Everything You Need to Know about Blueberries
Have you noticed how some blueberries color your tongue and hands with deep blue color, while other do not? Did you know that is what gives an edge to some blueberries over others? It shows the berry is a powerful-, nutritious Nordic wild blueberry (aka bilberry) packed with antioxidants and anthocyanins, which helps you stay on top of your health-game. Bilberries are called mini nutrition powerhouses, and they sure live up to this name!
What you will find in this article:
- Bilberries have one of the highest antioxidant levels of all berries. They promote brain health, support eye and heart health, and encourage a healthy anti-inflammatory response. These are just some of the many benefits of bilberries!
- The difference between blueberries and bilberries is not just the obvious, size. Thanks to the darker blue skin of bilberries, they are higher in anthocyanin, which has been associated with the prevention of cancer, obesity, diabetes, and other aging-related diseases.
- Bilberries have been used in folk medicine for hundreds of years and since they are not being the subject to cultivation, they are still hand-harvested from remote and clean areas.
Where can you find bilberries?
Bilberries belong to an Ericaceae family and are genus Vaccinium with more than 200 species of forest plants. There are several wild blueberry spices found in America, but American wild blueberry and Nordic wild blueberry (aka bilberry) species belong to a different category.
Bilberries and blueberries are closely related cousins, often confused because of their similar appearance. In America, bilberries are often called blueberries but these two have more than one difference.
- Plant size – bilberry plants are rather small, usually 30-60 cm in height. The leaves are also often used in folk medicine. Blueberry plants grow in clusters and can reach a height up to 60-200 cm.
- Taste – since bilberries are almost impossible to cultivate they still have a natural, strong forest berry taste. They are is mildly sweet with a note of tartness. Blueberries are often sweeter thanks to cultivation.
- Fruit – being full of natural, wildly healthy-, beneficial anthocyanin, bilberry skin is much darker and will color your tongue and hands a beautiful dark blue in no time. Bilberries itself are demonstrably smaller in size than cultivated blueberries. Cultivated blueberry skin is light blue, the flesh is white and by being lower in anthocyanin, it will not color your hands or tongue.
- Nutritional Value – bilberries have one of the highest antioxidant levels among common fruits and berries. It has 4x more antioxidants than any other blueberry species. Bilberries are also one of the biggest sources of anthocyanin providing up to 800 mg per 100g. On the other hand, blueberries only contain about 300 mg per 100g. Bilberries are also higher in vitamins and minerals.
- Ecological footprint – blueberries are cultivated and harvested using mostly harvesting machines and in some cases fertilizers. Bilberries, on the other hand, grow naturally in clean, rural environments and are only hand-picked. There have been many discussions about the biological and ecological importance of bilberries in forest ecosystems and how their distribution is affected by natural disturbances and the cultivation of forests.
Studies have shown that the growing environment conditions have significant effects on antioxidant and anthocyanin content. The antioxidant levels are related directly to berry species, meaning wild organic bilberries have generally higher antioxidant capacity than cultivated ones.
The most common commercially grown wild blueberry in American and Canada is the lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium). It is often referred to as the Maine or American wild blueberry and is mostly found in Atlantic Canada Quebec and Maine.
American wild blueberries are not planted and are primarily wild by nature, but they grow on wild stands that are managed by growers. Every year in May the growers import commercial bees to pollinate the fields. These blueberries are harvested by hand-raking, using a metal rake or by mechanical harvester which is used on 80% of the Maine blueberry fields. After harvest, the plants are pruned to the ground every other year by mowing or burning. They are a commercially grown wild berry, contain more water, and are bigger than bilberries. The skin of the berry is light blue and therefore have a lower anthocyanin content.
Pesticides can still be a crucial a part of wild blueberry production unless they are marked organic. On the other hand, there is no human participation in the process of growing or managing bilberries.
Our organic freeze-dried bilberries are hand-picked straight from Nordic Forests and come with all the goodness nature has to offer.
A Leading Antioxidant Berry
Bilberries are one of the highest antioxidants sources among forest berries, and that is the main reason why they are often used in traditional medicine.
Antioxidants are molecules that help your body fight free radicals and therefore offer protection against age-related health diseases. If the level of free radicals gets too high in your body, it can cause serious harm very quickly. If antioxidants are outnumbered by free radicals, it can lead to a state called “oxidative stress”, which can damage your DNA or lead to dead cells. Damaging your DNA increases the risk of cancer. Dietary antioxidants like anthocyanins and flavonoids help your body to neutralize free radicals and avoid cell damage.
Anthocyanins, which give the blue pigment to bilberries, have been noted for cancer fighting, obesity prevention, diabetes, and reducing inflammation and aging-related diseases.
Bilberries are about 4 times higher in antioxidants than any other cultivated blueberry and have 33% more anthocyanin than any other type of blueberries.
What’s in it for you: the biggest health benefits
Consuming the organic bilberries, harvested from clean and remote areas, will give your health a big salute, and your health will surely thank you. Organically grown bilberries help you to support your health and balance your immune system. As a result of not being the subject of breeding or cultivation, this species still possesses the natural variation of good vitamins and nutrients, like Calcium, Vitamin A and E, Potassium, carotene, and dietary fiber.
Bilberries have been associated with many health benefits:
- Eye health – Bilberries support normal vision and are the perfect natural medicine for Glaucoma. They help to reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration, dry eyes, and retinitis pigmentosa. They have a reputation for helping with abnormal or damaged blood vessels in the retina.
- Prevents cancer – Research has shown that bilberries have beneficial effects on cancer and other diseases. Bilberries contain resveratrol and anthocyanosises. Anthocyanosises can reduce the abnormal cell growth that fuels development. Resveratrol, on the other hand, acts as a chemo-preventative drug and displays chemotherapeutic properties such as anti-inflammation.
- Lowers blood pressure – Eating about one cup of bilberries a day can improve blood vessel function. Since blueberries are free of sodium, they help keep blood pressure at a healthy level. Also, bilberries are high in potassium, which is good for controlling blood pressure.
- Helps with diabetes –Bilberries can help with glucose processing and insulin sensitivity, and result in lower fat mass as well as lower overall body weight. Bilberries reduce liver mass, which is linked with the help of insulin resistance.
- Anti-aging – Bilberries help people age better. Memory and cognitive function in older adults are said to be improved when consuming blueberries. Polyphenols are the main compounds in blueberries that improve episodic memory performance and reduce oxidative stress. It is also said blueberries help with overall brain health and can prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
- Helps with weight control – they help to maintain regularity for a healthful digestive tract, thanks to the content of fiber. Since fiber (code named a ‘bulking agent’’) plays an important role in the digestive system and is one of the best foods for gut health. High fiber in bilberries increases the feeling of being full, so they reduce appetite. Whether you are trying to maintain or lose weight, wild blueberries are way to go.
- Detox – Organic bilberries from a clean growing environment are one of the most powerful foods to cleanse your body from the harmful effects of pollution, artificial additives, and toxins. They act as an antibiotic by helping to prevent infections. Bilberries are also essential for heavy metal detox diets. Heavy metals are used in agriculture, medicine, and industries and they enter our bodies in different ways, by consuming them in the food or through our skin, for example. Bilberries contain phytonutrients with special detoxifying abilities and potent antioxidants that help reverse any oxidative damage caused by heavy metals.
- Healthy pregnancy – Organic bilberries are (in normal quantities as usually) also safe to consume during pregnancy. More than that, adding bilberries to your menu, will boost the level of vital nutrients. For example, Blueberries might help with developing hemorrhoids or constipation since they are a great source of fiber. They are full of other pregnancy supporting nutrients as well, like Vitamin C, calcium, and folate.
Organic freeze-dried bilberries give you the maximum amount of goodness! It is the best method for preserving all the nutrients, leaving the berries light and puffy!
Bilberries: What are some traditional uses?
There has been a huge demand for bilberries for the last two decades because of the markable nutritional and dietary value. Wild blueberries have been used in European traditional medicine for hundreds of years.
The usage of bilberries in the human diet has a long history that goes back to Middle Ages. The first written evidence of decoction of dried fruits used in folk medicine goes back to the 1700s.
Historically the bilberry fruit was consumed as a tea for diarrhea, and also for mouth and throat inflammations. During World War II, British Royal Air Force pilots ate bilberries to improve their vision on nightly attacks. After the war, vision acuity improvements and accommodation between light and dark of bilberries were confirmed by scientific investigation.
So how should you use bilberries?
There are several options for how to get maximum benefits from nutritious organic bilberries. Depending on your purpose, it is recommended to consume between 100-400g of fresh berries, or 3 tablespoons (roughly 30g) of dried bilberries, or 1-2 tablespoons of high-quality organic bilberry powder daily.
Here are some ways to consume bilberries to keep yourself healthy and happy:
- fresh – when in season, they make a perfect snack
- freeze-dried or powdered – freeze-dried method is the best for preserving all the nutrients, taste, and color. You can add the berries or powder to your smoothies, porridge, yogurt, muesli, etc.
- refreshing drink – you can also find natural bilberry juices with no added sugar or as an ingredient in a tea
- jams – or other preserves (note: you should prefer preserves with no added sugar to get all the good bilberry benefits), spread it over pancakes, or get a spoon and dig straight in the jar
Or if you need for some inspiration you can find some tasty recipes in our Cookbook!
Our freeze-dried blueberries are a wonderful and tasty snack for the whole family. They are healthy, minimally processed, with no added sugar, and are full of antioxidants.