American gooseberries (Ribes hirtellum) are a round, juicy fruit similar in size and taste to grapes. They’re rich in phytonutrients and other antioxidants as well as Vitamins C and E, making gooseberries a tasty and potent means of fighting type 2 diabetes. Because they have so many health benefits and are a common ingredient in jams, jellies, juices, and even wines, many people are surprised to know that gooseberries were once illegal in the United States.
During the early 1900s, the federal government banned the growing of gooseberries and other Ribes ssps because they contributed to the spread of white pine blister rust, a fungal disease fatal to white pine species. The federal ban disappeared in 1966 (although some states continue to ban all Ribes species), allowing gooseberry cultivation to resume. In this article, we’ll go over the health benefits of this versatile fruit, which includes symptom relief for those living with diabetes.
All About the Gooseberry
During the early 1800s, all of Europe plunged into a gooseberry craze. Growers formed dedicated clubs and organized competitions over who could grow the heaviest berries. In 1845 there were over 170 gooseberry shows in a single year, and soon after these events began taking place in the United States.
American gooseberries, which were native to the northeastern and north-central regions of the United States and Canada, became a culinary staple in everything from pastries to meat and vegetable dishes.
In the early 1900s, New York was growing approximately 2,700 acres of it to meet demand.
The aforementioned ban halted production, but once it was lifted, gooseberries gradually resumed their reputation as a food source and natural remedy for illnesses like diabetes and even cancer.
Gooseberries and Blood Sugar Control for Diabetes
High blood sugar levels contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes as well as dementia, stroke, and heart disease. Gooseberries have several properties that may help manage blood sugar levels.
- These tart berries are high in fiber, which slows the absorption rate of sugar into your bloodstream, thereby preventing sudden spikes in blood sugar levels.
- These test tube studies found that gooseberry extract is a potent alpha-glucosidase inhibitor. In other words, it prevents special enzymes in your small intestine from moving sugar from your gut into your bloodstream.
- Gooseberries are a rich source of chlorogenic acid, which can help control blood sugar levels after eating starchy foods by slowing carbohydrate absorption.
Benefits of Indian Gooseberries (Amla)
One variety, the Indian gooseberry (Amla), has long been used as an ayurvedic remedy for maintaining steady blood sugar levels and preventing it from spiking after meals. There appears to be a scientific basis for its use in managing diabetes: this study noted,“ Although there is minimal human evidence on amla in the scientific literature, it appears to be very promising as it could lower blood glucose in both healthy people and diabetics.”
Below are some of the reasons why amla is such a potent remedy for diabetic symptoms:
- The berries are high in chromium, which regulates carbohydrate metabolism and can help the body respond more effectively to insulin, keeping blood sugar levels under control.
- Amla is rich in Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant. This study found a correlation between Vitamin C levels and diabetes symptoms. Research suggests that a link exists between oxidative stress and conditions like diabetes, and amla can help reverse the damaging effects of oxidation.
Households that observe ayurvedic medical practices will make large jars of ‘murabbas,’ which consists of amla fruit boiled and cooked in sweet syrup before being flavored with cardamom. The recipe is below.
- Prick 2.2lbs (1kg) of amla with a fork. Dissolve 1 tsp of chemical lime in enough water to cover the fruit and soak overnight. The following morning, remove the amla, wash, and soak in the chemical lime-water mixture again overnight.
- The next morning, drain and wash the fruit. Squeeze and rinse well to get rid of residual lime.
- Boil enough water to cover the amla and cook until tender and translucent. Drain and set aside.
- Combine 3.3lbs (1.5kgs) of sugar and 1 tbsp of lemon juice in six cups of water, skimming off any scum that may rise to the surface.
- Add the amla, bring to a boil, and simmer for five minutes. Then allow to cool and store in a clean and airtight jar. Add cardamom or another flavoring of your choice.
Other Health Benefits of Gooseberries
Gooseberries appear to have a beneficial effect on different illnesses.
- They contain copper, which is important for the brain, immune system, heart, and circulatory system.
- Their manganese content supports healthy bone formation, metabolism, and immune response.
- Potassium is essential for normal cellular function.
- Dietary fiber from gooseberries can help reduce cholesterol, blood pressure, cholesterol, risk of heart disease and certain cancers.
- The organic acids that give gooseberries their tart taste can reduce one’s risk of stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.
Best Ways to Consume Gooseberries
Raw gooseberries provide the greatest health benefits. The riper they are, the sweeter their flavor, so if you’re not a big fan of tartness, go for ripe berries or certain varieties known to be sweeter, such as Martlet or Captivator. After washing them and chopping off the top and bottom tips, try enjoying them in the following ways:
- Eating them as a healthy standalone snack.
- Adding them to salads
- Using them as a yogurt or cereal topping
- Making a jam
Gooseberries are also key ingredients in a variety of dishes, such as chutneys, jams, and baked goods. However, these recipes are high in sugar and the cooking process destroys many of the antioxidants and phytonutrients that the berries contain. Whenever possible, consume them fresh.
Gooseberries are highly nutritious fruits that are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals while remaining low in calories. While there hasn’t been a huge amount of research done specifically on gooseberries, they definitely contain nutrients that have a beneficial impact on blood sugar levels. If you or someone you know is diabetic, adding gooseberries to one’s daily diet can lead to benefits that go beyond delicious taste alone.
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