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Superfoods Series

Health Benefits of Bilberries (Wild Blueberries)

Wild blueberries aka bilberries
Bilberries are a true superhero food with wide-ranging activity

Bilberries (also known as Vaccinium myrtillus, wild blueberries, and blue whortleberries) have been shown to have the highest Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) rating of more than 20 fresh fruits and berries. ORAC is a measure that USDA researchers use to determine the antioxidant capacity of different foods. The antioxidant properties of bilberries were shown to be even stronger than those of cranberries, raspberries, strawberries, plums, or cultivated blueberries. The antioxidant powers and health benefits of bilberries can be attributed to a number of remarkable compounds contained in them, including anthocyanins, vitamin C, resveratrol (the nutrient responsible for the purported health benefits of red wine), vitamin E, and ellagic acid.

Bilberries — one of the greatest beauty foods of all times

Packed with antioxidants, bilberries and other whortleberries are great for the skin. These little antioxidant powerhouses contribute to the health of the collagen matrix by neutralizing enzymes that destroy connective tissue, and by scavenging free radicals. As a consequence, bilberries are great for people who want to prevent wrinkles and pre-mature aging of the skin as well as for women who are following an anti-cellulite diet. Thanks to the anthocyanins and other antioxidants they contain, bilberries are also considered good for people following an anti-bruise diet in an effort to prevent bruises and make them heal faster.

Looking for ways to get rid of acne through diet? Try bilberries. These superberries may also help prevent acne breakouts due to their high concentration of pectin. Pectin is a type of dietary fiber that helps clear intestinal toxins that may contribute to acne.

Consume bilberries without dairy for maximum antioxidant benefit

Eating bilberries and blueberries with milk has been shown to block their antioxidant capacity. In one study, volunteers were given 200 grams (7 ounces) of blueberries with either 200 ml (0.8 cups) of water or 200ml milk. As expected, those who consumed blueberries with water had an increase in their plasma antioxidant capacity. Interestingly, this effect was not found in those volunteers who ingested blueberries with milk. The study authors believe that the ability of milk to impair the antioxidant powers of blueberries may be a result of the affinity of blueberries for milk protein.

Protection against colon cancer

One animal study found that a natural compound called pterostilbene in bilberries and cultivated blueberries can help prevent colon cancer. Nine rats with colon cancer were fed a balanced diet containing pterostilbene, and another group of nine rats with colon cancer were put on a balanced diet with no pterostilbene. After the eight-week trial period, the animals in the group that received the blueberry extract were found to have 57% fewer pre-cancerous lesions in the colon, compared to the control group. Also in vitro studies have found blueberries to be effective at inhibiting colon cancer cell proliferation and inducing cancer cell apoptosis.

An anti-UTI food par excellence

Blueberries, including bilberries, may be one of the best foods for people following an anti-UTi diet. Researchers at the Rutgers Blueberry Cranberry Research Center in Chatsworth, N.J., found that blueberries can help prevent recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs), much in the same way as cranberries do. The anti-UTI properties of blueberries seem to be linked to the high concentration of the bioflavonoid epicatechin found in blueberries (and cranberries). Epicatechin works its protective magic by preventing bacteria from attaching to the lining of the bladder. As a result, the E. coli bacteria responsible for most UTIs are eliminated through urine before they can cause an infection.

Anti-inflammatory benefits

Anthocyanins, the flavonoids responsible for blueberries' tart taste and intense color, are known to possess strong anti-inflammatory properties which may help control symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Some scientists believe that the anti-inflammatory powers of anthocyanins may be even stronger than those of aspirin.

Nutrients for healthier veins

Did you know that diet and varicose veins are linked, and that bilberries may be one of the best foods you can eat if you're looking for natural ways to treat those enlarged veins? Not only do bilberries contribute to the health of the collagen matrix, they also help repair damaged proteins in the blood vessel walls and promote the overall health of the vascular system. On top of that, blueberries and bilberries are supercharged with both insoluble fiber and soluble fiber such as pectin. A diet rich in fiber helps prevent constipation, which in turn helps reduce pressure on the veins.

"The vision fruit"

Numerous studies conducted in Europe have documented that bilberry extracts can improve night time visual acuity, reduce eyestrain, and promote quicker adjustment to darkness. These beneficial effects on eye health appear to be linked to the high concentration of anthocyanin present in bilberries. Other studies suggest that blueberries may also prevent — and even reverse — macular degeneration, the primary cause of vision loss and blindness in the elderly. Due to its extraordinary benefits on eye health, the Japanese often refer to the blueberry as "the vision fruit".

Bilberry Nutrition Facts

  • Glycemic Index (GI) Rating / Glycemic Load (GL): Wild blueberries have a GI rating of 53±7 and are therefore generally considered a low GI food.
  • Calories: Like most berries, blueberries and bilberries are low in calories, with 1 ounce (28 grams) of blueberries containing approximately 16 calories.
  • Macronutrients: Bilberries and blueberries consist mainly of water and carbohydrates, including dietary fiber such as pectin.
  • Vitamins & Minerals: Bilberries and blueberries are a good source of vitamin C and vitamin K. They are also one of the best berry sources of vitamin E. Blueberries are also rich in manganese.

Blueberry / Bilberry Recipes with Health Benefits

Looking for healthy bilberry recipes? Here's a selection of delicious recipes featuring blueberries and other healthy ingredients. Just click the name of the recipe to view the full list of ingredients and the instructions.

Note: You can substitute wild blueberries for cultivated blueberries in all recipes.

  • Blueberry Soup Recipe. In the Nordic countries, blueberry soup made with wild blueberries is a popular treat that can be served warm as an appetizer or chilled as a dessert.
  • Blueberry Banana Smoothie Recipe. This smoothie is literally bursting with flavor and antioxidants. In addition, the ground flaxseed this recipe calls for adds omega-3 fatty acids to this super healthy smoothie.
  • Rice Pudding with Blueberry Sauce. Treat your taste buds to this delicious rice pudding served with antioxidant-rich blueberry souce.
  • Dairy-Free Blueberry Muesli. Eating blueberries with dairy has been shown to block their antioxidant capacity. This dairy-free muesli recipe aims to maximize the health benefits of blueberries.
  • Blueberry Raspberry Smoothie. Here's another dairy-free muesli recipe. This healthy muesli recipe combines blueberries with another super food: the raspberry.