Birch Xylitol, a sweetener that helps prevent cavities and children's ear infections and is used in Finnish chewing gum, is made in part from birch fibre. Birch sap, in turn, helps prevent pollen allergies and its consumption has been associated with improved immune and energy levels. Birches are also home to the chaga fungus, which has been used as a folk remedy for centuries. Chaga contains betulin, which has been studied for potential tumour-reducing properties and is sold as a dietary supplement internationally. Bilberries The bilberry is the most widely praised and most exported Finnish berry. In recent years it has been shipped in increasing amounts to the Far East; in 2010, 3.1 million kilos of Finnish bilberries were exported to China. Bilberries contain three times the amount of anthocyanins than cultivated blueberries. Anthocyanins have been linked to memory-enhancing and anti-cancer properties and can lower the risk of eyesight degeneration. The antioxidants in blueberries can also help prevent cardiovascular disease and improve insulin sensitivity. Other berries Herbs The nettle, widespread in residential areas and known for its stinging leaves, evokes unpleasant associations. As a food item, however, it's versatile and packed with nutrients such as protein, vitamins, fibre and calcium. It increases urine output and, in mild cases, has provided relief to patients with an enlarged prostate. The nettle can be used similarly to spinach, and its seeds are edible as well. Dandelions, meanwhile, contain calcium, iron and riboflavin, a necessary nutrient that contributes to metabolism. Regional staples such as lingonberries, cloudberries and crowberries contain vitamins, fibre and other nutrients, and are excellent building blocks of a healthy diet. The recommended daily amount of berries is 100 grams. A diet including lingonberries and cloudberries has been linked to the shrinking of intestinal tumours in test animals. Lingonberries, like cranberries, are rich in proanthocyanidins, which help prevent urinary tract infections. As the amount of scientific literature grows, lingonberries could be marketed alongside cranberries as a supplement for urinary health. Mushrooms Especially in autumn, Finnish forests become playgrounds for mushroom aficionados. The yellow chanterelle and the plump cep mushroom are the most easily recognisable, while the aromatic, highly prized matsutake has attracted Japanese pickers. The cep is particularly appreciated in Italy; last year 389 tonnes of Finnish ceps, a majority of the year's commercially picked crop, were sold there. In addition to their vitamin content, mushrooms supply minerals and nutrients such as potassium, iron and zinc. They are a low-calorie, lowsodium food. 13
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