For hundreds of years the native herbalists in Mongolia, China and Tibet have prescribed the small red, raisin-like berries know as “Goji Berries” for all kinds of ailments and problems, as well as for general health. The mountain folk even hold a two week festival every year to celebrate the this wondrous berry.
Although the Goji Berry has been used in Traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, it’s introduction to the Western world has come fairly recently, and many are unaware of the numerous benefits of eating this potent superfruit.
Read on to learn about the amazing benefits of this powerful little fruit, the Goji Berry!
Goji berries have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years. Some legends report that goji berries were eaten by monks in the Himalayan Mountains thousands of years ago and steeped in hot water to help aid meditation and obtain greater health, vitality, longevity, energy and stamina.
Low in calories, fat-free, a good source of fiber and a high-antioxidant food, goji berry benefits include the ability to help you fight disease, effectively manage your weight and experience better digestion. Usually eaten raw, dried, or in liquid or powder form, versatile goji berries contain a wide range of phytonutrients, vitamins and trace minerals, giving them the name “superfood berries” by many health experts.
In fact, according a study published by the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, goji berry benefits include experiencing …
increased ratings for energy levels, athletic performance, quality of sleep, ease of awakening, ability to focus on activities, mental acuity, calmness, feelings of health, contentment, and happiness and significantly reduced fatigue and stress. (1)
Is there anything these berries can’t do?
What Are Some Proven Goji Berry Benefits?
The “wolfberry fruit,” as goji berries are known in China, has been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) since around 200 B.C. Goji berry benefits were even mentioned in “Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing,” an ancient book detailing the medicinal and agricultural knowledge of the mythical Chinese emperor Shen Nong and the oldest book on Chinese herbs in existence.
Goji berries — with the scientific name is Lycium barbarum — have been extensively researched for their ability to generate general feelings of well-being, improve neurologic/psychologic traits, support better gastrointestinal health and bowel functions, help build stronger musculoskeletal systems, and improve cardiovascular health. They’re easy to add to meals to boost energy levels and performance.
Goji berry benefits include the ability to naturally treat diabetes, hypertension, infectious diseases, and common illnesses like the cold or a fever. Traditionally, they’ve also been used to fight depression and anxiety or other mood disorders. They’re a great source of antioxidants known as beta-carotene, plus other phytonutrients that help protect skin and eye health. Thanks to their ability to reduce blood glucose, regulate cholesterol levels and keep triglycerides at an ideal balance, they’re also shown to prevent heart disease.
Goji Berry Nutrition Facts
Goji berries grow on a type of boxthorn plant that belongs to the Solanaceae plant family. This plant family also includes other fruits and veggies like potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants and chili peppers. An excellent high-protein snack, dried goji berry benefits also offer a good dose of fiber, over 20 different vitamins and minerals, and, of course, a wealth of antioxidants.
The USDA doesn’t offer nutrition facts for goji berries, and it’s believed that they vary widely depending on the type, how fresh they are and how they’re preserved. Different sources claim that goji berry benefits include varying degrees of nutrients, but below is a range of the vitamins, minerals and other phytochemicals present in goji berries.
¼ cup of dried goji berries has about: (2)
- 100 calories
- 0 grams fat
- 3 grams fiber
- 13 grams sugar
- 4 grams protein
- 140 percent DV vitamin A
- 35–163 percent DV vitamin C
- 100 vitamin DV B2
- 91 percent DV selenium
- 24 percent DV potassium
- 10–100 percent DV iron
- 4–10 percent DV calcium
- 18 amino acids (11 of which are essential)
- 5 sources of healthy, unsaturated fatty acids, including alpha-linolenic acid and linoleic acid
- Phytochemicals, including beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, lycopene, cryptoxanthin, lutein and polysaccharides
How does this compare to some other popular fruits?
According to the USDA, a small serving of dried goji beries has an oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) score — which measures the antioxidant value of various foods — of 3,290. By comparison, an apple has an ORAC score of 2,568; raisins a score of 3,406; blueberries a score of 4,633; and pomegranate seeds a score of 4,479. (3) All are good sources of various antioxidants, but what makes goji berries stand apart is their amino acids (protein), fatty acids and specific antioxidants.
It’s rare for a fruit to provide amino acids, especially 11 types considered “essential” that the body can’t make. Also remember that each type of berry or fruit provides a different array and level of antioxidants, so the more types you consume the more benefits.
Another goji berry benefit to consider is their convenience. They come in such a small package that for some people it’s often easier to eat them and obtain high levels of nutrients than it might be to eat a few whole pieces of fruit. For example, when you compare goji berries and oranges weight for weight as vitamin C foods, goji berries provide up to 500 times more vitamin C! (4)
Wondering how goji berries taste compared to other fruits and how you can use them? Good news — most people find their taste totally pleasant and easy to work with! They add a chewy texture to recipes, and in terms of their flavor, you can think of goji berries like a cross between cranberries and cherries. They look similar to raisins since they’re normally dried, but they have a brighter pink color and a special sweet/tart “bite” to them.
History of Goji Berries
Goji berries are native to Asia, particularly China where they’re grown in both the northern and southern regions. Two primary types of goji berry plants are grown today: L. chinense is grown in the south of China and L. barbarum is grown in the north.
Gojis are known in pharmacological studies and referenced as “Lycii fructus,” but around the world they go by many names, such as wolfberries or Tibetan goji. Since the early 21st century, interest about goji berries in the U.S. has taken off as their nutrient value has become more known, but in TCM, the whole fruit and its extracts have had numerous implied health effects and uses for centuries. Cultivated in China for more than 2000 years, goji berries have earned the nickname “red diamonds.”
Besides the berry fruit, other parts of the wolfberry plant — including the flower, leaf, seed and root bark — are also praised for their benefits in China. From a TCM point of view, the nature of wolfberry is said to be “calm,” and its flavor is “sweet.”
According to TCM theory and practice, goji berry benefits include acting positively on both the “liver channel” and the “kidney channel” by nourishing and detoxifying the liver and kidney. This is said to improve eye function, fertility, energy and peace of mind. TCM practitioners use components of goji berry nutrition to treat various diseases, but the fruit is also a popular food for Chinese people in their daily lives.
Commercial volumes of goji berries are grown in the Chinese regions of Inner Mongolia, Qinghai, Gansu, Shaanxi, Shanxi and Hebei. When the berries are ripe, they’re picked carefully or shaken from the vine into trays so they can be preserved. This is done either by drying them in full sun on open trays or through mechanical dehydration over a two-day period. The most common way to find goji berries in the U.S. is in dried or powder form because the berries are very delicate, don’t ship well and have a short shelf life.
In China, gojis are celebrated each August with an annual festival coinciding with the berry harvest. They’re praised for helping with land irrigation and are planted to control erosion and reclaim irrigable soils from desertification.
As a food, they’re traditionally cooked before consumption in China and used in recipes like rice congee, almond jelly and Chinese tonic soups, or in combination with chicken or pork, vegetables, and other beneficial plant foods like wild yams or licorice root. The berries are also boiled as an herbal tea and made into various juices or wines (similar to how grapes are used).
Are There Any Risks of Eating Goji Berries?
Like all dried fruit, goji berries do contain sugar in a small quantity, so portion control is important — and they’re not necessarily good choices for people with blood sugar imbalances. Like all dried fruit, it can be easy to overdo it!
People who use blood thinners or takes diabetic medications can possibly have a negative reaction eating a lot of goji berries. As far as allergies, gojis are not a common allergen and are suitable for children, too, but if you have a known allergy to other berries, you might want to use caution and clear them with your doctor first.
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