Goji berries. I’m sure you’ve heard the hype about this trending superfood, but if you haven’t, slow down and take a look at this. The goji is a highly nutritious berry from China that has been used for thousands of years, both medicinally and for taste. It is reported to help prevent eye disease, diabetes, and cancer. But the goji has its drawbacks too. That’s why we have provided you with the Ultimate Guide to Goji Berries and how to best incorporate gojis into your daily diet for a long-lasting, healthy life.Check out our ultimate guide infographic to the right to learn more!What are Goji berries?Goji berries are highly nutritious berries grown in China and Tibet. They are a bright red-orange in color and have a sweet, herbal taste. It is considered both a fruit and an herb.Because they are native to Asia, they are most often sold dried, packaged or in bulk, in Europe and the Western Hemisphere. However, some sources say that goji plants grow well in warm climates, so if you want to try your hand at growing gojis, you can eat them fresh.Goji berries are also known as wolfberries or lycium barbarum (scientific name). They are part of the Solonaceae (nightshade) family which also includes potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, and a few poisonous plants.
Ways to Consume
Gojis are often used to make herbal teas. Some people just throw some berries into warm water, while others gather various herbs and steep them all in a teapot.
It can also be added to soup for a sweet flavor and a boost of antioxidants.
Various other ways to consume the goji berry include adding it to cereal, yogurt, granola, trail mix (raw nuts and dark chocolate), juicing it with other vegetables and fruits, and/or cooking with lean meats.
Notes on Purchasing Goji Berries
When purchasing goji berries, it’s best to buy organic. Although this will increase the price, it will also help ensure the berries are pesticide-free.
Some sources claim that goji berries sold in Asian markets come primarily from commercial-growing regions in China that contain high levels of pesticides (the FDA confirms that some goji berry imports contained pesticides). Other sources say that this claim is a marketing scheme.
Use your own judgement to determine where the best goji berries can be purchased in your area.
Potential Health Benefits
Goji berries contain a high level of antioxidants, amino acids, and polysaccharides which many believe help promote a healthier and longer life. Some sources claim goji berries are the most nutritionally dense fruit on Earth, but berries in general are nutritionally dense. Goji berries do, however, have the highest concentration of protein in any fruit and boast over 20 trace minerals required for well-balanced nutrition.
Some studies say that consuming high levels of antioxidants can protect human cells from radiation and smoke. According to Cancer.gov, antioxidants interact with and neutralize “free radicals” (“highly reactive chemicals that have the potential to harm cells”). Although the human body produces some of its own antioxidants to combat free radicals, much of the antioxidants required come from external sources, primarily our diet. The best way to obtain these antioxidants is by consuming fruits, vegetables, and grains. Some of the most well-known antioxidants are lycopene, vitamins A,C, and E, and beta-carotene (also linked with healthy skin). Goji berries have very high levels of beta-carotene and vitamin C, but there are no studies that can conclusively say they reduce the risk of cancer.
In another study found in the book Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects, however, research showed an “anti-tumor effect” in goji berries. In this study one group of cancer patients were treated with white-blood cells designed to kill tumor cells (LAK) and a protein related to immunity (IL-2), while another group was treated with both LAK and IL-2 along with a goji berry extract. Those treated with the additional goji berry extract showed higher levels of cancer regression than the other group.
Contributes to Weight Loss
Goji berries have been linked to weight loss, but they don’t contain any fat burning qualities. They are, however, a healthy snack option for dieting as they contain a ton of food energy and low calories, so they fill you up quickly. Some dieters have said that consuming a small handful of berries as a snack helped them eat less at meal times. (Note: The US Department of Agriculture recommends eating 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit each day for a healthy diet.)
Helps Lower Blood Sugar and Blood Pressure and Lessens Arthritic Pain
Although extensive health studies on goji berries have not been conducted in Western countries yet, there are some claims that goji berries lower blood sugar and blood pressure and lessen arthritis pain. Chinese studies, and historical uses, show that goji berries may also help prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD), an eye disease which has no cure, and other eye ailments.
Prevents Eye Disease
One Western optometry study, titled Goji Berry Effects on Macular Characteristics and Plasma Antioxidant Levels, showed evidence that regular consumption of goji berries may reduce your risk of AMD and other eye diseases. Scientists link low antioxidant intake to these eye diseases, so the high level of antioxidants found in goji berries is likely to help prevent them. The study also found that daily supplements of goji berry increased overall antioxidant levels in the test subjects and protected the eyes from yellow deposits (drusen) that lead to macular degeneration.
Other Health Benefits
Goji berries have been used medicinally in China for thousands of years. They have been used to cure various symptoms that we now know are related to diabetes, cognitive dysfunction (loss of intellectual functions), high blood pressure, lower back pain, dizziness, and yin deficiencies (the ability to moisten and cool bodily functions) in the liver and kidney.
Preliminary studies in the U.S. have shown that milk-based goji berry product, such as Goji Berry Nut Milk, may help prevent Alzheimer’s.
One of the reasons the goji berry has risen in popularity in the health industry is because it contains four unique polysaccharides that scientists say are crucial to vitality and longevity. Polysaccharides are complex carbohydrates, and, according to Dr. Greg Emerson, and Australian health and wellness expert, the polysaccharides found in goji berries are used by plants to protect themselves, so they may have more health benefits than we realize.
Goji berries also contain 19 amino acids, eight of which are the essential amino acids our bodies require, so it’s no wonder they are often labeled as a superfood.
Regular users of goji berries claim that since starting their goji berry diet they have noticed an increase in energy levels and better digestion. The high levels of Vitamin C may also help alleviate cold symptoms. The natural anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties of the berry also assist in overall health and wellness.
Potential Negative Side Effects
Although many sources claim goji berries are a superfood and can help prevent a number of diseases, there are some potential side effects that you’ll want to look out for.
Goji berries may cause allergic reactions, especially in those who have pollen allergies. If you experience any allergy symptoms such as rashes, hives, itchy throat/mouth, etc. stop eating the berries and talk with your personal physician.
If you’re taking any kind of prescription medicine, you may want to consult your physician before adding goji berries to your diet. Because of their tendency to lower blood pressure and blood sugar, consuming goji berries while taking diabetes and/or high blood pressure medication can drop your blood sugar/pressure down to dangerous levels. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), Goji berries may also interact negatively with medications that are altered by the liver, such as Valium and ibuprofen, because goji berries may slow the liver’s ability to break down these medications. The most important medication to avoid mixing with Goji berries is Warfarin, a medicine used to slow blood clotting. Nearly every source on Goji berries warns users of Warfarin against consuming goji berries, as they can increase the amount of time the warfarin is in your body, which may lead to increased bruising and bleeding.
Although goji berries are considered an herb, they may have adverse interactions with other herbs and supplements. Goji root bark has the potential to decrease blood sugar and blood pressure, so if you are taking herbs or supplements to help with these issues, consult a physician before adding goji berries to your diet.
The NLM also says that high levels of betaine found in goji berries may cause miscarriages in pregnant women, but other sources claim that small amounts of goji berries help increase energy levels during pregnancy. The best thing to do is consult your physician before consuming goji berries if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Goji berries have also been known to increase blood circulation, which may be harmful to hemophiliacs and some elderly people. Again, your best bet is to consult a physician before adding goji berries to your daily diet.