Elderberry Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Black berries elderberry cluster Sambucus nigra with sky
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The colorful elderberry packs powerful antioxidants that research suggests may boost the immune system and relieve flu-like symptoms. While it's not a miracle cure, the berry is rich in healthful flavonoids, especially anthocyanins that create the elderberry’s dark coloring. While you cannot eat them raw, you can brew the berries or the tree's flowers into a tea, or cook and eat the fruit like other berries.

Elderberry Nutrition Facts 

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1 cup (145g) of fresh, whole elderberries.

  • Calories: 106
  • Fat: 0.7g
  • Sodium: 9mg
  • Carbohydrates: 27g
  • Fiber: 10g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 1g

Carbs

Elderberries contain approximately 27 grams of carbohydrate per serving 1-cup serving, which equates to about 9% of your total recommended daily intake (RDI). Elderberries have up to 10 grams of fiber per serving, which is about 40% of what you should consume daily. The berry falls on the low end of the glycemic index, and is presumed to not have a sizable effect on your blood sugar content.

Fat

Elderberries contain a negligible amount of fat.

Protein

As is typical of fruits, elderberries are low in protein.

Vitamins and Minerals

Elderberries provide vitamin A, about 6% of your daily total. This vitamin can help you combat free radicals that damage your skin, heart, and lungs. In addition, vitamin A aids in fighting inflammation, which can interfere with the proper functioning of cells and muscles. 

Elderberries also supply 6% of your daily dose of calcium and serve as a substantial source of vitamin C, which facilitates body tissue repair and assists in the formation of collagen.

Health Benefits

Elderberries can be a valuable source of antioxidants, although the nutritional content can vary depending on the ripeness of the berry and the environment and climate in which it grew. Note that most research is limited (for example, in vitro and animal studies, rather than large clinical trials in humans). Evidence of elderberry's effects is not strong or conclusive.

May Help Fight Colds and Flu

The elderberry is perhaps best known for its purported immune-boosting effects due to its high bioflavonoid content (bioflavonoids are antioxidant plant nutrients that may help improve health or prevent disease). Some research shows that extracts, flower infusions, and elderberry supplements can aid with respiratory health and work as agents fighting against the common cold and influenza.

In a 2016 study published in Nutrients, researchers found that 312 air travelers with a cold who took elderberry for 10 days before travel and up to five days after arriving at their overseas destination experienced a significant reduction in their cold-like symptoms than those who did not take elderberry.

May Assist in Weight Loss

A small research study in humans showed a statistically significant improvement in body weight and body mass index with a diet enriched with elderberries. Study subjects also reported better mental and physical well-being.

May Help Relieve Constipation

One study found that a Brazilian laxative containing elderberry was safe and effective in treating constipation.

Slows Cellular Aging

Elderberries can't stop the normal aging process, but their antioxidants can help to defend cells from oxidative stress that might harm otherwise healthy cells. You do not need to ingest much to make a difference. Most studies use very small quantities and extracts.

Allergies

Allergy to both the pollen and the fruit of the elderberry tree is possible, although rarely reported. If you have experienced reactions to other berries, talk to your doctor before consuming elderberries or elderberry products. You should also consult with a medical professional if you have any symptoms of allergic reaction, especially if you have experienced food allergies in the past. 

Adverse Effects

Elderberry fruit is considered safe to eat, as long as you eat it in moderation and cook it first. You should not consume the bark, seeds, or uncooked or unripe berries or flowers, as they can induce severe nausea and diarrhea. In fact, uncooked berries and flowers contain a substance that can form cyanide in our bodies. But all lethal substances can be removed with cooking the berries or steeping the flowers in boiling water to make tea.

You should not eat elderberries if you have had any type of organ transplant or if you take medicine for diabetes. Children and pregnant women should not consume elderberry.

Also consult a medical professional if you have an autoimmune condition, as the berry could interact with your immune system. You should also be careful you take any of the following medications, as elderberries may interact with them:

  • Corticosteroids like prednisone
  • Imuran (azathioprine)
  • Prograf (tacrolimus)
  • Sandimmune (cyclosporine)
  • Simulect (basiliximab)
  • Zenapax (daclizumab)

Varieties

The most common varieties of elderberries are the European elderberry (Sambucus nigra), which grows up to 20 feet in height and blooms much earlier than the American variety. The American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) grows in the wild. Both kinds are found in the United States, and newer varieties are making their way to market as well.

When They're Best

Elderberries ripen and should be harvested in the summer. You may find them at farmers markets when in season. Some farms also sell frozen or dried elderberries online year-round.

Storage and Food Safety

To store fresh elderberries, keep them in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. Keep dried elderberries in a cool, dark, dry place in a sealed bag or container, where they can last for at least a year. If you buy or pick fresh elderberries on the stem, freezing them first helps you pluck the berries off the stems without squashing them.

Always purchase elderberries from reputable sources, like grocery stores, health food stores, and reliable farmers markets. If you purchase elderberry as a supplement, remember that supplements are not regulated like food is. Look for reputable vendors that offer third-party proof of potency, purity, and safety. 

How to Prepare

To cook elderberries, you can steep the flowers and create a soothing tea; simmer dried berries into a syrup; or cook them in jam, pie, or wine. You can also substitute them in recipes calling for other types of berries, such as blueberries or currants, as long as they are cooked.

To make elderberry tea:

  1. Add water and elderberries into a pot.
  2. Add in spices you like, such as cinnamon or cloves.
  3. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for approximately 15 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and let cool for about five minutes.
  5. Strain.
  6. Pour into a mug. You can also add honey or a sugar substitute to cut the tartness of the berries’ flavor.

Recipes

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Article Sources
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