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Health Benefits of Bilberry

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on August 20, 2020

Bilberry is a type of dark blue-skinned berry native to Europe. It is sometimes called whortleberry, huckleberry, or blaeberry. Today, the bilberry grows in countries outside of Europe, including certain regions of the United States.

At first glance, the bilberry looks similar to the blueberry. The two berries are closely related and share similar nutritional values, but they do have some distinct traits.

One of the most noticeable differences between the two berries is the color of the flesh when they’re in season. Where blueberries have a greenish color inside their dark blue skins, bilberries have a red or purple color. In addition to their differences in color, bilberries also have a more acidic flavor than blueberries.

These berries might be small, but they provide many amazing health benefits. 

Health Benefits

Like other types of berries, bilberries have many health benefits. Bilberries contain several plant compounds that can help fight inflammation, improve heart health, prevent diabetes, reduce the risk of cancer, and more. 

The health benefits of bilberries include:

Eye health. If left untreated, glaucoma can eventually lead to a gradual loss of eyesight. The anthocyanins in bilberries can help improve eye function for people with normal-tension glaucoma. Some studies suggest bilberries may help with eye fatigue, which can lead to eye strain, headaches, shoulder tension, and blurred or double vision

Reduced risk of diabetes

Bilberry and bilberry extract can help lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. The berries may also help increase insulin secretion in people with metabolic syndrome

Reduced risk of heart disease

Bilberries contain vitamin K, which can help prevent blood clots that could cause a heart attack or stroke. The anthocyanins in bilberries may also help reduce cholesterol and lower blood pressure. Managing your cholesterol levels and blood pressure can reduce your risk for atherosclerosis and other heart-related problems.

Cancer prevention

Bilberry is full of vitamin C, anthocyanins, and other antioxidants that help fight free radicals in your body. By protecting against free radicals and cell damage, bilberries may help reduce your risk of developing certain types of cancer.

Less Inflammation

The antioxidants in bilberries can help reduce inflammation in your body. This helps lower your risk of inflammatory diseases, including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. 

Reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease

Bilberry contains phenolic acids, and research suggests phenolic acids may help reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. 

Digestive health

Bilberry can help treat digestive issues. The antioxidants, tannins, and pectin in the berries can reduce inflammation in your digestive system. Reducing this inflammation helps relieve diarrhea, nausea, and indigestion.

Nutrients per Serving

Similar to many other types of berries, bilberries are packed with nutrients. In 1 cup (148 grams) of bilberries, you’ll find:

A cup of bilberries provides 24% of your daily recommended allowance of vitamin C. It also provides small amounts of vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, and B6.

Bilberries are packed with many other nutrients, including:

Bilberries are full of antioxidants, including anthocyanins. These flavonoid compounds help give the fruit its dark blue color. Bilberries also contain phenolic acids, which may help prevent cancer. 

How to Prepare Bilberry

You can buy fresh, frozen, or dried bilberries in some health food stores. Unlike blueberries, bilberries are much less common in most grocery stores. 

When buying fresh bilberries, look for smooth, tight skin. Avoid berries that look overripe or moldy. To store bilberries, place them in a glass jar and cover them with plastic wrap. Only wash them when you’re ready to use them. You can also store bilberries for longer periods in the freezer. 

You can eat bilberries on their own or include them in any recipe that calls for berries. Some ways to add bilberry to your diet include:

  • Sprinkle bilberries on yogurt or oatmeal.
  • Add bilberries to granola.
  • Mix bilberries into pancake or muffin batter.
  • Bake a bilberry pie.
  • Drink bilberry juice or add them to a bilberry smoothie.
  • Make bilberry jam or jelly.
  • Brew them into bilberry tea.

Show Sources

SOURCES

Benzie, IFF. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects, CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, 2011.

Frontiers in Pharmacology: “Berry Phenolic Acids – Implications for Human Health.”

Journal of Medicinal Food: “Ginkgo Biloba Extract and Bilberry Anthocyanins Improve Visual Function in Patients with Normal Tension Glaucoma.”

The Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Aging: “Bilberry Extract Supplementation for Preventing Eye Fatigue in Video Display Workers.”

Journal of Nutritional Science: “A Single Supplement of a Standardized (Vaccinium Myrtillus L.) Extract (36% Wet Weight Anthocyanins) Modifies Glycaemic Response in Individuals with Type 2 Diabetes Controlled By Diet and Lifestyle.”

Biochemistry (Moscow): “Anti-Angiogenic, Antioxidant, and Anti-Carcinogenic Properties of Anthocyanin-Rich Berry Extract Formula.”

Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry: “Anthocyanin-Enriched Bilberry and Blackcurrant Extracts Modulate Amyloid Precursor Protein Processing and Alleviate Behavioral Abnormalities in the APP/PS1 Mouse Model of Alzheimer’s Disease.”

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