One of the most popular superfoods today, this little "red diamond" with exotic origins, is credited with staying youthful and healthy.
Goji berries, sometimes called wolfberries, are known by their Latin name as, Lycium barbarum. They are native to China and Mongolia and have been widely cultivated in many parts of Asia, including Japan, Tibet, and India, where they can be found growing naturally on hillsides. In their countries of origin, goji berries have been used for over 2,000 years, both medicinally and as a nutritional food source, and they remain extremely popular to this day. They are picked by hand and quickly dried because the small, bright-colored fresh berry has a very short shelf-life.
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), goji berries are considered both a fruit and herb because they are indicated for so many health benefits. They were prescribed to treat conditions such as headaches, fever, fatigue, eye problems, and more. TCM practitioners believed that consuming goji berries could help prolong life by protecting against premature aging! They might be considered a food of royalty because they have been consumed by Chinese emperors for centuries as part of a healthy diet to promote royal longevity. In traditional Buddhist philosophy, goji berries were thought to bring good luck and harmony.
Nutrients & Health Benefits of Goji Berries
Goji popularity has spread around the world. Health enthusiasts say goji berries are a superfood because they are super nutrient-dense. They contain vitamins A, C, and E, as well as impressive amounts of calcium, iron, zinc, and other minerals. They're also rich in antioxidants like polysaccharides, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin which help to protect the body from free radicals. These antioxidants are immune-boosting nutrients to help your body defend against seasonal germs. Zeaxanthin is known to support good vision by protecting the eyes against damage from UV rays and toxins in the environment. It has also been shown to improve night vision since it helps retain moisture in the eyes, allowing them to stay hydrated for longer periods of time.*
Goji berries are also known for their ability to support excellent digestion due to their high fiber content to help keep you regular. A high-fiber diet also helps maintain a balanced gut microbiome and has cardiovascular benefits by keeping blood vessels clear and healthy. The extra fiber from goji berries also contributes to maintaining a healthy weight, moderates appetite, and keeps blood sugar balanced. As a result, you may notice a little more energy throughout the day, while skipping the afternoon dip in blood sugar which causes that sleepy feeling.**
Believe it or not, this superfood also offers over 11 grams of protein in a 100 gram serving of goji berries to help fuel your muscles and promote cell repair. They're a convenient and healthy post-workout snack for an exercise enthusiast.
How to Use Goji Berries
Goji berries can be eaten fresh if you can access them, but the dried version is far more popular and easier to find in a store. When dried, they become chewy with a sweet but slightly tart flavor similar to raisins or cranberries, and the interior is filled with tiny seeds that add a fun crunchiness to the texture.
You can add goji berries to smoothies or yogurt, a salad, or use them to make tea with honey or ginger for an energizing and warming drink full of antioxidants and nutrients. You can also add goji berries when baking muffins or breads for an extra burst of flavor and nutrition. In Asia, it’s popular to add goji berries to chicken soup with ginger.
If you really want to ramp up the superfood powers of goji, try this recipe for a delicious Berry-Goji Smoothie.
Recipe: Berry-Goji SmoothieUse a blender to combine the following ingredient:
- 1 cup of frozen raspberries or strawberries
- 1 peeled banana
- 2-3 TBS of goji berries
- 1 TBS of nut butter or scoop of protein powder
- ½ - 1 cup plant-based milk (depending on the thickness you prefer)
Makes about 2 servings. Enjoy while chilled!
References:*Ma ZF, et. al,. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2019 Jan 9;2019:2437397. doi: 10.1155/2019/2437397
** Zheng Zhang, et.al. Food Research International, Volume 138, Part B, 2020, 109778, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodres.2020.109778