Health benefits, uses, and nutritional value

Lingonberries are small, red berries native to the Scandinavian region of northern Europe. They are tart and slightly sweet, and people use them to make jams and sauces. They contain a host of health benefits.

Lingonberries are rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that may benefit heart and gut health. Lingonberries are not common in people’s diets in the United States. In Scandinavia, people collect lingonberries from the wild and often make jams, chutneys, and sauces.

This article explains lingonberries in more detail, how to use them, and their numerous health benefits.

Lingonberries are small, tart, bright red berries native to the Scandinavian regions of Northern Europe. Found on a small shrub called Vaccinium vitis-idaea, they are a member of the Ericaceae family. This family also includes bilberries, cranberries, and blueberries.

Other names for lingonberries include:

  • partridgeberry
  • alpine berry
  • cowberry
  • foxberry
  • mountain cranberry
  • rock cranberry

Although prevalent in the nordic diet, lingonberries also grow in North America. They are popular in various sweet and savory foods, including jams, syrups, sauces, and traditional medicines.

Lingonberries are a “superfruit,” meaning they have a variety of health benefits, including:

  • reducing inflammation
  • preventing obesity
  • preventing and treating brain aging
  • preventing neurodegenerative disorders
  • preventing diseases

Lingonberries also have the highest antioxidant content of any berries.

Learn more about superfoods.

Lingonberries have a tart, acidic, and slightly sweet flavor. Some people think they taste similar to cranberries but less tart.

Lingonberries are also slightly bitter, so people rarely eat them raw.

People often cook and sweeten lingonberries to make them more palatable.

Lingonberries have an abundance of health benefits. They are particularly rich in vitamins, polyphenols, and antioxidants. Below are some of the health benefits of lingonberries.

Antioxidants

Lingonberries contain more antioxidants than many other berries. Antioxidants are important as they protect against oxidative cell damage, which can lead to various conditions such as:

Antioxidants and plant compounds present in lingonberries include:

  • Manganese: This is a mineral component of a major antioxidant enzyme known as superoxide dismutase. 100 grams (g) of lingonberries supply 139% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of manganese.
  • Vitamin C: 100 g of lingonberries provide 12% of the RDI for vitamin C, which plays an important role in wound healing and immune function.
  • Anthocyanins: The rich, red coloring of lingonberries comes from anthocyanins, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.
  • Quercetin: Lingonberries are also rich in quercetin, which may reduce the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.

In a 2021 study using mice, researchers found that lingonberry supplementation protected against liver damage in mice that ate diets high in fat.

Reduced risk of cancer

Lingonberries are rich in phytochemicals and polyphenols, which can lower the risk of cancer by preventing tumor growth.

A 2018 study found that fermented lingonberry juice had an anticarcinogenic effect on oral cancer cells, inhibiting their growth and spread.

Further research into the effects of lingonberries on cancer is necessary.

Learn more about berries and cancer.

Heart health

The high polyphenol and fiber content in berries, including lingonberries, may promote cardiovascular health.

Anthocyanins, which are responsible for the red color of lingonberries, may also protect heart cells from oxidative damage.

Gut health

Bacteria reside in the gut, playing an important role in a person’s overall health. What someone eats directly affects their gut microbiota.

A 2021 study found that lingonberries can beneficially modify gut microbiota and prevent inflammation in the liver and fat tissue.

Chronic inflammation links to various conditions such as:

Oral health

Lingonberries are prevalent in traditional nordic medicines to treat oral yeast infections. According to research, lingonberries can help prevent bacteria from forming in the mouth, causing oral yeast infections.

Weight control

Obesity can contribute to various metabolic disorders, such as type 2 diabetes.

An older 2014 study looked into the effect of berry supplementation on mice fed either a low fat diet, high fat diet, or high fat diet supplemented with 20% lingonberry, blackcurrant, bilberry, raspberry, açai, crowberry, prune or blackberry.

Mice fed with a lingonberry supplement:

  • had a lower body weight compared to those on diets without lingonberries
  • maintained weight easier
  • had fewer bacteria in the gut linked to higher body weight

However, it is necessary to conduct similar studies in humans to truly determine the effects of lingonberries on weight.

Including lingonberries in the diet may be beneficial for people trying to lose weight. They are a low calorie food, with around 50 calories per 100 g. However, many lingonberry products have added sugar, which significantly increases calorie content.

Further benefits

Other benefits of lingonberries may include:

Lingonberries contain the following nutrients per 100 grams (g):

There are many uses for lingonberries. Although fine to eat raw, the tart and bitter flavor mean they taste better cooked or added to recipes.

Food items

Lingonberries are an ingredient in both sweet and savory foods. They are popular in nordic diets, and items such as lingonberry jam are a staple in many households.

People can use lingonberries to make:

  • jams and jellies
  • syrups
  • purees and condiments
  • sauces for meats
  • fruit juice
  • beverage concentrates
  • wines
  • liqueurs
  • tea

During heating, lingonberries’ antioxidant activity can decrease by one-third. Another way to consume them with maximum health benefits is as dried fruits.

Find lingonberry recipes here.

Food coloring

The red coloring of lingonberries comes from anthocyanins, which can be a source of red, blue, and purple colorings in food.

Medicine

Lingonberry is an ingredient in certain health supplements due to its rich flavonoid content and other properties. As scientific research reveals the numerous health benefits of lingonberries, it may be a useful ingredient in medications that treat:

  • UTIs
  • chronic inflammation
  • cardiovascular diseases
  • neurodegenerative diseases
  • cancer
  • oral health

Lingonberries usually grow wild in forests in northern regions such as:

  • Central Europe
  • Scandinavia
  • Russia
  • Canada
  • Alaska

In the U.S., people can buy frozen lingonberries or lingonberry products online and in specialist grocery stores.

People rarely eat lingonberries as fresh fruit. People usually forage them from the wild or harvest cultivated crops before processing them.

Lingonberries can be preserved by:

  • freezing them
  • storing dry lingonberries in a sealed glass container in a dry, dark place
  • adding sugar and other ingredients to make jams, syrups, and condiments
  • storing them in a sugar solution in glass jars

The benzoic acid in lingonberries means people can pick them in the fall and store them pureed in a cool place without preservatives until the following spring.

Lingonberries are small, red berries native to Scandinavia. They also grow in other places, such as North America and Canada.

People use lingonberries to make jams, jellies, syrups, and sauces and they are prevalent in the nordic diet.

They have various health benefits, due to their anti-inflammatory properties and high antioxidant content. Lingonberry may be a useful ingredient in medications, such as mouthwash.

People should not consume large quantities of lingonberries without consulting a doctor first.

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