You might have heard of goji berries and their health benefits. But do they live up these claims? Their history as a medicinal plant has roots in ancient China. Many people use goji berries to treat eye, liver, and kidney ailments. Also known as wolfberries, these festive red berries have a sweet, slightly-sour taste and often come in dried form, like raisins.
If you’re looking to add more nutrition to your diet, read on to decide if goji berries are right for you.
Goji berries are a good source of vitamins and minerals, including:
- vitamin C
- vitamin A
These berries contain all 8 essential amino acids. A single 4 ounce serving provides nearly 10 percent of your daily value for protein. For fruit, this is a surprising amount of protein.
The carbohydrates in goji berries are also complex carbs. This means your blood sugar will raise slowly, reducing your risk of a sugar crash afterwards.
Always talk to your doctor before you begin eating goji berries. Some companies may say they have less side effects than medications. But goji berries can interact with any medications you’re currently taking.
You should avoid adding goji berries to your diet if you:
- have low blood sugar
- are using blood thinners such as warfarin
- have low or high blood pressure
- are breastfeeding or pregnant (can cause miscarriage)
- are allergic to the fruit
One-fourth cup of goji berries also fulfills 340 percent of your intake for vitamin A. You may want to limit how much you eat to reduce the risk of vitamin A toxicity.
Boosted immune system and flu protection
A boosted immune system and flu protection can go hand-in-hand. The vitamins in goji berries may be able to increase and support both.
Early testing in laboratories shows that goji berries help enhance the effectiveness of flu vaccinations in aged mice. This is important because the flu vaccine doesn’t always provide adequate protection against the virus.
The study suggests that goji berries may prevent subsequent infections for older adults who’ve received a flu vaccine. But remember, goji berries aren’t a replacement protection against the flu. Be sure that you and your family members get your flu shot every year.
Potential weight loss aid
Goji berries pack healthy food energy into small servings. Their rich, sweet taste, along with their high fiber content, can help you stay on track with eating healthy. Turn to them for a light snack to prevent overindulgence at mealtime. Add them in your yogurt or salad in the same way you would use raisins.
Their nutrition value as a low-calorie, low-sugar option makes them a perfect substitute to other dried fruits with higher sugar content. A one ounce serving of goji berries has only 23 calories.
Antioxidants for eyes and skin
Studies have cited the high level of antioxidants in goji berries, especially zeaxanthin. It’s the zeaxanthin that gives goji berries, saffron, and bell peppers their bright color.
Antioxidants protect cells against breaking down when they are exposed to elements such as smoke and radiation. What’s more, foods with healthy levels of antioxidants are often high in fiber and low in unhealthy fats.
The same study also found that older adults who ate a daily dietary supplementation with goji berries for 90 days had less hypopigmentation and less drusen, or yellow deposits, in their eye
Maintain blood sugar
Sweet goji berries may your new favorite food if you have a particular sweet tooth. Goji berries can help:
- potentially lower blood sugar
- improve sugar tolerance
- alleviate insulin resistance
- improve and recover cells that help produce insulin
Talk to your doctor before you start adding goji berries to your diet, especially if you already have low blood sugar. If you do start eating them regularly, you may want to check your blood sugar more often.
Goji berries have a long history tied to sexual fertility. One study in rats showed that goji berries significantly:
- increased sperm quantity and movement
- shortened erection, capture, and ejaculation response
- improved sexual ability
- improved recovery of testosterone levels
Research suggests that goji berries may be an alternative to prescription for erectile dysfunction like Viagra.
Some brands may market goji berries as a superfood. A recent study compared the results of participants who consumed goji berry juice daily for 14 days to those who didn’t. People who drank goji berry juice reported an increase in:
- athletic performance
- quality of sleep
- ability to focus
- overall well-being
The same group also reported significantly better outcomes for issues of fatigue, stress, and digestion. But the results were also self-reported and didn’t account for other conditions.
Some health claims also state that goji berries can:
- increase life expectancy
- lower heart risks
- lower blood pressure
- reduce arthritis pain
One popular Chinese study also claims that goji berries can treat cancer tumors. Goji berries contain a chemical component called beta-sitosterol. This can help decrease the size of overgrown cells and can cause apoptosis, or “cell suicide” in tumor cells.
But according to the National Health Services (NHS) in the United Kingdom, these studies are poorly designed, or have inconclusive and insignificant results. More studies are needed to confirm the health benefits of goji berries.
Most supermarkets sell dried goji berries prepackaged and in the bulk section. You can also find them fresh. Treat them like raisins or fresh berries. Mix them into your breakfast cereal or yogurt, add them to your trail mix, or drink it as juice or tea.
Goji berries also taste great cooked with lean pork or turkey, adding a savory sweetness to hearty dishes. Plus, their vitamin C content also will help your body absorb the meat’s iron.
Eating two or more servings of fruit a day is usually recommended for optimum health benefits.
Be sure to buy your goji berries from a reputable source, even though they tend to be expensive. Cheaper or imported brands have been known to contain sulfites. Sulfites can cause an allergic reaction in some people.
Goji berries are generally considered safe for most people. Although some people report mild digestive issues when they first starting eating them. This can be a common side effect. If you have any chronic digestive or gastrointestinal issues, ask your doctor before using goji berries as a remedy.
Goji berries can be more expensive than other berries. If you’re looking for other foods that offer the same nutritional value, the NHS recommends:
- berries like strawberries and blueberries
- bell peppers, tropical fruits, and dark leafy greens
- wheatgrass for maintaining weight loss
- pomegranate juice
- oily fish
- green tea
If you’re looking for a new nutritious food to add to your diet, goji berries may be a good source. Packed with a high vitamins and minerals, and a dense protein value, they may help increase your overall well-being. Plus they can provide a welcome change from the other fruits or berries that you regularly eat.
Research suggests that goji berries can help you feel better and boost your health. Their health benefits seem to be particularly helpful for older adults. But claims about their ability to reduce arthritis pain and their anti-cancer effects need more clinical evidence.
Goji berries are more expensive than other fruits. If they are cost prohibitive to you, the NHS recommends wheatgrass, and green tea for their health benefits. Always talk to your doctor before trying a supplement. Goji berries may lower your blood sugar even more, if you already have low blood sugar.