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Sea-buckthorn – the healthiest of the Nordic wild berries

Sea-buckthorn – the healthiest of the Nordic wild berries

Heli Koskinen

Nordic nature is known for its exceptionally nutritious berries. This is the result of the unique growth conditions that include cold and harsh winters yet warm summers full of endless daylight. Therefore to be crowned the most nutritious berry the Nordic nature has to offer, is quite an achievement. The berry which is awarded this title is sea-buckthorn.

Sea-buckthorn is perhaps a lesser known berry compared to other Nordic berries such as bilberries and lingonberries. Sea-buckthorn is characterized by its bright orange color, tart and zesty flavor and its impressive nutritional content. The high amounts of vitamin C and good omega fatty acids are alone a reason why sea-buckthorn deserves a permanent spot in the limelight though. Sea-buckthorn is also a versatile berry which has many uses in foods, supplements and cosmetics.

The golden berries grow in the harsh conditions of the Northern shores

Sea-buckthorn originates from the mountainous Himalaya from which it has spread to the cold-temperate regions of Asia and Europe. Today it grows wild in Siberia, China, Russia, the Alps, Germany and the Nordic countries, such as the Baltic Coasts of Finland. While sea-buckthorn endures cold temperatures and dryness well, it doesn’t compromise on the amount of light. It thrives on the shores of rocky beaches and salty waters. Sea-buckthorn survives well in areas where the soil doesn't provide much nutrients since certain bacteria live in the roots of sea-buckthorn which fix nitrogen from the atmosphere.

Sea-buckthorn grows on Nordic shores

Sea-buckthorn thrives on the rugged shores of the North.

Sea-buckthorn goes through an exceptionally long period of growth which is also the secret to its impressive nutritional content. The further up north sea-buckthorn grows, the more nutrients – such as phenolic compounds and vitamin C – it contains. This is due to the exceptional amount of daylight in the North during the summer months.

The thick shrubs can grow from one meter to up to four meters tall. Sea-buckthorn has silvery-green leaves, deliciously orange berries – and spikes which make the picking of the berries somewhat challenging. The berries are best to be picked after the first frost in October when they are as ripe as possible.

Sea-buckthorn is rich in vitamin C and heart-healthy omega fatty acids

Sea-buckthorn is one of the most nutritious wild berries that exists. It contains an exceptionally wide range of nutrients: vitamins, minerals, omega fatty acids, antioxidants, fiber and carotenoids.

Sea-buckthorn is the most famous for its impressive seed oil, packed with vitamins C and E, carotenoids and omega fatty acids. Sea-buckthorn contains 140 mg/100 g of vitamin C which is almost three times as much as what the same amount of orange contains. Furthermore, the recommended daily intake of vitamin C for an adult is 75 mg so only 50 grams of sea-buckthorn is enough to reach the daily goal. Since the berries don’t contain the enzyme which oxidizes ascorbic acid, their vitamin C preserves well. That is why the berries also endure freezing well.

The orange color of sea-buckthorn comes from carotenoids which are precursors of vitamin A. In addition to having antioxidant properties, carotenoids also have anti-inflammatory effects. Sea-buckthorn also contains vitamins B, E and K, zinc, magnesium, manganese, sodium, calcium and flavonoids.

Sea-buckthorn contains more energy than other berries (57 kcal/100 g). This is because the pulp and especially the seeds of the berries contain plenty of oil – and not just any oil, but extremely healthy and beneficial oil rich in good mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids, including omega 3, 6, 7 and 9 fatty acids. The fatty acid composition of sea-buckthorn actually resembles the fatty acid composition of olive oil. The omega 3 and 6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that need to be consumed from foods, as our bodies can’t produce them. Omega 7 fatty acid moisturizes and protects the mucous membranes when consumed either internally and externally. Research has indicated that the fatty acids of sea-buckthorn also help to promote heart health, regulate blood sugar and lower the blood cholesterol.

Sea-buckthorn oil is full of good omega fatty acids

Sea-buckthorn oil is full of good omega fatty acids that treat your health internally and externally.

The versatile sea-buckthorn gives fresh and unique flavor to everyday foods

Though the nutritional benefits of sea-buckthorn are undeniable, sea-buckthorn hasn’t quite achieved the success it deserves, at least on the plates of consumers. One reason for this is its strong and tart flavor which is due to the malic acid it contains. In fact, sea-buckthorn was traditionally consumed mostly for medicinal purposes. Sea-buckthorn was used in Nordic folk medicine to treat for example flu, scurvy, diarrhea, constipation, rashes and rheumatism. It was even used to treat cancer and to strengthen the heart.

Little by little, sea-buckthorn has begun to be noticed also for its culinary possibilities. If you are a fan of bracing and complex flavors, then sea-buckthorn is definitely the berry for you. Sea-buckthorn is fit for many kinds of cooking and baking. For those who don’t mind a bit of tartness can eat fresh berries as such or add them to porridge, smoothies or yoghurt. Those who need a bit more sweetness with their berries can enjoy sea-buckthorn in the form of jams or juices instead.

Another good way to enjoy sea-buckthorn is in the form of powder. Sea-buckthorn powder is made from the peels and seeds of the berries, the by-products of sea-buckthorn juice. The berry powder can be added to just about anything: it makes a nice addition to bread dough or it can be used as a seasoning for fish dishes. It also adds color, fresh flavor and extra nutrients to pastries.

Sea-buckthorn oil brings aid to many skin problems

If the culinary world has previously been slightly sceptical about the use of sea-buckthorn in foods, the cosmetics industry has really understood the value of sea-buckthorn especially due to its high omega 7, vitamin C and vitamin A content. Sea-buckthorn oil is used especially in cleansers, moisturizers, face oils and serums.

Sea-buckthorn also enhances the absorption of all the important nutrients in a skincare product to the lower layers of the skin, helping the skin to utilize them more effectively.

Omega 7 fatty acids protect and moisturize the skin efficiently. They also strengthen the protective barrier of the skin which is why sea-buckthorn oil is often used in products developed for dry, sensitive and atopic skin. However, sea-buckthorn is also beneficial for oily and acne skin as it has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.

The antioxidants of sea-buckthorn protect the skin from free radicals and neutralize their effects, making it also a good ingredient for anti-age products. Carotenoids are also known to give the skin a healthy glow and a beautiful tone.

You can find sea-buckthorn in many products in our selection, such as berry powders, chocolates, juices, jellies, snack bars, spice mixes, dietary supplements and cosmetics. Get to know the selection and find your favorites!

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