It seems the trend in recent years is to look to traditional medicine to develop modern treatments and to discover the next superfood. One of the traditional foods receiving plenty of attention and marketing these days is the goji (also known as goji berry or wolfberry). It is a type of fruit native to Asia and that looks somewhat like a fat bird’s eye chili, about the size of the tip of a pinky finger. It’s been used in Asian cuisine and medicine for centuries and has a sweet taste and an herb-y aftertaste.
If you’re interested in goji berries, you’re in good company—celebrities like Madonna and Miranda Kerr are reportedly fans of the fruit. Fresh and dried goji berries are now available in many stores, including Healthy Options. As these berries are pricier than its cousins, you may be wondering if they’re worth it. Do the health benefits of goji berries make up for the cost?
Benefits of Goji Berries
Like many other fruits, goji berries are loaded with antioxidants, which help fight off inflammation that leads to aging and other related ailments. It’s also low in calories and high in fiber, which may help with weight management and keeping tummy troubles at bay. Some believe that it has amazing benefits, like increasing longevity and curing cancer, but these have not been backed by scientific research.
While numerous studies have been conducted on goji berries, there has been nothing conclusive as of yet. But the results of these studies have been encouraging. Based on existing research, goji berries may offer the following benefits:
May power up your immune system. The vitamins found in goji berries may help you keep illness at bay. In a study of aged mice, goji berries were shown to enhance the efficacy of the flu vaccine.
May improve skin. Like many other berries, the antioxidants in goji berries—zeaxanthin in particular—can help keep aging at bay.
May improve fertility. Research published in the journal Life Sciences supports the theory that goji berries can enhance sexual fertility. The results of the study showed raised sexual hormone levels in damaged rat testes, improved copulatory performance and reproductive function of hemicastrated male rats, increased hormone levels, and improved sperm quantity and quality, among other things.
The study concluded that the findings “support the folk reputation of L. barbarum fruits [goji berries] as an aphrodisiac and fertility-facilitating agent, and provide scientific evidence for a basis for the extensive use of L. barbarum fruits as a traditional remedy for male infertility in China.”
May give an energy boost. In a small study, subjects who drank goji berry juice for two weeks felt an increase in their energy levels.
A Word of Caution
Goji berries seem all well and good but if you’re thinking about adding them to your diet, it’s best to consult with your doctor first, especially if you have certain conditions or are taking medication. The online resource Healthline states that you should avoid goji berries if you have low blood sugar, are using blood thinners, have low or high blood pressure, are breastfeeding, or are pregnant as it may cause a miscarriage.
Also keep in mind that there can be too much of a good thing: A quarter cup of goji berries is said to contain three times the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin A so overconsumption may lead to Vitamin A toxicity. (While it initially affects your eyes, bones, and skin, it may lead to lasting damage to your liver.)
Including Goji Berries in Your Diet
It’s easy to include goji berries in your diet. You can treat them as any other dried fruit and snack on dried goji berries as is, or toss them into your salad, trail mix, granola, or yogurt. You can also mix them into your baked goods. Their interesting sweet-sour combination is a great addition to stuffing for your roast chicken or in a sauce for pork dishes. You can also include fresh goji berries in your morning smoothie.
As with any other food that has health claims, goji berries aren’t the be all and end all of good health. They should be part of a balanced diet packed with nutrients—all the goji berries in the world aren’t going to help if the rest of your diet is unhealthy.