The Bountiful Benefits of Bilberry
There’s no way around it: Berries are good for you. So good, in fact, that their potential benefits have been captured in supplement form. Now, instead of receiving confused looks by an overwhelmed farmer’s market clerk, you can head to your pharmacy or supplement store for some uncommon favorites like açaí, elderberry, and even bilberry! Before we get into the bilberry benefits, let’s cover the basics.
What Is Bilberry?
Also known as the European blueberry, whortleberry, or huckleberry, the bilberry is similar in appearance to its close relative, the blueberry.
While it’s always a good idea to pick up a carton of fresh blueberries on a grocery run, it’s also prudent to inquire about bilberry supplements. Bilberry contains anthocyanins not found in American blueberries, as well as phenolic acids, which are credited with a majority of its health benefits.
What are anthocyanins?
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 — such as strawberries, cranberries, sour cherries, and raspberries — the bilberry possesses a higher concentration of anthocyanins.
The anthocyanin content of fresh bilberry can range from 300 to 700 mg per 100 g of the fruit.
What are phenolic acids?
What Are the Benefits of Taking Bilberry Supplements?
We consulted Atlanta-area registered dieticians, Johane Filemon MS, RDN, LD, CLT of Wonderfully Nutritious Solutions, and Barbie Tucker, RD, LD, M.Ed. to get a breakdown of bilberry benefits for nutrition — and how to harness them.
“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 to Taking Bilberry Supplements?
Always check with your physician for additional information about side effects with any supplement.
Bilberry joins the blueberry, cranberry, lingonberry, and huckleberry as fruits from the Vaccinium genus of shrubs. Just like their American cousins, bilberries contain fiber, as well as healthy nutrients, including:
Serving amounts vary for bilberry, but include:
- 20 to 60 g of dried berries
- 160 to 480 mg of powdered extract
Both of the registered dietitians we consulted reiterated the importance of eating 8 to 12 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
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?
Finding fresh bilberry could be a bit of a challenge because it grows mainly in the hills of Europe and Asia. But 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? 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.
Buy bilberry products on Amazon:
- Anthocyanins from bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) alleviate pruritus in a mouse model of chronic allergic contact dermatitis www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3193617/
- Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition.: Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92770/
- Phenolic acids act as signaling molecules in plant-microbe symbioses www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2958585/
- Phenolic Compounds from Five Ericaceae Species Leaves and Their Related Bioavailability and Health Benefits www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6600139/
- The Potential of Plant Phenolics in Prevention and Therapy of Skin Disorders www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4783894/
- Bilberry extract supplementation for preventing eye fatigue in video display terminal workers pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25923485/