The popularity of goji berries for their health benefits has been growing more and more over the past few years, but are they really so healthy and why should we eat them?
The answer to the first question is YES! Goji berries, also known as Lycium Barbarum, are native to Asia, and they have been used in Asia for more than 2 000 years as a medicinal herb and food supplement. Many individuals use goji berries to treat eye, liver, and kidney ailments.
Goji berries, also known as wolfberries, were introduced to the Western world a few years ago, with many health organisations punting their health benefits, and one can buy one sort of goji berry or the other in various formats in virtually every health shop and even supermarket these days.
Various studies claim that goji berries can help for fatigue, athletic performance, quality of sleep, ability to focus, calmness, and overall well-being and also claim that goji berries can increase life expectancy, lower heart risks, lower blood pressure, reduce arthritis pain, and even treat cancer tumours.
Health Benefits of Goji Berries
While some of those claims may not be completely true, as far as the answer to the second question goes, you should eat them because:
Goji berries are often called a superfood because they contain chemical compounds called phytochemicals that are produced by plants. Phytochemicals in goji berries include polysaccharides, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin.
Goji berries contain all 8 essential amino acids, (a single 115gram serving provides nearly 10% of your daily value for protein), and are a good source of vitamins and minerals, including:
- vitamin A
- vitamin C
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.
Polysaccharides are a primary characteristic of the goji berry. These are an essential source of dietary fibre. A study using aging mice found that polysaccharides in goji berries helped with improving immune function and increasing total antioxidant activity in the body.
Beta-carotene is responsible for the orange-red color pigment in goji berries. Beta-carotene is vital for eye health, bone health, skin health, and cell development. The amount of beta-carotene in goji berries is among the highest of all edible plants.
Zeaxanthin plays a crucial role in supporting the immune system. Many researchers believe that zeaxanthin can prevent macular degeneration, a progressive vision impairment that occurs when the central part of the retina, or macula, deteriorates.
Adding Goji Berries to your Diet
Goji berries can be found in most health food stores and supermarkets and are easy to add to your diet. Goji berries are available fresh or dried and in trail mixes, superfood mixes, or as a juice.
Add goji berries to:
- yoghurt, oatmeal, or breakfast cereals
- trail mixes
- baked goods
- sweet sauces
Carry some with you when you got to work or out and eat them by the handful as a snack.
Goji berries are often expensive. However, the health benefits may be worth the cost. Prices will also depend on whether the product is organic, natural, or processed.
Goji berries are available in supplement form in health food stores and online.
Who Should Avoid Goji Berries?
Goji berries may interact with some medications, including:
- blood thinners
- blood pressure medications
- diabetes drugs
People taking these medications should talk to their doctor before adding goji berries to their diet.
Anyone with an allergy to other berries should discuss this with a doctor before consuming fresh or dry goji berries or taking any supplement containing goji berry extracts.