The Health Benefits of Dark Berries

Berries’ dark secret

You’ve probably heard the old saying, “the darker the berry, the sweeter the juice.” Well, I’m not sure about “sweeter” but new research shows that it may very well be healthier. Purple berries such as elderberry, black currant, and chokeberry, have as much as 50 percent more of the antioxidants known as flavonoids than other berries.

Berries are known to have the highest concentration of antioxidants among all fruits and vegetables, and there have been studies touting the benefits of cranberries and blueberries, but little research has been done on their dark-colored counterparts. So researchers analyzed the antioxidant content of several varieties, including black currants, red currants, gooseberries, chokeberries, and elderberries. They measured two classes of antioxidants found in the purple berries, anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins.

The results showed that chokeberries were the richest in antioxidants, with 1,480 mg of anthocyanin concentration per 100 grams of fresh berries. Gooseberries had the lowest.

While these berries may not be as common as blueberries or strawberries, that could change as word gets out of the health benefits of the dark-skinned varieties. In the meantime, you may be able to find them in health food stores or at local farmers’ markets.


Getting to the root of the problem

Q: My neighbor suggested that I try rhubarb root for my stomach problems, but I’m having trouble finding it. Do you have any suggestions?

JVW: Rhubarb root has been used for centuries to promote digestion and improve appetite. At higher doses it can act as a gentle laxative for the treatment of constipation; in smaller doses, it helps stop diarrhea. It seems contradictory, but the plant’s properties are able to do both. It also has a cleansing effect on the gut, removing debris and acting as an astringent.

The best way to find a good quality rhubarb root supplement is to work with a physician skilled in herbal medicine. To find one near you, contact either the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (202-895-1392, or the American Herbalists Guild (770-751-6021,


What is…an antioxidant?

Antioxidants are nutrients and enzymes that help repair and prevent damage to our cells caused by a process called oxidation. They are believed to play a role in preventing the development of some chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Yours in good health,
Amanda Ross
Managing Editor
Nutrition & Healing

“Characterization of anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins in some cultivars of Ribes, Aronia, and Sambucus and their antioxidant capacity.” J Agric Food Chem 2004; 52(26): 7,846-7,856