After eating these sweet and herby berries, you’d never think they were related to tobacco. Thankfully, they’re much healthier than their deadly cousin.
Goji berries have only burst onto the health food scene in recent years but their unique flavor and potential benefits have long been recognized in other cultures.
In fact, goji berries have a rich healing history, having been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for over 2,000 years!
They are believed to be especially potent in the treatment of liver and kidney problems, and have also been used for blood health, maintaining eye sight, as a sleep aid, and in the quest for a lengthier lifespan.
Gojis go by other names too – they’re also known as lycii fructus, lycium barbarum, wolfberries and even ‘red diamonds’, showing just how prized these fruits really are throughout Asia.
Let’s take a closer look at goji berries and all they have to offer.
1. Anti-Inflammatory & Antioxidant Powers
Since having high antioxidant levels is pretty much a prerequisite for gaining superfood status, it’s not surprising to find out that goji berries have an exceptional ability to fight free radicals and reduce oxidative stress.
Goji berries are at the top of Dr. Axe’s list of the most antioxidant rich foods. When compared gram for gram, he claims they even beat wild blueberries, cranberries, and blackberries.
Antioxidants are important in the fight against cancer. They also support detoxification and may even help you live longer. Hey, maybe there is some merit to the ancient claims that gojis help with longevity.
Gojis also contain an anti-inflammatory agent called beta-sitosterol. This means these humble berries could play a role in helping to reduce your chances of cancer, arthritis, allergies, and premature aging.
So, if you’re following the anti-inflammatory diet, or suffer any inflammatory condition, you’ll be happy to hear you’re doing your body a favor by snacking on these delicious berries.
2. Nature’s Multivitamin
Goji berries pack some serious nutritional punch for their size.
Even blueberries, one of the most nutrient dense berries out there, contain almost no protein in the same size serving.
Thanks to their tiny seeds, this fruit is a very good source of fiber, and contains vitamin A, vitamin C, riboflavin, iron, potassium, zinc, copper, selenium, thiamin, and calcium.
I have to say, I wasn’t expecting such big stats for such little fruits.
3. Say Goodbye to Cold & Flu Symptoms
Because of their high levels of vitamin C and other antioxidants, goji berries can boost the immune system. Not only does a high level of immunity ward off colds and flu, but it keeps more serious illnesses like cancer at bay.
Eating gojis every day has been shown to be a helpful aid to the flu vaccine, enhancing its effect in aged mice.
Human studies have shown similar effects – drinking goji berry juice daily has been found to increase immunological responses and general feelings of well-being in older people (who often struggle with immune function). Plus, the polysaccharide compounds in the berries further increase immunity.
Get ahead of cold and flu season this year by starting to add gojis to your salads and smoothies.
4. Forget About Alzheimer’s
Goji berries may help protect against neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.
This may be because of the high levels of antioxidants in the berries, which prevent oxidative stress in the brain.
And, inflammation is linked to Alzheimer’s, so it makes sense that the anti-inflammatory powers of these berries will offset symptoms.
A study on the effect of goji extract has shown promising neuro-protective effects, which researchers hope will have therapeutic potential in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.
If you’re struggling to remember things or can’t think straight sometimes, try adding these berries to your meals. If nothing else, you’ll be getting some fiber and antioxidants.
5. Stave Off Skin Damage
Because they’re loaded with the antioxidant beta-carotene, snacking on these sweet berries can help you achieve glowing, healthy skin.
They might also help protect you from damaging UV rays, which cause premature aging and even skin cancer. One study has shown that drinking goji berry juice increases protection against free radical damage from the sun, as well as providing extra photo-protection for those who are particularly susceptible to skin cancer.
And, since the body converts beta-carotene to vitamin A, also known as retinol, it can help with skin conditions like acne, eczema, psoriasis, wrinkles, and even cold sores.
Stop slapping expensive lotions on your skin and start helping it from the inside out instead.
6. Fight Blindness
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in the US, affecting as many as 11 million people. That number is expected to double to nearly 22 million by 2050!
Isn’t that so worrying?
These mighty berries contain high concentrations of the compounds lutein and zeaxanthin – known for their abilities to protect the eyes from oxidative damage, along with reducing the risk of AMD.
Even those already suffering from AMD should try some gojis – a major study has shown that consuming lutein and zeaxanthin can slow the progression of macular degeneration once it has started.
What’s more, the antioxidants in goji berry may even be a natural way to prevent glaucoma by protecting the cells in the retina.
7. Get Energized
Wish that there was a tasty sweet snack that would make you feel better and give you extra energy?
Goji berries might just be that perfect mid-afternoon treat. I certainly find a handful of them gives me a little boost.
According to a study cited in the Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine, drinking goji berry juice for 14 days helped increase the subjective feelings of well-being, energy levels, and gastrointestinal functions of participants.
Why not make your own goji and nut trail mix to keep at your desk for when the 3 pm slump hits? It’ll perk you up and see you right through to dinner.
8. Improve Fertility & Libido
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), goji berries are believed to help increase fertility and the reproductive system. In fact, goji is known as ‘The Matrimony Vine’!
A study of 42 men diagnosed with infertility (due to low sperm count and motility) were given a half ounce of goji berry every day. After eight weeks, 78% of the men had increased sperm counts to normal or above normal averages, and most amazingly, all of those men went on to father children.
That’s pretty incredible isn’t it? It almost sounds too good to be true.
But that’s not the only study to show these results. Animal studies also show that gojis increase sperm quality and quantity along with hormone levels.
Not only do doctors of TCM believe that these berries increase fertility but they also consider gojis to be a powerful and natural way to enhance sexual desire and performance.
How Do I Use Goji Berries
Now that you’re sold on the benefits of goji berries, you’re probably wondering where to find them, and what to add them to.
It’s getting increasingly easy to come by goji berries – try an Asian food store or health food store. I’ve even found them in the supermarket right near the nuts and other dried fruits.
For maximum vitamins and minerals, make sure to buy the highest quality organic goji berries you can find.
These are some of my favorite recipes using goji berries:
- Goji berry and chia seed shake – like this one by Dr Oz
- Oatmeal or overnight oats with goji berries for a healthy way to start the day
- A goji berry, kale & quinoa salad…it’s a serious superfood lunch!
- Raw goji berry energy bars
- Goji berry trail mix
- A simple Greek yogurt topped with some goji berries
But, just like a lot of dried fruit, they’re high in sugar so I only recommend enjoying a small handful a day.
They’re Not For Everyone!
Web MD warns that goji berries may interact with some drugs like the blood thinner warfarin. They may also interact with medication for diabetes and blood pressure drugs.
And, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are advised by Medline Plus to avoid goji berries as they contain a chemical called betaine, which is likely unsafe for expectant or nursing mothers.
If you’re allergic to tobacco, peaches, or tomatoes then you may have issues with goji as they are from the same family of nightshade plants.
Check with your doctor before taking gojis if you’re on any medication, suffer allergies, or are pregnant, but other than that, it’s probably safe to enjoy gojis in moderation.
I’m a big fan of goji berries – mainly for their sweet taste and chewy texture.
Even though they’ve been around for millennia, goji berries are still pretty new on the US health food scene. Studies on their health claims aren’t all that common, but I hope that changes as their popularity grows.
Who knows, maybe future studies will show that gojis are in fact, the fountain of youth, or the key to living longer, as Asian folklore tells.
For now, the research I came across on this ancient superfood has shown me that they have a lot more going for them than just their flavor, and I’ll definitely continue to enjoy them as part of a balanced diet.
I hope you’ve discovered the great ways that gojis can work for you too.
Will you be trying out goji berries in your meals or snacks?