Food and Behaviour Research

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15 August 2019 - Nutraingredients - Edible flowers can contribute to daily dose of vitamin E, study suggests

Adi Menayang

edible flowers

A flower a day keeps the doctor away? Study highlights two flowers - borage and centaurea - as a source of healthy fatty-acids, carotenoids, and more.

A flower a day keeps the doctor away? Study highlights two flowers as source of healthy fatty-acids, carotenoids, and more.

Concurrent with the age of Instagram and social media food photography, edible flowers have been making appearances on salads, soups, meat dishes, and more - mainly as garnish.

But might they also have beneficial nutritive value? Researchers affiliated with the Polytechnic Institute of Bragança, Porto University, and the University of Aveiro in Portugal analyzed the phytochemical composition of Borago officinalis L. and Centaurea cyanus L, colloquially known as borage and centaurea, which are two popular edible flowers

For the petals of borage and centaurea, the researchers argued that “daily consumption of edible flowers may contribute to supplying some macronutrients, vitamins, and organic acids to the human diet.”

In fact, their analysis led them to argue that consumption of borage and centaurea petals can contribute to the daily recommended dose of vitamin E (mostly alpha-tocopherols), based on a 100 g dry weight of each flower petal at all flowering stages, they wrote in their paper, due for publication in the September issue of Food Research International.

“The commercial value of edible flowers is increasing in the food sector, mostly due to consumer' interest in natural products, new ingredients with potential health benefits, and the aesthetic benefits of their use in food and beverages,” they added.

What’s in a flower?

The researchers analyzed flower petals collected from the greenhouse of the School of Agriculture of the Polytechnic Institute of Bragança, harvested at different stages of development (tight bud stage, mature bud stage, and fully open).

They then analyzed content of dietary fiber, carbohydrates, fat, protein, fatty acids, vitamin E, and carotenoids - which is a pigment compound that has been linked to eye health benefits and more.

The nutritive value of both flowers were quite similar. The main differences were that centaurea had higher values of energy (calories) and total dietary fiber, while borage showed higher fatty-acids and carotenoids.

Looking at true petals alone, without the bud, borage actually had the lowest values of total carotenoids.

“Despite the lower amounts of some compounds…These characteristics may therefore encourage the use of edible flowers (whole flower and petals) for human consumption,” they concluded.