Small Berries With Big Diabetes Care Benefits: Bilberries

Bilberry tea sounds like the favorite drink at a Hobbit cafe, but the mild sounding bilberry comes with a tall list of powerful health benefits. The health perks are primarily owed to bilberry’s lode of anthocyanosides, a type of flavonoid (nutrient) found in several purple, red, and blue berries, and some purple veggies.

The anthocyanosides, and other bioactive compounds in bilberries are believed to have anti-inflammatory, lipid lowering, glucose lowering, and blood vessel strengthening effects that support overall well-being, and diabetes management.

Glucose, Vision, and Circulation

People have long noticed that bilberry has blood glucose lowering properties, and a few small studies agree. In fact, people taking glucose lowering medications should monitor their blood sugar closely when adding bilberry to their diet, to avoid hypoglycemia.

Research also suggests that bilberry strengthens retinal blood vessels, and reduces hemorrhaging in people with retinopathy, an eye disease often associated with diabetes. Bilberry may protect against macular degeneration, cataract, and glaucoma as well, and is known to improve night vision.

In Europe, bilberry is used to help people improve poor circulation and reduce the risk for blood clots. This small but mighty berry may also prevent the oxidation of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol—a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Purchasing and Safety

The American Herbal Products Association classifies bilberry as a Class 1 herb, meaning it is safe to consume. It’s frequently sold as fresh, frozen, or dried whole berries, and may be the main ingredient of jams and juices. Dried bilberry leaves, plus liquid and powdered berry concentrates are available as well.

When shopping for bilberry, always read product labels carefully to make sure you are getting the real thing. Bilberry extract should have at least a 25 percent anthocyanidin content.

Though the berry is generally safe, anyone adding regular bilberry supplementation to their diet should check with a doctor, particularly if pregnant, breastfeeding, diabetic, or taking blood-thinning medications. Extended intake at high doses of any supplement could be toxic, including bilberry.

Cuppa Bilberry

One convenient way to enjoy bilberry benefits is to purchase bilberry tea bags, though making bilberry tea “from scratch” is easy:

  1. Put 1 to 3 teaspoons of dried bilberry (berries or leaves) into a teapot, or into a tea ball.
  2. Pour 1 cup of boiling water into the pot, or place the tea ball into a cup of just boiled water, and steep for 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Strain the mixture if necessary; sweeten with a bit of stevia, or honey.

Keep in mind that making a habit of bilberry consumption can potentially lower glucose levels, so extra monitoring to check its effects on your blood sugar is recommended.

Sources: Dr. Axe, Diabetes UK, Herbal Teas Online
Photo: Pexels

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