Bilberries — A Diabetic Health Tool

by Karyn Michelle Wofford

If you haven’t heard of a bilberry, it is a deep, dark blue cousin of cranberries, blueberries and huckleberries. This European super berry is known for its powerful anthocyanosides, an antioxidant responsible for the beautiful, robust (but very staining!) pigment of the fruit. Anthocyanosides also carry an impeccable ability to reduce inflammation, a characteristic which may be responsible for the many health benefits of the berries, health benefits which may greatly help diabetics.

So what are the amazing benefits?

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Improves and Preserves Eyesight: It is a long known fact that elevated blood sugar damages eye vessels, resulting in impaired vision and even blindness. Bilberries reduce retinal inflammation, increasing blood flow to vital areas, thus improving vision. British WWII pilots would eat bilberry jam to improve night vision, assisting them during night flights.

Improves Cardiovascular Health: Anthocyanosides strengthen blood vessels, diabetes weakens and damages them. It takes much more than a handful of berries to prevent heart attacks and strokes, but adding bilberries to your diet is a great place to start.

Better Blood Sugar Control: According to the NIH, the berries may improve glucose control. Secondly, they have a low GI, or glycemic index, meaning they cause a slower, steadier rise in blood sugar.

Stomach Ache Relief: With high blood sugar constantly throwing the healthy gut bacteria balance out of whack, diabetics can suffer from gastrointestinal issues. If you take Metformin, you also know the medication can be a culprit when it comes to stomach ailments. The anti microbial properties of bilberries can help ease diarrhea and stomach pain. In Germany, they have been prescribed to patients since the 1800s and are still used today in medicine.

Cancer Prevention: If you keep up with Diabetic Direction, you may have seen the article discussing the higher likely hood of getting cancer if you have diabetes. Well bilberries help with that too. The high concentration of antioxidants rebalance the electrons in cells. Free radicals, which can come from carcinogenic food, too much sun and a whole lot of other factors, are harmful things that damage cells by stealing electrons. The immune system can only fix so many before it can no longer keep up, resulting in cancer. So antioxidants are a strong regenerator and cancer fighter.

Where Can You Get Them?: Bilberries are tough to find in the US, but Northwest Wild Foods sells a huge variety of berries, and will ship them to your home. I received the frozen variation which are a great option, because you can take your time eating them!

Ways to Eat Them: I enjoy them straight from the bag, they aren’t as sweet as blueberries, but I love the tangy taste. Be aware that they stain your mouth and teeth! This fades and is only the result of all of those plant pigment antioxidants!

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Waffles: This morning I whipped up whole wheat and TigerNut flour waffles ( TigerNut flour is made from root veggies…it tastes great and substitutes regulate flour) and decided to gently fold in some thawed berries. The result? A blueberry muffin-ish waffle! Since bilberries aren’t too sweet, they were perfect for waffles… blueberries plus syrup can be too sweet! ( Tip: Don’t use corn syrup based syrups, try Madhava Agave Maple syrup…much better for blood sugar!) Cottage Cheese I tried this yesterday, I am on a bilberry binge. Just mix thawed berries into a cup of cottage cheese…use a little of the juice too. It is amazing. 

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