(Natural News) Berries are known for being nutritious and a rich source of antioxidants. They also contain soluble and insoluble fiber that help control blood sugar and cholesterol levels and promote healthy digestion. In the U.S., blueberries and blackberries are two of the most popular varieties, and they are packed with health benefits. In the northern parts of Europe, particularly in Scandinavian countries, these benefits can be found in a superfruit known as lingonberry.
Lingonberries (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) are brightly colored berries that originated in Sweden and other countries in Scandinavia. They have been harvested for centuries and traded by farmers since 1732. Despite their attractive red color, lingonberries do not taste quite as good as other berries when eaten raw. They are usually made into syrups, jams, or sauces and eaten with a variety of desserts or meats, such as lamb, beef, and fish.
Lingonberries are low in calories and almost devoid of saturated fat, but they contain polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which are considered beneficial fats. Unsaturated fats can improve blood cholesterol levels, ease inflammation, and stabilize heart rhythms. Lingonberries also provide vitamins A, E, and C, and minerals like calcium and iron. They are also good sources of antioxidants, most notably anthocyanins and quercetin, which exhibit anti-inflammatory properties.
The 5 health benefits of lingonberry
Lingonberry, also known by other names like cowberry, bearberry, foxberry, or Alaskan lowbush cranberry, is a superfruit packed with health benefits. Here are five impressive benefits associated with lingonberries.
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They have anti-inflammatory properties.
Quercetin is a flavonoid that exhibits antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, and anti-inflammatory properties. According to literature, lingonberries contain about 74-146 mg/kg quercetin. A study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that daily consumption of berries like lingonberries could raise the serum quercetin levels of healthy, middle-aged men by 32 to 51 percent, suggesting that these fruits are good sources of this phytochemical. Quercetin is known for its ability to inhibit inflammatory signaling molecules, such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-8, and inflammation-producing enzymes, such as cyclooxigenase and lipoxygenase.
They reduce the risk of cancer.
Besides quercetin, lingonberries also contain procyanidins, which are beneficial flavonoids with anticancer properties. Procyanidins are effective against several types of cancer, including leukemia, cervical, and colon cancer. According to studies, procyanidins prevent tumor growth and trigger apoptosis (programmed cell death) by targeting components of intracellular signaling pathways involved in these processes. These components include proinflammatory mediators, regulators of cell survival and apoptosis, and angiogenic (blood-vessel forming) and metastatic mediators. Procyanidins also modulate kinases, transcription factors, and their regulators as part of their anticancer activities. (Related: Eat more berries: Anthocyanins suppress tumors, disrupt the expression of cancer genes.)
They can decrease urinary tract infections.
Lingonberries belong to the same family (Vaccinium) as cranberries, which are known for their ability to stop urinary track infections (UTI). In a study published in BMJ, researchers from Finland compared the effects of drinking lingonberry-cranberry juice daily on UTI versus drinking a beverage containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, a probiotic that resides naturally in the intestines and is commonly added to foods. They reported that after six months, daily consumption of lingonberry-cranberry juice reduced the risk of UTI recurrence by 20 percent. At the end of the intervention period, regular drinking of lingonberry-cranberry juice reduced the recurrence of UTI by about half, while the probiotic drink had no effect at all. This suggests that the berries work against the coliform bacteria that causes UTI.
They promote oral health.
Lingonberries are also known for their oral benefits, which can be attributed to their ability to fight bacteria. A study in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology showed that epicatechins isolated from lingonberries are potent antimicrobials. These phytochemicals display strong antimicrobial activity against two pathogens – Porphyromonas gingivalis and Prevotella intermedia – that are known to cause periodontitis (gum inflammation). Epicatechins are antioxidant flavonoids that can also be found in cocoa, tea, and grapes. Another study that appeared in Phytotherapy Research reported that anthocyanins, proanthocyanins, and flavonol glycosides in lingonberries can stop the coaggregation of bacteria. Coaggregation occurs when different bacterial species adhere to a surface. This process contributes to the development of dental plaques and tooth decay.
They enhance immunity.
Eating lingonberries can also enhance immune function. Lingonberries contain a fair amount of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that strengthens the body’s natural defenses. Vitamin C boosts white blood cell count, which increases the body’s protection against microbial infections. Studies also show that vitamin C helps wounds heal faster because of its involvement in collagen production. As an antioxidant, vitamin C helps repair tissue and reduces damage caused by inflammation and oxidative stress. It can also regenerate other antioxidants in the body and slow down the growth of some types of cancer. Other benefits associated with vitamin C include the widening of blood vessels, which protects against hypertension; reduction of blood cholesterol levels and the risk of cataracts; enhanced iron absorption; and protection of the kidneys, eyes, and nerves from deterioration caused by diabetes.
Lingonberries can be found in specialty food stores and ethnic supermarkets, especially those that sell European products. They are sold fresh or as jams, or frozen and canned. Lingonberries contain high levels of benzoic acid, a natural preservative, so they can be stored for long periods in the refrigerator.