You might not have heard of goji berries, but their claimed health benefits could encourage you to check them out. Also known as wolfberries, goji berries have long been enjoyed in China and the Himalayas for their sweet taste and bright color. Their history as a medicinal plant has roots in ancient China, where goji berries still are used to treat eye, liver, and kidney ailments. A host of additional nutritional and medical claims have made the fruit popular in the United States. Read on to decide if you should consider adding these delicious berries to your healthy diet.
This sweet-tart fruit is usually sold dried and looks like bright red raisins. You can also enjoy goji berries fresh off the vine (they’re surprisingly easy to grow in warm climates). Most supermarkets sell dried goji berries in the bulk section. They also come prepackaged.
As with all berries, goji berries have vitamins and other antioxidants that can help keep the body healthy. Eating two or more servings of fruit a day is usually recommended for optimum health benefits, and goji berries are a great alternative to other more traditional berries. You can also consider growing goji berry plants. They thrive in the ground or are suitable for container gardening in colder climates. In the unlikely event you don’t like the taste, they’ll at least make a beautiful addition to your garden.
Though most often sold dried, goji berries also can be found and grown fresh. Enjoy them out-of-hand, just like raisins and fresh berries. For a breakfast treat, try them in cereal, oatmeal, or yogurt. Try mixing goji berries with raw nuts and dark chocolate chips for homemade trail mix. You can also drink your goji in the many brands of goji juice and tea.
Goji berries also taste great cooked with lean pork or turkey, adding a savory sweetness to hearty dishes. (Their vitamin C content also will help your body absorb the meat’s iron.)
Goji berries are high in vitamin C and fiber, and low in calories. They are also a good source of iron and vitamin A. One serving of about four ounces of goji berries even provides nearly 10 percent of the suggested amount of dietary protein, a surprising amount for a fruit.
The complex carbohydrates that make goji berries so yummy raise blood sugar slowly, so you won’t experience a sugar crash afterwards.
Studies have cited the high level of antioxidants in goji berries, especially zeaxanthin. It’s the zeaxanthin that gives goji berries their bright color (along with saffron and bell peppers).
Antioxidants protect cells against breaking down when they are exposed to elements like smoke and radiation. Even better, foods with healthy levels of antioxidants are often high in fiber and low in unhealthy fats.
Goji berries are a nutritional powerhouse, packing healthy food energy into small servings. That means that while they don’t have any direct correlation with weight loss, they can be part of a healthy weight loss plan. Their rich, sweet taste, along with their high fiber content, provides a feeling of fullness that can keep you from overeating and packing on the pounds.
Some dieters find that having a light and healthy snack on hand prevents overindulgence at mealtime. If that’s the case for you, keep a supply of goji berries nearby to curb your hunger.
Some believe that goji berries could help lower blood sugar and blood pressure. Eating them might make a difference for people who suffer from diabetes or the many complications associated with high blood pressure, including heart attack and stroke.
However, check with your doctor if you’re already taking medications for these conditions. You should also check with your doctor if you are on a medication that thins your blood, as goji berries might not be recommended.
Although medical evidence is not consistent, some people with arthritis claim that goji berries help reduce their pain. The inflammation and joint discomfort of arthritis could be affected by the potent antioxidants in goji berries.
If you have arthritis, ask your doctor whether adding goji berries to your diet could help you.
A study published in the Journal of American Academy of Optometry found evidence that goji berries can protect against macular degeneration, though exactly how is not clear.
A 2008 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine required participants to eat goji berries daily for 14 days. Almost all participants reported significant improvements in energy levels and digestive function.
Early testing in mice suggests that goji berries could help fight off the flu in elderly patients who have been vaccinated but still contract the illness, according to a paper published in The Journal of Nutrition.
It often seems like there’s a new miracle food being announced every week, and not all of them taste very good. You might find yourself holding your nose as you hope to benefit from some of these wonder-workers.
Goji berries have a distinct advantage over tasteless (or worse) health foods. Their bright color is appetizing, their flavor is appealing, and they can be eaten in many ways. Research seems to suggest that they can help you feel better in several different ways. All these benefits make a berry good argument for adding goji berries to your diet!
Himalayan Goji Berries
Goji berries (Lycium barbarum) are the most nutritionally dense fruit on Earth. They are a member of the nightshade family (Solonaceae), which contains many other common vegetables such as potato, tomato, eggplant, and pepper, as well as some poisonous plants like belladonna and deadly nightshade. Native to the Himalayan Mountains of Tibet and Mongolia, the goji berry is now grown in many other countries as well.
Although they have only been introduced in Western countries in recent years, gojis have been used for thousands of years in Tibet and China, both as a culinary ingredient and medicinally.
Unique among fruits because they contain all essential amino acids, goji berries also have the highest concentration of protein of any fruit. They are also loaded with vitamin C, contain more carotenoids than any other food, have twenty-one trace minerals, and are high in fiber. Boasting 15 times the amount of iron found in spinach, as well as calcium, zinc, selenium and many other important trace minerals, there is no doubt that the humble goji berry is a nutritional powerhouse.
This amazing little superfruit also contains natural anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal compounds. Their powerful antioxidant properties and polysaccharides help to boost the immune system. It’s no wonder then, that in traditional Chinese medicine they are renowned for increasing strength and longevity.
In traditional Chinese medicine, the goji is said to act on the Kidney and Liver meridians to help with lower back pain, dizziness and eyesight. They are most often consumed raw, made into a tea or extract, or as an ingredient in soups.
Gojis are most commonly available in dried form, and make a great snack eaten as is, added to trail mix, muesli or oatmeal. They can also be soaked for a couple of hours in enough water to cover them. Then the soak water can be drained off and makes a delicious drink, or both water and berries added to smoothies.
Please note that there can be adverse interactions if you consume goji berries while also taking medication for diabetes, or blood pressure, or take the blood thinner warfarin. So be sure to consult your healthcare provider if that is the case.
Gojis can often be found in Asian food stores, but most of these come from the commercial growing regions of China and Tibet, and contain high levels of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Even some brands which claim to be organic may not be, so be sure to source your goji berries from a reputable source.