Lingonberries are known as mountain cranberries or partridge berries in North America from Alaska to Labrador and have the botanical name of Vaccinium vitis-idaea. Researchers at Lund University in Sweden recently discovered that consuming lingonberries can prevent weight gain in those with a high-fat diet. They also found that lingonberries known as cowberries in the United Kingdom help lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
The researchers tested a wide variety of berries including prune, lingonberry, bilberry, blackberry, blackcurrant, crowberry, raspberry and acai berry. The berries were tested on mice that easily store fat and considered a model for overweight humans at risk of diabetes. The research was conducted at the Antidiabetic Food Centre at Lund University.
The researchers discovered that after three months, the mice that ate the lingonberries achieved the best results. These mice had not gained more weight. Their blood sugar, insulin readings and cholesterol levels were similar to those of the low-fat mice.
This was the first study of its kind using lingonberries and the researchers believe that the positive results may be due to their polyphenol content. They plan to work on understanding the molecular mechanisms involved in the effect of lingonberries and will also see whether the effect can be observed in humans.
Up to 20 percent of our mice diet was lingonberries, said Karin Berger, Lund University diabetes researcher. It isn't realistic for humans to eat such a high proportion. However, the goal is not to produce such dramatic effects as in the high-fat mice, but rather to prevent obesity and diabetes by supplementing a more normal diet with berries.
Blackcurrants and bilberries also produced good effects although not as pronounced. The acai berry was found to have the worst results.
More Lingonberry Benefits
Lingonberries improve the health of blood vessels and lower blood pressure. Their high content of antioxidants helps minimize the effects of harmful free radicals in the body. They are also a good source of many essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, B and C, calcium and magnesium. Lingonberries also help treat urinary tract infections naturally and prevents them by keeping bacteria from sticking to the walls of the bladder.
Lingonberry jam is a staple food in Scandinavian cuisine. Because lingonberries are plentiful in the forested areas of the inland, the jam is easy to prepare, and it preserves well. It has always been very popular with traditional dishes such as kroppkakor, pitepalt, potato cake, kldolmar, mustamakkara and black pudding. Today, lingonberries are often served as jam, for instance with oven-made thick pancakes, or they may be served as a relish with meat courses such as meatballs, beef stew or liver dishes. Regionally, they are even served with fried herring. The jam is also often used on mashed potatoes and the traditional oatmeal porridge, sometimes together with cinnamon, and, perhaps, a little sugar or syrup.
Lingonberry jam is prepared only with berries, sugar and, optionally, a small amount of water. Cheaper varieties are diluted with apples and/or pectin. The finest lingonberry jam is prepared fresh by just mixing berries and sugar, without boiling; this is called raw-stirred lingonberries. Before the use of refined sugar became common in Sweden, lingonberry jam was prepared with lingonberries as the only ingredient. Because of the benzoic acid, which is found in high amounts in lingonberries, the berries keep well without any sugar or other preservatives.
The researchers recommend eating lingonberries on a regular basis and say that frozen lingonberries on cereal or in a smoothies is considerably better than boiling the berries, which affects their nutrient content. They caution against the known lingonberry jam because it contains lots of sugar.
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