Dec. 2, 2004 -- Purple berries may not be as popular as their red and blue counterparts, but researchers predict that we'll soon be seeing and eating a lot more of them, thanks to their high antioxidant content.
A new study shows that purple berries, such as elderberry, black currant, and chokeberry, are as much as 50% higher in antioxidants known as flavonoids than some of the more common berry varieties, such as blueberries and cranberries.
Researchers say those potent antioxidant concentrations will likely mean that purple berries will play a bigger role in the creation of health foods, drinks, and nutritional supplements designed to exploit the health benefits of antioxidants.
Antioxidants are believed to help prevent and repair oxidative stress, a process that damages cells within the body and has been linked to the development of a variety of diseases.
Researchers say among all common fruits and vegetables, berries have the highest antioxidant concentration, especially those with dark-colored skins. Although the antioxidant content of red and blue berries has been well-studied, researchers say less is known about so-called purple berries, such as elderberry, black currant, and chokeberry.
Purple Berries: Antioxidant Powerhouses
In the study, which will appear in the Dec. 15 print edition of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers analyzed the antioxidant content of several varieties of black currants, red currants, gooseberries, chokeberries, and elderberries.
The flavonoids found in these berries come in two main classes called anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins.
Researchers say these two classes of flavonoids account for a major portion of the flavonoids in the western diet and are of interest in nutrition and medicine because of their potential protective effects against disease.
Laboratory analysis showed that the chokeberry had the highest total anthocyanin concentration among the berries studied, and berries in general, with 1,480 mg per 100 grams of fresh berries. Gooseberries had the lowest concentration of this type of antioxidant.
Total proanthocyanidin concentrations ranged from 23 to 664 mg per 100 grams of fresh berries in elderberry and chokeberry, respectively.
Overall, chokeberries also had the highest antioxidant capacity and gooseberries had the lowest.
But the total antioxidant capacity of a food does not necessarily reflect their potential health benefits. Further studies will be needed to determine how well the antioxidants found in purple berries are digested and absorbed by the body.