The bilberry family contains a wide variety of different edible berries that, despite not being readily available in the United States, are full of excellent health benefits. Bilberries can be made into jams, juices, baked into pies and used in a variety of other ways as well. Most bilberries come from Scandinavian countries, and those in the United States are likely to be rare and expensive.
One of the most important health benefits to eating bilberries is the antioxidants that are contained within them. Specifically, the type of antioxidant that is most prevalent in bilberries is called anthocyanin. Anthocyanin is associated with rich and deep purple colors and can be found in a variety of other fruits and vegetables of this hue as well, including eggplants, blueberries and more. For a more complete description of the many benefits of anthocyanin and bilberries in general to your health, read on.
Bilberries and Vision Benefits
It was rumored that fighter pilots in the Second World War made use of bilberry jams and other foods constructed from these berries in order to improve their eyesight before flying at night. Unfortunately, the truth of this story has not been confirmed, and the benefit of bilberries on night vision has yet to be established through clinical studies. However, bilberries are nonetheless beneficial to the health of your eyes in general.
They have been linked, through anthocyanin and a variety of other antioxidants that they contain as well, to different benefits of the eyes, including the prevention of macular degeneration that is common amongst older women. In cases where macular degeneration already exists, bilberries eaten regularly can help to slow or stop the progression of the condition with a very high level of effectiveness.
Additional Antioxidant Benefits
Antioxidants in general are known to prevent cancer and to lower the risks of heart disease and other related conditions. This is no exception with bilberry antioxidants. A diet rich in bilberries and containing plenty of anthocyanin and other antioxidants can dramatically improve your chances of living a long and healthy life, by lowering the likelihood that you’ll develop these and other chronic conditions.
Bilberries have been associated with general decreases in rates of diabetes amongst people who would otherwise be predisposed to this disease. They can also be used to eliminate gastrointestinal upset as well. In these cases, the antioxidants are available both in the bilberries themselves and also in the bilberry leaves that accompany them, although you’ll probably not want to eat the leaves.
Bilberries are available through many independent food markets. They grow in a similar climate to blueberries, and many people find that they are able to grow their own bilberries for a lower cost than it takes to purchase a steady supply of them anyway. Alternately, the same mixture of antioxidants can be found in a wide variety of other fruits and vegetables as well.