Blackcurrants Might Have A Big Impact On Blood Sugar Balance, Study Suggests
It's no secret that what we eat affects our blood sugar levels, and maintaining healthy blood sugar is important for overall health. After all, when they're out of whack, it can lead to everything from fatigue to food cravings.
Strategies for keeping blood sugar in check can be dietary and behavioral, but some foods are turning up as all-stars for promoting healthy blood sugar levels, like apple cider vinegar and greens powders. Now, a recent small study has added support for another candidate: blackcurrant1.
The impact of blackcurrants on blood sugar.
The findings of this new study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition2, support previous research suggesting the beneficial health effects of blackcurrant. In regard to blood sugar, these little berries may have a positive effect due to their relatively high concentration of polyphenol content. In particular, the researchers mention anthocyanin, a type of polyphenol that exists in blackcurrants at a rate of around 150 mg/100 g of currants3.
Eating blackcurrants alongside sugars and carbohydrates was shown to decrease a blood sugar spike post-meal and also delay the subsequent dip. Although, it's worth noting this was a small study, with only 26 participants.
In order to see the impact blackcurrant had on sugars and ultimately blood sugar levels, participants were asked to come for four visits. During each session, they consumed different test products, including water as a control. Then, the participants gave blood samples at intervals across three hours post-meal, which were assessed for glucose, insulin, and free fatty acids. In all cases where participants ate blackcurrants, there was a minimized overall glycemic response—including a delay in blood sugar drop and a delay in the rise of free fatty acids.
Why polyphenols should certainly be a part of your diet.
Beyond blackcurrants, polyphenols are found in many berries and other plant foods. According to Joel Kahn, M.D., there are two broad types of polyphenols worth mentioning: "One broad type of polyphenols is phenolic acids," he explains. "The second broad group are the flavonoids." The latter is the group that includes anthocyanidins, the type of polyphenol that researchers attribute blackcurrants' blood sugar benefits to.
In addition to benefits for blood sugar, polyphenols have also been linked to supporting cardiovascular health4, brain health (especially memory)5, and even an overall increase in life span6. What's more, in a mindbodygreen podcast episode, gut health expert Mahmoud Ghannoum, Ph.D., said that berries are one of his top foods for mycobiome (a collection of fungi in our gut) health—thanks to their polyphenol content.
When it comes to blood sugar balance, it seems that darker-colored berries, in particular—which tend to be richer in anthocyanins—have a mediating impact on dietary sugars (like blackcurrants and bilberries). Other food sources of anthocyanins include blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, cherries, and pomegranates.
Honestly, it couldn't be easier—or tastier—to add polyphenols to your diet. Just make sure to get the majority of them from whole foods—coffee or tea shouldn't be your primary sources (even though they are for many people).
Eliza Sullivan is an SEO Editor at mindbodygreen, where she writes about food, recipes, and nutrition—among other things. She received a B.S. in journalism and B.A. in english literature with honors from Boston University, and she has previously written for Boston Magazine, TheTaste.ie, and SUITCASE magazine.