Most of us are looking for a “nutritional edge.” The one food or combination of foods/supplements that will excel our body faster than any other racer in the pack. It is this phenomenon that drives research to investigate foods that may enhance performance. Within the recent decade, the potent antioxidant anthocyanin has been identified in many different red, purple, and blue fruits, vegetables, cereal grains, and flowers. This category of antioxidant has been shown to have significant health and performance benefits.
Towards the end of this past year, the New Zealand black currant berry (CurraNZ) has been identified as a potent source of anthocyanin. Further research needs to be conducted on this intriguing berry before I conclude it reliably beneficial and begin recommending pre-race dosing, but the emerging data is interesting. One of these studies uses black current during repeated running sprints to exhaustion, but can be comparable to sprints and surges experienced regularly in cycling.
Perkins et al. (2015) have tested the New Zealand black currant extract containing 300mg/day CurraNZ with 105mg anthocyanin for 7 days versus a placebo when performing multiple short high-intensity running sprints with the same length recovery in between sessions. The results indicated those taking CurraNZ covered a greater total distance with repeated sprints (10.6% increase distance), had higher lactate at exhaustion, and larger changes in lactate during early stages of recovery after repeated sprints to exhaustion. I don’t doubt that future studies including this berry will quickly emerge.
This berry, like many others, in my mind acts as nature’s platform to deliver anthocyanin. Anthocyanin can be found in many foods though, and deserves to be consumed regularly in an athlete’s diet for both health and performance benefits. Good sources include:
Berries (black berries, blueberries, black currant, raspberries, strawberries, etc), red grapes, pomegranates, dark cherries, cranberries, and dark plums.
Eggplant, asparagus, red cabbage, peas, radishes, sweet potatoes, fennel, and red onions.
Grains and Legumes:
Black beans, kidney beans, black rice, and purple corn.
Still not convinced? Among its benefits are anti-inflammatory activities, antimicrobial properties, reduction in blood pressure, and act as potent scavengers of free-radicals which damage our cells and delay recovery and adaptation to training. Due to the diverse nature of these benefits, it is important to consume anthocyanin in many different natural forms throughout the week. However, consumer beware – more is not better! While I applaud the consumption of these sources of anthocyanin, when too much it eaten, anthocyanin can behave like a pro-oxidant and cause more damage than good. If you are curious about how much this might be, please contact a sports dietician with this question, as it varies within individuals and training/racing stages.
Blackcurrant Breakfast Muffins
2 cups wheat germ
2 cups self-raising white flour
½ cup sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1½ cups frozen blackcurrants (do not thaw)
2 tsp baking soda
1¼ cups milk
2/3 cup butter or coconut oil
3 Tbsp maple syrup
2 eggs, whisked
1. Preheat oven to 375°F and grease muffin tins
2. Sift white flour, baking powder, and sugar into a bowl.
3. Add the wheat germ and stir together.
4. Dissolve baking soda in the milk.
5. Melt the butter with the maple syrup.
6. Make a well in the mixed dry ingredients and add the milk + baking soda, melted butter + maple syrup, and whisked eggs. Mix ingredients together lightly and fold in blackcurrants at the same time. Don’t over-mix the batter, as the muffins will be tough and the blackcurrants may split.
7. Spoon the batter into the muffin tin and bake for ~15 minutes or until the muffins are golden brown color and spring back at the touch. Allow the muffins to cool slightly before turning them out onto a cooling rack.
Recipe courtesy of: New Zealand blackcurrant Co-operative.
As always, we want to hear from you. Tell us your favorite use of anthocyanins on the WCA Facebook page or blog.
Best of Health,
Sarah Weber, RD, LD
1. Konczak I., Zhang W. Anthocyanins-More than nature’s colours. J Biomed Biotechnol. 2004(5):239-240.
2. Perkins I., Vine S., Blacker S., Willems M. New Zealand black currant extract improves high-intensity intermittent running. IJSNEM. 2015(25): 487-493.