Berries are often hailed as one of the best fruits you can eat. This is because they are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients which have a wide range of health benefits.
One class of compounds in berries that are responsible for many of their health benefits are anthocyanins – the plant pigment that gives berries and other red, blue, or purple plants their color. All berries contain anthocyanins, but blueberries are considered one of the best natural sources.1
Blueberries are small black berries that look a lot like blueberries. In fact, because they look so similar, they are often confused, but blueberries are smaller, softer, and a bit more tart than blueberries.
Bilberries, whose botanical name is Vaccinium myrtillus, are native to parts of the northern United States, Canada, and parts of Europe and Asia and have been used as a medicinal plant for centuries.
You may not be as familiar with blueberries as some of the other berries such as blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries, but with so many potential health benefits, it’s worth including them in your diet.
The antioxidant power of blueberries
One of the reasons blueberries are so good for you because of their high antioxidant content or, more specifically, their concentration of anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are plant pigments classified as flavonoids.
Studies have shown that anthocyanins protect against various long-term health problems and illnesses, help improve eyesight, and protect your nervous system.2 There are many physiological processes involved in how anthocyanins work, but two of the main mechanisms are to fight free radicals and turn off chronic inflammation. Anthocyanins also have potent antimicrobial activity, so they can help fight infections caused by pathogenic viruses and bacteria.
While blueberries are often praised for their high concentration of antioxidants, blueberries contain only 30% to 60% of the anthocyanin content of blueberries.3 True European blueberries contain 3.7 milligrams of anthocyanins per gram of total fruit weight. If you do the math, that means that half a cup of blueberries, which weighs around 74 grams depending on the size of each berry, contains around 274 mg of anthocyanins, most of which are concentrated in their skins.4
However, the exact amount of antioxidant compounds in blueberries depends on where they are grown. For example, a study showed that blueberries grown in the Velingrad region of Bulgaria had 34% higher concentrations of anthocyanins than blueberries from the Troyan region.5
There is no current dietary recommendation for how many anthocyanins you should consume, but studies suggest that intakes of around 50 mg per day (around one-third of a cup) are enough to get most benefits. health benefits.6 The average intake, meanwhile, is only 10.5 to 12.6 mg per day.seven
In addition to anthocyanins, blueberries also contain catechins, epicatechins, quercetin, myrketin and kempferol (other types of flavonoids), ascorbic acid, phenolic acids, and chlorogenic acid – all of them. compounds that also have antioxidant capacities. While most of the benefits of blueberries can be attributed to their high anthocyanin content, all of the compounds work together to keep you healthy.
Bilberry helps maintain eye health
Legend has it that blueberries have been used to improve vision since WWII, when British Air Force pilots discovered that when they ate blueberry jam before a night mission, they had better night vision.8 While no official studies confirm whether bilberries actually have a positive effect on night vision, other studies show bilberries may help improve other areas of eye health.
An animal study9 investigated whether or not bilberry could improve dry eye. Researchers found that daily administration of blueberry extract could increase tear production and help relieve symptoms of dry eye. In another animal study,ten Bilberry helps fight endotoxin-induced uveitis, or inflammation of the middle layer of the eye (called uvea).
There are also studies looking at how anthocyanins, in general, can help improve eye health. According to a review, anthocyanins can help increase blood flow to the eye, improve dark adaptation and relax eye muscles, helping to improve symptoms of glaucoma and myopia, or myopia.11
Bilberry improves blood lipids and heart health
Although blueberries are small, they have great benefits for your heart. In a study,12 participants with risk factors for heart disease ate blueberries, lingonberries, Cassis and blueberries alternating days for eight weeks.
After the trial period, blood pressure decreased and HDL cholesterol increased significantly and there were measurable positive changes in platelet function. Another animal study13 found that bilberry extract could lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in diabetic rats.
Bilberry protects against cancer
It is estimated that one in three people will be diagnosed with cancer.14 But there are a lot of lifestyle changes you can make to protect yourself, and eating foods rich in anthocyanins like blueberries is one of them.
In a 2017 study,15 researchers have found that consuming foods rich in anthocyanins can help inhibit cancer cell growth and prevent metastasis. Anthocyanins have also been shown to trigger apoptosis or the death of cancer cells.
Bilberry reduces chronic inflammation
Inflammation is your body’s defense mechanism against disease and potentially harmful pathogens. However, when it becomes chronic, it can affect your quality of life and lead to devastating illnesses like heart disease, cancer, and liver disease.
Over 50% of deaths worldwide are due to inflammatory diseases.16 Anthocyanins in blueberries can help turn off chronic inflammation and get your body back to optimal functioning.
In a 2007 study published in The Journal of Nutrition,17 The researchers noted that the anthocyanin-rich bilberry extracts helped inhibit nuclear factor kappaB (NF-kappaB), a pro-inflammatory compound that can lead to chronic inflammation. In the study, which lasted for three weeks, participants were divided into two groups. One group received 300 mg of blueberry anthocyanins each day, while the other group received a placebo.
After the trial period, participants in the blueberry group showed a 38% to 60% decrease in inflammatory markers, while the inflammatory markers in the placebo group declined from only 4% to 6%.
In another study,18 Researchers found that some of the other compounds found in blueberries – quercetin, epicatechin and reservatrol – could also inhibit NF-kappaB, reduce inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein and interleukin-6. And fight against oxidative stress.
Bilberry helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels
Some of the compounds in blueberries also work on digestive enzymes, slowing the digestion of carbohydrates and helping to maintain healthier blood sugar levels.19
In a study,20 The researchers divided the participants into three groups: a group with a diet fortified with blueberries, a group whose diet was fortified with other berries (strawberries, raspberries and ripe blackberries), and a group with a control diet.
After eight weeks, only the bilberry-fortified diet group showed positive changes in fasting blood sugar, insulin secretion, and beta cell function. Researchers have linked these benefits to better overall glycemic control.
Likewise, in an animal study,21 Researchers found that bilberry extract could lower high blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity in mice with type 2 diabetes, a combination that could help both prevent and treat the disease.
Bilberry can help you lose weight
Studies show that a high daily intake of anthocyanins can also help you lose weight, especially body fat, regardless of other factors like genetics. Researchers of a study22 which was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition compared the diets of healthy twins and calculated their total flavonoid intake.
They found that participants aged 50 and under with a high intake of anthocyanins had 3% to 9% less total fat and less fat around their waist than their twin.
The study did not specifically use blueberries, but since blueberries are one of the foods highest in anthocyanins, it makes sense that including them in your diet would have similar, if not more significant, effects.
How to eat blueberries
The easiest way to eat blueberries is the handful, just like you would with blueberries. However, since they’re not as popular as blueberries, they’re not always easy to find in your local grocery store.
If you can’t find them fresh, you can order organic dried blueberries online. If you choose to eat them dried, make sure you don’t overdo it. Since most of the water is removed from dried fruit, it is much easier to eat too much of it and if you do, you will also be consuming a lot of sugar. You can also find blueberry leaf tea, although it is best to consume the whole fruit to get the full benefit.