The Bountiful Benefits of Bilberry
What Is Bilberry?
The bilberry is gaining popularity worldwide. Also known as the European blueberry, whortleberry, or huckleberry, the bilberry is similar in appearance to its close relative, the blueberry. Bilberry has phenolic acids and anthocyanins, which are credited with a majority of its health benefits.
What Are Anthocyanins?
Anthocyanins are flavonoids commonly found in fruits, vegetables, and grains. On top of giving these plant foods their red, blue, or purple hue, these naturally occurring pigments are associated with a variety of positive nutritional benefits.
When compared to other berries — like strawberry, cranberry, sour cherry, and raspberry — the bilberry possesses a higher concentration of anthocyanins. The anthocyanin content of fresh bilberry can range from 300–700 mg/100 g of the fruit.
We consulted Atlanta-area registered dietitians Johane Filemon MS, RDN, LD, CLT, of Wonderfully Nutritious Solutions, and Barbie Tucker, RD, LD, M.Ed., to get a breakdown of the nutritional benefits of bilberry — and how to harness them.
What Are the Benefits of Taking Bilberry Supplements?
“All plants and herbs have some health benefits ranging from added fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals,” says Tucker. “But among the many benefits, the bilberry is most known for are the phytonutrients contained within it.”
Additionally, a study of 281 Japanese office workers found those who received a 480 mg/day bilberry supplement over eight weeks experienced some reduction of eye fatigue caused by exposure to video display terminals.
Are There Any Risks with Taking Bilberry Supplements?
Always check with your physician for additional information about side effects with any supplement. According to some research studies, bilberry may have the potential to alter the effectiveness of other medicines, vitamins, or supplements you may be taking.
Both of the registered dietitians we consulted reiterated the importance of eating 8–12 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Filemon points out that reducing intake of saturated fats, while increasing the consumption of high-fiber foods like berries may have positive health implications.
Tucker adds, “Our whole bodies do not rely on just one or two nutrients for optimal health. Yes, our eyes may benefit from adding bilberries to our diet. More importantly, they need a support system of nutrients to remain healthy throughout our lifetime.”
Where Can You Find Bilberry?
You can find bilberry supplements online, at your local health food store, and many mainstream pharmacies and supermarkets.
Anytime you shop for a supplement, consider these questions: How is the supplement produced? Is it processed without harmful solvents or other additives? Is the company reputable? Do they offer proof of the tests they perform (including verification that what’s on the label is really what you’re buying and that they’ve tested for microbes, heavy metals, etc.)? Are they making claims that sound too good to be true? Keep in mind that supplement companies have to abide by industry standards for their claims, which are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Here are a few bilberry products available on Amazon: