Lingonberries are small, red berries that taste similar to cranberries but are not quite as tart.
They grow on a small evergreen shrub — Vaccinium vitis-idaea — native to the Scandinavian region of northern Europe.
Lingonberries have been called superfruit based on their nutritional value and potential health benefits, such as weight control and heart health.
Here are 14 impressive health benefits of lingonberries.
1. Lingonberries are high in antioxidants
Nutritionally, lingonberries are most notable for their antioxidants and other plant compounds.
A 3/4-cup (100-gram) serving of lingonberries supplies 139% of the recommended daily intake for manganese, a mineral component of one of your body’s major antioxidant enzymes — superoxide dismutase.
Additionally, a serving of lingonberries provides 10% and 12% of the recommended daily intake for vitamins E and C, respectively, which also function as antioxidants.
What’s more, like many berries, lingonberries are rich in plant compounds, including anthocyanins and flavonoids.
In fact, the red color of lingonberries comes from anthocyanins, which may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Lingonberries also supply quercetin, a flavonoid that is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. It may help reduce your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and other conditions.
Summary: Lingonberries are rich in compounds that function as antioxidants, including manganese, vitamin C, vitamin E, and certain plant compounds, such as anthocyanins and quercetin.
2. Lingonberries may promote healthy gut bacteria
The bacteria and other microbes in your digestive tract — called your gut microbiota — may be a key factor in your health. What you eat greatly impacts the makeup of your gut microbiota.
Animal studies suggest that eating lingonberries may trigger changes in the makeup of your gut microbiota that could help protect against low-grade inflammation.
Feeding mice on a high-fat diet of lingonberries for 11 weeks helped prevent low-grade inflammation and increased numbers of Akkermansia muciniphila, bacteria that help keep your gut lining healthy.
Chronic inflammation affects many conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and dementia.
Thus, adding lingonberries to your diet may have anti-inflammatory and gut-health-promoting effects, though studies in people are needed to confirm these benefits.
Summary: Eating lingonberries may trigger changes in the makeup of your gut bacteria, helping protect against low-grade inflammation. This may reduce your risk of chronic diseases.
3. Lingonberries may aid weight control
Like other berries, lingonberries are a weight-loss-friendly food, providing just 54 calories per 3/4-cup (100-gram) serving.
However, there may be more at play than just a low-calorie count regarding their potential role in controlling weight.
In a three-month study in mice on a high-fat diet, those receiving 20% of their calories from lingonberries weighed 21% less and had significantly lower body fat than those eating an equal-calorie, high-fat diet without berries.
Moreover, the lingonberry eaters also maintained their weight and lean body better than mice eating high-fat diets containing other berries.
The reasons for the apparent anti-obesity effects of lingonberries weren’t assessed in this study but could be due to changes in gut bacteria that favor leanness.
Another study found that feeding mice lingonberries reduced the gut’s abundance of Firmicutes bacteria linked to higher body weight. This may be because Firmicutes can better extract energy from undigested food particles.
Additionally, one test-tube study suggests that lingonberries may inhibit the action of an enzyme needed to digest fat from food. If you don’t digest fat, you won’t obtain its calories.
Suggested read: Cranberries: Nutrition, benefits, side effects, and more
Further human research is needed to verify the potential anti-obesity effects of lingonberries and determine the amount needed to reap this benefit.
Summary: Lingonberries are relatively low in calories, and animal research suggests that eating them daily may prevent weight gain.
4. Lingonberries promote healthy blood sugar levels
Test-tube and animal studies suggest that lingonberries and lingonberry extract may help control blood sugar, partly due to their polyphenol and fiber content.
Preliminary human studies support these findings.
When healthy men ate sweetened yogurt with 1/3 cup (40 grams) of lingonberry powder, their blood sugar and insulin levels were the same as when they ate yogurt without lingonberry powder — despite the additional carbs from the fruit.
Similarly, when healthy women ate 2/3 cup (150 grams) of pureed lingonberries with about three tablespoons (35 grams) of sugar, their peak insulin after eating was 17% lower compared to a control group who ate the sugar without lingonberries.
Managing insulin levels and minimizing insulin spikes can help preserve your body’s responsiveness to insulin, reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Summary: Test-tube, animal, and preliminary human studies suggest that lingonberries may help blunt your blood sugar and insulin response to eating carbs. This may be due to their polyphenol and fiber content.
5. Lingonberries may support heart health
Many types of berries — including lingonberries — may promote heart health. This benefit may be due to their polyphenol and fiber content.
Test-tube and animal studies suggest that lingonberries may help relax your heart’s arteries to support blood flow, slow the progression of atherosclerosis, lower triglycerides, and protect heart cells from oxidative damage.
Feeding mice a high-fat diet with 20% of the calories from lingonberries for three months resulted in total cholesterol levels that were 30% lower than those on an equal-calorie, high-fat diet without berries.
Suggested read: 9 impressive health benefits of barberries
Additionally, mice on the lingonberry-enriched diet had significantly less fat buildup in their liver. This suggests that berries may protect against non-alcoholic fatty liver disease — a potential risk factor for heart disease.
Still, research in humans is needed.
Summary: Test-tube and animal studies suggest that lingonberries may support blood flow, slow atherosclerosis progression, and lower blood cholesterol and triglycerides. However, human studies are needed to confirm possible heart health benefits.
6. Lingonberries may protect eye health
Light can cause free radical damage in your eyes.
Your retina — which converts light into nerve signals that your brain interprets as a vision — is especially vulnerable to ultraviolet A (UVA) light from the sun, blue light from sunlight, and digital devices like smartphones and computers.
Test-tube studies suggest that lingonberry extract may protect retina cells from free radical damage due to blue and UVA light. This protection comes from plant compounds, including anthocyanins.
Previously, animal and human studies have found that consuming berry anthocyanins raises blood levels of these protective plant compounds, which can be transported to your eyes.
Though further research is needed to confirm the health benefits of lingonberry extract for your eyes, a longstanding recommendation for supporting vision is to eat plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables — which could include lingonberries.
Summary: Preliminary research suggests that plant compounds in lingonberry extract may protect your eyes from damaging blue and UVA light, but human studies are needed.
7. Lingonberries may reduce cancer risk
Fruit — including lingonberries — provides fiber, plant compounds, and vitamins that may reduce cancer risk.
In a 10-week study in mice prone to intestinal tumors, those fed 10% (by weight) of their high-fat diet as freeze-dried, powdered lingonberries had 60% smaller and 30% fewer tumors than the control group.
Additionally, a test-tube study found that fermented lingonberry juice inhibited the growth and spread of oral cancer cells. However, it took 30 times as much lingonberry juice to match the effectiveness of curcumin — an anticancer compound in turmeric.
Suggested read: 10 proven health benefits of blueberries
An alternative option may be lingonberry extract supplements, which concentrate the beneficial components.
Test-tube studies show that lingberry extracts may promote the death of human leukemia cancer cells and inhibit the growth and spread of human breast, colon, and cervical cancer cells.
Though these results are encouraging, further research is needed.
Summary: Preliminary animal and test-tube studies suggest that consuming concentrated amounts of lingonberries — such as powdered or extract forms — may inhibit cancer cell growth. Still, more research is needed.
8–13. Other potential health benefits of lingonberries
Scientists are researching many other potential benefits of lingonberries, including:
- Brain health: Rodent studies suggest that lingonberries or their extract may improve brain function, including memory when under stress. Test-tube analyses imply that the berries’ antioxidants protect brain cells.
- Antiviral: In a test-tube study, lingonberry extract — particularly anthocyanins — stopped the replication of influenza virus A and inhibited coxsackievirus B1, which is linked to an increased risk of type 1 diabetes.
- Oral health: According to test-tube studies, lingonberries contain plant compounds that may fend off bacteria that promote gum disease and plaque accumulation on teeth.
- Kidney protection: Feeding rats 1 ml of lingonberry juice daily for three weeks before kidney injury protected them from loss of kidney function. The juice’s anthocyanins reduced damaging kidney inflammation.
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs): Women who drank a combination of cranberry and lingonberry juice concentrate for six months had a 20% lower risk of recurrent UTIs. However, lingonberry juice needs to be tested alone.
- Food preservation: Lingonberry concentrate added to a reduced-sugar fruit spread helped inhibit mold growth. Additionally, a lingonberry extract strongly deterred the growth of bacteria that commonly cause food poisoning.
Summary: Preliminary studies suggest that lingonberries may benefit your brain, urinary tract, kidney, and oral health, as well as fight viruses and preserve foods.
14. Lingonberries are easy to add to your diet
These red berries can add vibrant color and sweet-tart flavor to countless dishes.
Fresh lingonberries are only available in certain regions. You’re most likely to find them in Sweden, Norway, Finland, and nearby countries, as well as in the Pacific Northwest and a few states in the northeastern US. They may also grow wild in eastern Canada.
Besides fresh, you can purchase lingonberries frozen or powdered. You can also find them dried or in juices, sauces, jams, and preserves — but these are often sweetened with sugar, making them less healthy.
Here are some ideas for using lingonberries:
- Add lingonberry powder to yogurt, smoothies, or protein shakes.
- Sprinkle fresh or thawed lingonberries on leafy green salads.
- Top pancakes or waffles with homemade lingonberry sauce sweetened with stevia.
- Add lingonberries to scones, muffins, and other baked goods.
- Stir lingonberry powder into oatmeal or cold cereal.
- Combine fresh or thawed lingonberries with other berries to make a fruit salad.
- Add lingonberry powder to hot or cold tea.
In most recipes, you can use lingonberries instead of cranberries or blueberries.
Summary: Though fresh lingonberries may be hard to find, you can still enjoy them frozen or powdered. Add them to beverages, baked goods, or yogurt. Limit sugar-sweetened lingonberry products, such as jams and sauces.
Lingonberries are small, red berries dubbed superfruits due to their nutritional profile and antioxidant content.
Though more research is needed, studies suggest they may promote healthy gut bacteria, weight control, heart health, and blood sugar control — among other benefits.
Berries of any kind have long been known to be good for you, so if you can find lingonberries in unsweetened forms — such as fresh, frozen, or powdered — enjoy them as often as you like.