Health Benefits of Gooseberries
One cannot imagine what a treasure of nutrition and health benefits is hidden in the tiny fruit called gooseberry. While one enjoys jams and baked goods made from it, they get a heavy dose of nutrition too from this fruit.
As such, there are several varieties of gooseberry, but the most common ones are the American and European, named respectively Ribes hirtellum and Ribes uva-crispa. Although both these varieties and all other types of gooseberries look more like grapes and are named berries, they are closely related to white, black, and red currants.
Published: October 7, 2022.
What is a Gooseberry?
The gooseberry plant is a fast-growing, deciduous shrub that grows around 4 to 6 ft. in height and has sharp thorns all along its woody branches.
2-3 years after planting, the plant starts fruiting. Gooseberries are small-sized, 1-2 cm in width, weighing around 0.1 to 0.2 ounces (3 to 6 grams) each.
Their shape varies from round to oval to pear-shaped to elongated. Even their color varies from green, pink, yellow-white, red, and pink to dark purple.
The flavor of the fruit varies too from tart to sweet. The outer surface of the fruit can be smooth or fuzzy (hairy) with prominent veins. There may be 15 to 30 edible seeds inside.
Gooseberries are available in reddish-purple, yellow or green varieties. Common cultivars are either American or European or a mix of both. Invicta is a European cultivar with large, bland fruit, which is very popular. Captivator is an American-European hybrid with tear-drop-shaped red fruit.
The famous Indian gooseberry (Amla) belongs to a different family, Euphorbiaceae and its scientific name is Phyllanthus emblica. It has a transversely spherical shape and a light green color. This fruit is exceptionally high in antioxidants and vitamin C, because of which it’s excessively acidic and tart, and bitter in taste.
Another fruit known as Cape gooseberry (Physalis peruviana) or known as Peruvian cherry in the US, is native to the South American Andes region. These berries are small, round, orange-yellow in color, and are encased in a paper-thin husk shaped like a Chinese lantern.
Gooseberry Health Benefits
Low Calories, High Nutrients
Gooseberries are low in calories and fat, however, they are full of nutrients, like vitamins B5, B6, and C, copper, manganese, potassium, and fibers.
Vitamin B5 is required for forming fatty acids, vitamin B6 is needed by many enzymes and cells in the human body to properly function and to convert food to energy, and Vitamin C, in addition to being a vitamin, is a potent antioxidant and is essential for human skin, immune system and nervous system.
Copper in gooseberries is essential for the health of the heart, blood vessels, brain, and immune system, whereas manganese is required for supporting metabolism, reproduction, bone formation, and immune response. Potassium in gooseberries is important for the proper functioning of cells.
Just like several varieties of fresh fruit, gooseberries are extremely low in fat, with less than 1 gram of fat per cup.
High Fiber Content
Since gooseberries are low in calories, one can eat a sizeable portion without consuming too many calories. Eating 1 cup (150 grams) of gooseberries offers just a little more than 3% of an average person’s total calorie needs. This makes gooseberries a low-calorie, nutritious snack.
In addition to this, research has found that eating gooseberries may help in weight loss and help one eat fewer calories in general.
Furthermore, gooseberries are an excellent source of soluble and insoluble dietary fiber.
1 cup (150 grams) of gooseberries provides 26% of the DV (Daily Value) of fiber.
Insoluble fiber help add bulk to the stool and improves consistency. Soluble fiber helps slow down food movement in the gut, due to which hunger is reduced and the feeling of fullness increases.
Also, dietary fiber from the fruit can help control one’s blood sugar, reduce blood pressure and cholesterol and reduce the risk of chronic conditions, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and certain cancers.
Protects Against Ulcers
Naturopathy practitioners have long been using gooseberries to calm down stomach acid. Even modern studies seem to support the Ayurvedic use of gooseberries to balance stomach acid better and treat dyspepsia.
Rat studies have revealed that gooseberry extract protects against ulcers increased due to excessive use of alcohol or aspirin. Although more human studies are required, this potential benefit of gooseberries has minimal risk.
High in Antioxidants
Antioxidants are compounds that fight free radicals and eliminate their bad effects. Free radicals are reactive molecules that damage cells and cause a process known as oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is responsible for causing premature aging and many diseases.
Foods rich in antioxidants are considered to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and aging and protect one’s brain from degenerative diseases.
Gooseberries contain a high amount of antioxidants, such as vitamin C, small amounts of vitamin E, and phytonutrients.
Plants create phytonutrients to protect against sun damage and insects.
Some of the phytonutrients that gooseberries contain are:
Anthocyanins: Anthocyanins are colored pigments and offer color to the fruits. They help keep one’s eyes and urinary tract healthy. They also improve memory, cause healthy aging and reduce the risk of some cancers.
Flavonols: Flavonols are associated with the health of the heart and may have antiviral, cancer-fighting, and stroke-reducing effects. The main types of flavonols in gooseberries are isorhamnetin, kaempferol, myricetin and quercetin.
Organic Acids: Organic acids cause the tart taste of fruit and may lower the risk of stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.
Aromatic Acids: Aromatic acids in gooseberries include ellagic, hydroxybenzoic, coumaric, chlorogenic, and caffeic acids.
Beneficial in Controlling Blood Sugar
High blood sugar levels are connected to type 2 diabetes, stroke, dementia, heart disease, and several other diseases.
Many properties of gooseberries may help control blood sugar.
First off, they are high in fiber, due to which absorption of sugar in the bloodstream is slowed down, thus, spikes in blood sugar levels are prevented.
Foods naturally high in magnesium, like gooseberries, can offer better glucose control.
Moreover, test-tube studies show that gooseberry extract is an inhibitor of alpha-glucosidase. This means that it binds to certain enzymes in one’s small intestine, preventing them from transferring sugar from their gut into the bloodstream.
Lastly, gooseberries consist of chlorogenic acid, which may slow down the absorption of carbohydrates and help reduce blood sugar levels after a starchy meal.
However, more studies on gooseberries' benefits in blood sugar control are needed.
Also, for diabetic and pre-diabetic persons, it’s important to be careful about their portions of the fruit. Consuming the fruit in combination with a serving of protein, such as nuts, can slow down the rate at which blood sugar rises.
May Protect Brain
Certain degenerative diseases are connected to an overload of iron in the cells.
Too high iron levels can induce the formation of free radicals that can damage one’s cells. Brain cells are particularly high in iron, which makes them more vulnerable to damage.
Gooseberries are a great source of organic acids, providing 11 to 14 mg of citric acid in 100 mg of fruit. Citric acid inhibits the accumulation of iron in cells and has been found to decrease the risk of diseases like stroke and Alzheimer’s disease if consumed regularly.
The phytonutrients and antioxidants in gooseberries are also considered to benefit age-related diseases of the brain and reduce the risk of stroke. However, more research is needed on this.
May Fight Cancer
Diets rich in berries, antioxidants, and phytonutrients are associated with a reduced risk of some types of cancers.
Some of the known anticancer ingredients of gooseberries are vitamins C and E, phenolic compounds, and folate.
Quercetin, a flavonol present in gooseberries, stimulates autophagy (programmed death of mutated cells).
Some of the tannins found in gooseberries, such as gallic acid, ellagic acid, and chebulagic acid, have strong antioxidant effects.
These nutrients are believed to reduce, counteract and rectify the damage caused by oxidative stress and inflammation, which can cause the development of cancer.
Test-tube and animal studies have shown that anthocyanins prevent the growth of cancer cells and may lower the risk of certain cancers, including that of the breast, colon, and pancreas.
However, more studies are needed to confirm the beneficial effects of gooseberries on cancer.
Good for Heart
Diet rich in fruits like berries can lower the risk of heart disease.
Gooseberries consist of several nutrients that are beneficial for heart health. These include potassium and antioxidants.
Antioxidants are beneficial for heart health because they prevent the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood, a process that increases the risk of heart disease.
Furthermore, phytonutrients like anthocyanins and flavonols help lower blood pressure and improve the functioning of blood vessels, which, too, may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Lastly, potassium in gooseberries is important for the health of the heart. It helps maintain a regular heartbeat and blood pressure and it may reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease.
Better Wound Healing
A cup of raw gooseberries offers around 42 mg of vitamin C, which is a significant portion of the 75 to 90 mg per day needed for most adults. Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant and an essential precursor of collagen (essential for skin integrity).
Due to their high vitamin C content, gooseberries promote wound healing. Moreover, zinc and vitamin E in gooseberries also supports the body’s natural ability to heal itself.
Easy to Add to One’s Diet
To reap maximum health benefits from them, gooseberries should be eaten raw.
Their flavor ranges from pretty sour to relatively sweet, a bit like slightly underripe grapes. The riper the fruit, the sweeter it becomes.
Some gooseberries are very tart. Therefore, if one wants to eat them fresh, one should look for sweeter varieties like Captivator, Whinham’s Industry or Martlet.
Before eating gooseberries, one should wash and prepare them. Most people prefer to chop the top and bottom of the fruit as it can taste a bit woody.
Once prepared, one can eat gooseberries as a healthy snack on their own. Alternatively, they can also add them to a fruit salad, mix them into a fresh summer salad or use them as a topping on yogurt or cereal.
Gooseberries are also added to cooked and baked dishes, like tarts, pies, jams, chutneys, compote, and cordial. However, one should remember that these dishes usually contain sugar, and cooking destroys many of the antioxidants and healthy phytonutrients.
When is the Best Time to Eat Gooseberries?
Gooseberries begin ripening in June and July but can take a little longer before they drop and are ready to be picked. One can buy fresh berries in farmers’ markets in the warm weather months. Some vendors even sell gooseberry pies and jams during the peak season.
Since they are highly perishable, fresh gooseberries are not always available. While buying canned gooseberries, one should remember that many are canned in sugar syrup.
Nutritional Profile of Gooseberries
1 cup (150 grams) of gooseberries contains:
- Carbohydrates: 15 grams
- Fat: 0.9 gram
- Fiber: 6.5 grams
- Sodium: 1.5 mg
- Vitamin A: 22.5 mcg
- Vitamin B6: 0.6 mg
- Vitamin C: 41.6 mg
- Folate: 9 mcg
- Vitamin E: 0.6 mg
- Potassium: 297 mg
- Calories: 66
Glycemic Index (GI) and Glycemic Load (GL) of Gooseberries
Thanks to the great amount of fibers (~4.5g/100g) and low amount of net carbs (~5.9g/100g), gooseberries have a very low Glycemic Index (GI) of 15.
Thus, an average portion of 150g of gooseberries has a Glycemic Load (GL) of:
GL = (15/100) * (5.9 * 1.5) = ~1.33
With a GL of ~1.33, gooseberries feature a very low Glycemic Load and can be consumed in moderation even on calorie-restricted diets and low-carb diets.
Gooseberries are not commonly allergic.
However, any food can cause allergies at any age. Allergies can occur immediately after one comes in contact with the causal food or many hours later.
Common food allergy symptoms include hives, vomiting, diarrhea, stuffy nose, or wheezing. If one experiences an allergy to gooseberries, they may visit their physician and get a full check-up done.
One can take a little time to get used to the high fiber content of gooseberries, particularly if they don’t usually eat a lot of fiber.
Therefore, they should increase their intake slowly, drink a lot of water and stay active to help their digestive system adjust and avoid gas and bloating.