Many people are looking for natural ways to reduce their risk of a heart attack – and for good reason. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in this country and the risk is magnified by the poor dietary and lifestyle choices many Americans make. Eating a heart healthy diet can go far towards reducing the risk of heart disease. Fortunately, there is an ever expanding array of foods that can be part of a heart-healthy diet. A new study shows that bilberries may help to boost heart health and even reduce the risk of a heart attack. What are the health benefits of bilberries and why are they a good choice for a healthy heart?
The Health Benefits of Bilberries: What a Study Showed
In a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers found that mice given a fermented or non-fermented bilberry extract along with their regular diet were less likely to develop the type of arterial plaques that lead to heart disease. The fermented bilberry extract decreased plaque formation more than the non-fermented one, but they both had a positive effect on heart health in mice. Researchers believe that the health benefits of bilberries come from the anthocyanidins they contain. Anthocyanidins are flavonoids that give some fruits and veggies such as blueberries and red cabbage their blue-red coloration.
The Health Benefits of Bilberries: How to Get Them
Bilberries can be costly and hard-to-find. Dried bilberries can be purchased from some natural food markets and online, but even they can be a challenge to locate. Some online vitamin sites sell bilberry extracts, but it’s difficult to determine the quality of these products due to the lack of standardization in the vitamin and supplement industry.
Because the health benefits of bilberries are most likely due to their high anthocyanidin content, blueberries and other anthocyanidin rich foods such as acai berries, cranberries, and red cabbage should offer some of the same heart-healthy benefits and are easier to find. Foods that are rich in anthocyanidins have other health benefits as well since these compounds have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory power may account for some of their ability to reduce the risk of heart disease since they prevent oxidation of LDL cholesterol and help to protect endothelial cells that line blood vessels from damage.
The Health Benefits of Bilberries and Anthocyanidins
Although the health benefits of bilberries for heart health isn’t well studied in humans, there’s increasing evidence in animals that anthocyanidins are good for the heart. You don’t need to take a bilberry extract to get the heart-healthy benefits of anthocyanins. Add more blueberries, cranberries, and red cabbage to your diet and you can safely get the benefits these anthocyanin-rich fruits and veggies have to offer – and, hopefully, reduce your risk of heart attack.