We’re all familiar with blueberries, but how much do you know about their lookalikes, bilberries? It turns out, the petite fruit is packed with a ton of health benefits!
Native to the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia, bilberries are both smaller and darker than blueberries. That more intense color comes from a flavonoid called anthocyanin. It’s found in blueberries too, plus other purple fruit and veggies, but the amount in bilberries makes them one of the best sources of the nutrient.
According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, snacking on bilberries can help significantly lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiac health issues. They came to this conclusion after observing nearly 2,000 women between 18 and 75 years old for more than a decade. The results led them to recommend adding even just one or two handfuls of berries to our daily diet.
A review of several studies on the fruit explains how anthocyanin is also a powerful antioxidant that can help protect and restore brain cells from oxidative stress. Research from the European Journal of Nutrition backs this up. They observed adults over the age of 70 who were given 200 ml. of anthocyanin-rich every day for 12 weeks. At the end of that time period, they saw improvements in verbal fluency, short-term memory, and long-term memory.
Diabetes.co.uk highlights bilberries as a great choice for those dealing with blood sugar issues. Although more research is needed, the anthocyanin in bilberries may help with balancing glucose levels for those with type 2 diabetes. They also mention research showing improved vision health in diabetic patients by strengthening blood vessels in the retina. Of course, you should be sure to talk with your doctor before adding anything to your diet that can affect your blood sugar levels, especially if you’re already on medication for diabetes.
Now, you’re probably wondering about how bilberries taste. Despite their similar appearance to blueberries, they have a more sour and acidic flavor rather than sweet. They can be eaten raw or you can tone down the tartness by cooking them with sugar in confectionary treats. Or you can go for a supplement instead, like Life Extension Bilberry Extract (Buy at Life Extension, $24.30). Again, just be sure to check with your doctor before adding it to your daily routine.
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