I first heard of Goji berries when I was going to nutrition school at IIN. David Wolfe was up on stage raving about these magical berries that were basically the healthiest food on the planet! I immediately ran to Whole Foods in Columbus Circle, Manhattan and planned to buy some. But, my classmates had beat me to it! The entire section of Goji berries was sold out! Yep, they are THAT amazing! I jumped on my phone and placed an order on Amazon and when I got home from class that weekend my Goij berries were waiting for me.
Goji berries are as nutritious as they are delicious! These shriveled bright orange-red berries may be fairly new on the scene in the West, but they have been a major part of the Tibetan and Chinese cultures for thousands of years. These cultures used (and continue to use) them as medicines and as a culinary delight.
Goji berries are native to the Himalayan Mountains in Tibet and grow on a shrub-like plant. They are considered a fruit, but also an herb; they belong to the nightshade family, along with other tasty treats like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant.
The Health Benefits of Goji Berries
This bright-colored berry has become one of the superfoods that everyone is raving about, and it’s no wonder! Just look at the nutrition they pack into such a little package:
- 21 trace minerals including calcium, phosphorus, zinc, germanium, and selenium
- All 18 essential amino acids
- More protein than any other fruit, nearly 10% of the recommended daily intake
- More carotenoids than any other known food on the planet
- Loaded with antioxidants
- 180% of daily recommended Vitamin A per 1 ounce serving
- B vitamins, including B1, B2, and B6
- More Vitamin C per ounce than an orange
- 15 times more iron than in spinach
- More beta-carotene than carrots
- High in fiber
- High in 8 essential omega oils, especially linoleic acid
Goji Berries Improve Health
It’s no wonder that the Tibetans and Chinese have used these little wonders for all types of health issues, including:
- Lower cholesterol
- Kidney disease
- Poor eyesight
- Liver disease, including fatty liver
- Higher immunity
- Lower blood pressure
- Depression and anxiety
- Skin rashes
- Cleanse the blood
- General health tonic for strength and longevity
Though you might question the reliability of ancient medicine, after all, we do have advanced medical research in the 21st century in our Western culture, but let’s take a closer look at the details of how goji berry nutrients can improve our health today.
General Well-Being and Health – In one study, people who drank goji juice for 15 days reported having more energy, less stress, less fatigue, feelings of happiness, better sleep and improved digestion. The goji berry is well-known for increasing feelings of optimism and general happiness; in fact, it’s sometimes referred to as “the happy berry.”
Vision Protection – The antioxidant zeaxanthin found in abundance in goji berries protects the retina of the eyes and can stave off age-related eye deterioration by preventing soft drusen accumulation in older patients. The berry also contains Taurine which is proving to be helpful in slowing down the development of eye conditions in those with diabetes*.
Cancer Prevention – Berries are known to contain large amounts of antioxidants called polyphenols that protect against cancer. This is especially true of the smaller, fleshy berries, like blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Goji berries are no different. The large amount of antioxidants they contain helps fight off cancer, and can even diminish cancer cells and repair cellular damage from cancer. Also, in a study published in 2008 in the “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry,” this same antioxidant was found to improve the overall effectiveness of chemotherapy by weakening tumor cells.
And, if that weren’t enough, goji berries have been shown to protect the liver of cancer patients who were undergoing chemotherapy. The trace minerals selenium and germanium, both of which are found in goji berries, have been used in cancer clinical trials, and the physalin compound, also found in the berry, fights various types of leukemia and lowers tumor cell activity.
Anti-Aging – Goji berries offer several different types of protection against the effects of aging, including being high in omega oils, which are necessary for hormone production and proper function of the brain and nervous system. They also contain betaine which aids in memory function and enhances muscle growth, among other things.
The goji berry also contains polysaccharides that are not found in any other known plant! These include LBP1, LBP2, LBP3, and LBP4, but that probably doesn’t mean much to most of us. What will grab your attention though is that these molecules build up the immune system in major ways. They also stimulate the pituitary gland deep within the brain. This gland is vital to our very existence because it produces the Human Growth Hormone (HGH). HGH slows down the aging process and even reverses the negative effects of aging. There are many stories of Chinese and Tibetans living to 100 and beyond with few signs of aging. These people didn’t develop any of the common ailments so prevalent among our aged (and not-so-aged in the West) including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure…and on and on.
How to Get Goji Berries into your Diet
Unlike some other superfoods, goji berries are super easy to add to your diet. They are delicious and very versatile. You can add them to smoothies, trail mix, oatmeal or muesli. You can even infuse them in water and enjoy the benefits of both the berry and of drinking more water. A couple of my family’s favorite ways to eat them is in my grain-free granola and chocolate superfood cookies. Who can say no to a superfood cookie that is chocolate? Not me! After all, the goal is to find easy, tasty ways to get the nutrients our bodies need, and goji berries make that easy!
I love to eat them with another superfood: cacao nibs. Sometimes I even like to eat them in my sauna, with a little bacon! ?
Happy Saturday! ? Having a little snack in my sauna while I #detox and read my latest favorite book! Goji berries, raw cacao nibs, and some pastured pork bacon leftover from breakfast. I put on some Magnify Your Purpose essential oil, and some meditation music. Outside of my running trails, THIS is my happy place! I plan to do a post on my blog about the awesome sauna that I found too! No EMF’s, no VOC’s, just therapeutic goodness! ?
*Medical caution: If you are taking medications for diabetes, high or low blood pressure or a blood thinner, check with your doctor before adding goji berries into your diet. Some medications can have adverse interactions with some of the compounds in the berry.