Forget about blueberries, buffaloberries are the next big superfruit. Researchers have discovered antioxidants and nutrients in this bright red fruit that may lead to potential health benefits.

The American Indian’s use of buffaloberries, also known as shepherdia argentea, for nutritional and medicinal purposes is well documented throughout history. According to the American Indian Health and Diet Plan, buffaloberries grow exclusively in North America and come in three species including Silver Buffaloberry, Russet Buffaloberry, and Roundleaf Buffaloberry.

In addition to food and medicine, buffaloberries can also be used as a food dye or to make shampoo by way of the compound lycopene, and its acidic counterpart methyl-lycopenoate. Lycopene, is an antioxidant and carotenoid that is known for giving fruits and vegetables, such as tomato, their color. Health benefits of lycopene include the ability to lower the risk of certain types of cancer, most notably lung, stomach, and prostate cancers.

Buffaloberries grow on a tree related to the olive family which is found primarily in western North America, especially on Indian reservations. A buffaloberry shrub usually grows between two and seven feet tall, with brown branches, sparsely covered by silvery scales. Handling buffaloberry shrubs requires care because of thorns and suckers that the plant produces.

A research team from the University of Saskatchewan recently analyzed potentially nutrient-rich prairie fruits including buffaloberry, chokeberry, and sea buckhorn. Findings revealed that all three types displayed high levels of total dietary fiber and buffaloberries, in particular, were high in vitamin C.

"There is increasing interest in the commercial development of these fruits since historically it has been thought they may provide nutritional and health benefits," explained Dr. Rick Green, vice president of technology at POS Bio-Sciences in Saskatoon, and co-author of the study. "Our results provide evidence that these fruits do, in fact, possess such nutritional benefits and contain compounds of interest for their health and wellness attributes. Thus, our work supports the commercial development of buffaloberry, chokecherry, and sea buckthorn berries."

Source: Riedi K, Choski K, Scheerens J, et al. Variation in Lycopene and Lycopenoates, Antioxidant Capacity, and Fruit Quality of Buffaloberry (Shepherdia argentea [Pursh]Nutt.). Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). 2013.