Bilberries, a close relative of blueberries, belong to the family Ericaceae or heather family, along with berries like cranberry and flowering plants like azalea. Bilberry is known by a number of other names like winberry, myrtle blueberry, and fraughan. It is a berry that is darker in color and smaller than the blueberry, but it has a fuller taste. The pulp of bilberry is red or purple, and eating it can stain the tongue and fingers. It gets this color from its various anthocyanins, which are pigments that can be red, purple, or blue. Because bilberry is hard to cultivate, bilberries found in markets are usually those gathered from the wild lands scattered throughout northern and central Europe or from forests. The fruits of the bilberry, whether ripe or dried, and its leaves are used in making medicine.
Bilberry is an excellent antioxidant, as it contains a high amount of anthocyanosides. As an antioxidant, it neutralizes the free radicals in the body. These free radicals, which are naturally produced by the body, are unstable molecules that, according to studies, are linked to heart diseases, liver diseases, and cancers. The body naturally produces antioxidants; however, these antioxidants may not be enough, in which case antioxidants must be externally supplied.
Aside from this, the anthocyanosides can strengthen the blood vessels. It can improve circulation of the blood, thereby preventing conditions like atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis occurs when the arteries harden. Atherosclerosis eventually may lead to heart attack and stroke. Bilberry can also prevent the oxidation of low density lipoproteins, which are considered ‘bad’ cholesterol.
Bilberries are used to aid treatments to cure diabetes. This is because bilberries can regulate the levels of blood sugar. Bilberry can also reduce the glucose response of the body after eating a high sugar meal. These effects are amplified when bilberry is consumed in combination with oatmeal.
Because bilberry extract can lower blood sugar, people with diabetes taking medication to lower blood sugar may find that their blood sugar has gone too low. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should consult their doctors before taking bilberry.
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