The power of bilberry
Bilberry is a powerhouse of nutrition and medicinal uses. Similar to blueberries, bilberries are rich in antioxidants, which are beneficial plant compounds that help protect against disease. Bilberry supports cardiovascular health, cognitive function, detoxification, vision and healthy gums. It helps to lower sugar levels and the absorption of fat, both of which are helpful for diabetes and obesity. For all these reasons, bilberry is a good fruit to get to know.
Bilberry contains anthocyanins, which are antioxidants with anti-inflammatory and calming properties. Inflammation is believed to be the root cause of disease and the tannins and compounds in bilberry can help to tame inflammation, soothe the gastrointestinal system and calm irritation. Bilberry also contains vitamin C, which is another antioxidant.
The anthocyanin in bilberries may also stimulate the secretion of insulin, and prevent the breakdown of carbs in the gut, both of which can help lower blood sugar levels.
Bilberry has the unique ability to bind heavy metals like arsenic, lead, cadmium and iron from the blood, thereby improving the function of the liver and kidneys.
Recent studies suggest that supplementing with bilberry may benefit one’s vision in a number of ways. In addition to improving visual function in people with glaucoma, bilberry may reduce eye dryness and other symptoms of eye fatigue caused by working with screens.
Bilberry may benefit heart health as well. Rich in vitamin K, bilberry may help lower blood pressure, reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol, increase HDL (good) cholesterol and prevent the formation of blood clots, reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Lastly, bilberry may improve brain function with promising small studies showing improved long term and working memory in older adults.
Native to Europe, bilberry is found in North America, generally in subarctic and arctic regions. With local harvesting of fresh bilberries unlikely, find them in health stores or order online. Options include dried or frozen berries, juice, nectar, powdered extract and supplements in the form of drops, tablets and capsules. Like blueberries, bilberries can be added to pancakes, muffins, smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt and salads.
Although generally considered safe and beneficial in one’s diet, healthline.com warns that bilberries may increase the risk of bleeding in people with bleeding disorders or who take blood-thinning medications. They may also cause blood sugar levels to drop too low in those on blood-sugar-lowering medications.
By Lisa Nicklanovich; courtesy photo