milligram RDA of potassium for adults. A diet that regularly incorporates plenty of potassium-rich foods like dried currants may decrease the risk of osteoporosis, kidney disease, high blood pressure and stroke.
Currants also contain anthocyanins which act as an antioxidant and can help prevent damage from free radicals. Darker-colored (black and red) currants have more anthocyanins than white and pink varieties, but all have about the same amount of vitamin C.
A 1/2-cup serving of dried black currants contains 5 grams of dietary fiber. This amount supplies approximately 20 percent of your recommended daily requirement of fiber for healthy adult men and women following a 2,000-calorie diet. Similar to other dried fruits like raisins or figs, dried black currants are a source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. A high intake of soluble fiber may lower your risk of diabetes and high blood cholesterol, while plenty of insoluble fiber helps regulate bowel movements and may prevent digestive disorders. Fiber-rich foods like dried currants may also decrease your risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke and hypertension.
Several researchers have studied how the properties of currants may help in the treatment of glaucoma. One study found that the anthocyanin in black currant promotes an increase in ocular blood flow and may slow the progression of glaucoma progression.
The National Psoriasis Foundation recommends blackcurrant oil to help ease psoriasis symptoms. Taken orally, blackcurrant seed oil can help slow the growth and development of psoriasis patches. It also can be applied directly to dry, itchy, or stinging skin.
Some research has shown that drinking black currant juice helps make urine more alkaline, which helps to treat kidney stones.
A few cases of currant allergy have been reported in people who were also sensitive to peaches and raspberries, and to grass pollens. Currants, along with numerous other foods, plants, and supplements, can potentially interfere with the blood-thinning prescription drug Coumadin (warfarin). Talk to your doctor about this risk if you are taking this medication.
How to Buy
Currants are in season during the summer in the Northern hemisphere. Look for firm, plump berries. They grow in clusters, like grapes, but are pea-sized. Fresh currants aren’t always easy to find in the U.S. Look for them at farmers markets and specialty stores. They are sold still on the stem, like on-the-vine tomatoes, often in cardboard produce boxes like figs or berries.
Currants come in red, pink, white, and black varieties. They are also related to gooseberries. In the U.S., black currants are commonly consumed dried. As with all fruit, drying currants significantly changes the nutritional profile per serving. Water is removed and volume is reduced when currants are dried, making it easier to consume more at a time than you would when they are in their fresh state. It is also important to note that many dried fruits have added sugar. For example, per 1-cup serving, dried currants contain over 11 times more sugar than the same serving size of fresh currents (97g vs. 8.25g, respectively).
The product you find in the store is often Zante currants, which are actually dried Corinth grapes, not currants at all. These dried fruits look and taste like raisins, and have significantly more sugar than fresh currants.
How to Store
Like all berries, fresh currants have a relatively short life-span. They are best stored loosely wrapped or covered and chilled. Rinse fresh currants and lightly pat them dry on a tea towel just before using them. As with all berries, don’t wash them ahead of time. The exposure to the extra moisture will just shorten their lifespan, causing them to mold in the fridge.
For longer storage, currants can be frozen just like other berries: lay them in a single layer on a baking sheet, freeze until frozen, transfer to a silicone bag and keep frozen for up to six months.
How to Cook
You can eat currants raw, but black currants, especially, are quite tart. Adding a bit of sugar or cooking the berries into jams, jellies, or sauces can help offset the tartness.
Currants are quite common in French cooking. Fresh currants can be used like blueberries, blackberries or raspberries, in tarts and pies and other desserts, including black currant sorbet or red currant tarts.