Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Health Benefits of Goji Berries

Goji Berries are one of the new-found "superfruits" in our area of the world.  Although they have been around for thousands of years, they most recently have gained notoriety in our area for their incredible nutrient density.  

Organic Goji Berries




 What is a "Superfruit?":  
  • A superfruit is a fruit that is nutritionally dense in many ways, usually containing a high level of vitamins and/or minerals, protein and a high level of antioxidants (Vitamins A, C, E) that help to fight the free radicals in your body that are thought to cause harm to your tissues, organs and other bodily systems.
 So What Exactly is a Goji Berry?  
  • It is a berry that grows on shrubs (Lycium barbarum) that are usually found in the Himalayas and other sub-tropical regions such as the Mongolian region of China.  
  • It is part of the nightshade family (so be advised if you cannot consume nightshade plants). 
  • They are raw and vegan.
  • They are usually sun-dried or factory dried at low temperatures to preserve as many nutrients as possible.
  • These little berries have been used for thousands of years in ancient Chinese medicine to treat various ailments.  
1 Pound Bag of Goji Berries

Nutrition Facts: 
1 ounce of Goji Berries contains: 

Calories: 100
Fat: 0g
Trans Fat: 0g
Saturated Fat: 0g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 75mg
Carbogydrates: 21g
Fiber: 3g
Sugar: 13g
Protein: 4g

Vitamin A: 140%
Vitamin C: 20%
Calcium: 4%
Iron: 10%
(based on a 2,000 calorie diet)
 


What Are the Health Benefits of Goji Berries?:
  • They are high in antioxidants, specifically the carotenoids (like beta-carotene) and zeaxanthin (compound that absorbs blue light and helps protect the eyes).
  • The antioxidants in the berries are thought to help fight off free radicals in the body.
  • Goji Berries have about 20 different vitamins and minerals, making it one of the most nutritionally beneficial foods available.
  • They have 18 different amino acids (the building blocks to protein).
  • They have been used for many years in teas, juices and tinctures to treat ailments (although these are just assumptions and not based on clinical trials - at least not yet!)  The FDA has NOT approved the consumption of these berries to treat any disease or ailment.

What Are Free Radicals?:
  • Free radicals happen when a bonded weak molecule splits. 
  • Free radicals are very unstable and react with anything and everything to try to gain their electron back.  
  • They will attack a nearby molecule and steal its electron, thus making THAT molecule a free radical now.  
  • You can just about imagine the chain of damage that wreaks havoc on the body when processes like these take place in the body.  
  • This is a snowball reaction that will eventually lead to damaged cells and systems in the body.  
  • Although not all free radicals are bad (some exist to actually fight off and neutralize diseases), the majority of external factors are not beneficial such as cigarette smoke, pollution, radiation, etc.  
  • It is thought that antioxidants protect the body from these free radicals wreaking havoc.  Think of antioxidants as the "police" that capture the "burglar."
  • The antioxidants act like a cleanup crew of sorts to pick up these free radicals and dispose of them before they start their chain reaction.

What does a Goji Berry Taste Like?:
  • The flavor of a Goji Berry is slightly sweet and slightly tart with a bit of bitterness and dryness at the end.
  • It tastes very similar to a raisin, although it does have bitter finishing notes.
  • It has a texture very similar to raisins - although they almost remind me of stale raisins that have been left open exposed to the air for too long (it has an almost crunchy outside skin).
  • The shape reminds me an awful lot of cardamon pods (frequently used in Indian cuisine).
  • When chewed, the berries break down and turn everything orange (that's how much beta-carotene is in them!).

How Can Goji Berries Be Consumed?:
  • You can eat a small handful of them plain.
  • Add them to yogurt or Greek yogurt for an added boost of nutrition.
  • Add them as a nutritional boost in your smoothies.
  • Mix them with your homemade granola and/or trailmix.
  • Sprinkle on your oatmeal for breakfast.
  • Add to muffins, baked goods, pancake batter, waffle batter, cookies or anything that would have the addition of something like a raisin.
  • Try not to consume an awful lot of these.  Just because something is thought to be "good" for you doesn't mean you want to eat a ton of it.  Just like any food, moderation is key.

Where Can I Purchase Goji Berries and Are They Expensive:?
  • You can find them in most health food stores or higher end grocery stores with a natural foods section.  They are next to the dried fruits (usually).
  • You can purchase them online at Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Navitas-Naturals-Berries-16-Ounce-Pouches/dp/B000FFLHSY or simply by doing a Google search.  Navitas Naturals is the brand that I purchased.
  • Goji Berries are not cheap by any means.  Although they are not the most expensive health food I have purchased, they run in my area for about $18.00 for a 1 pound bag.  Seems like a lot of money, but trust me, 1 pound of Gogi Berries goes an awful long way.


Now do you see why this is such an incredible fruit?! Even if nothing has been officially determined by the FDA, I go with my gut.  I know through my extensive nutrition training that fruits and vegetables are wonderful additions to your diet.  If you add one more that is high in vitamins and minerals, you are just reaping those benefits.  Plus, they taste pretty good too!  If you are a little leery of trying these, shop around at your local health food store and ask if you can try a sample.  They are not very cheap, so it may help to try them first.

I recently gave these to my kids for the first time over the weekend.  My toddler absolutely loved them and called them "way-zinz" (raisins) lol.  My older son said they were "ok" but he would rather put them in something like Greek yogurt.

Good luck in all your health food quests.  I am continually discovering and tasting new foods that are thought to be healthy and I can't wait to share my new discoveries with you! ~Cathy



NOTE: Please consult your doctor before starting any new food as a part of your diet.  This fruit has been known to interact with blood thinners, so please do your background research before starting these as a part of your daily regime. The FDA has NOT approved this to treat any medical conditions and this post is not meant to treat or diagnose any condition.  

12 comments:

  1. wwwe love goji berry!

    And we offer goji in Ningxia,China,with very good quality,price.ever can be package as your need!

    Do you want Authentic Ningxia wolfberry?Pls contact us!

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  2. This is a great article on goji berries! Its great that these berries have gained mainstream recognition as it's health benefits are truly amazing! I found this page useful for information on goji berries also - http://www.detoxyourworld.com/goji-berries-3

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  3. I heard that goji berries are almost as good
    as blueberries, but I haven't yet seen any
    comparative studies to confirm it. Anyone seen
    any comparisons?

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    Replies
    1. Goji berries and blueberries are very close in nutritional benefits. Although I have not personally seen any formal studies comparing them specifically, I would love to see the comparison. Although I do definitely enjoy both, it would be fascinating to know the reasoning behind which one is "better." Please do post if you do happen to find any formal studies on this in your travels :) Thanks!

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  4. Are goji berries and raisins similar on the nutrition front?...Is one more caloric or more elevated with regards to glycemic index or carbohydrate?..I actually prefer the taste of goji berries to dried cranberry or raisins specifically because of the little "tart-yet-sweet" edge...Thoughts?

    Recent discoverer of your informative, well-researche blog...and love your solid tips and advice!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Donna. Although I do believe raisins have a slightly better glycemic index than goji berries do (I think it is within about 1 g of each other), the vitamins and minerals in goji berries are definitely worth the switch. The beta carotene alone has such a profound impact on health that it is a great way to sneak in great nutrition in such a little bite.

      Another quick little tip: If you are baking with goji berries and the texture seems to be a little harder (as some brands tend to get), plump the gogi berries in fruit juice or water just to give them a softer texture.

      So glad you are enjoying my blog!

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  6. They are everywhere in china, even the meanest little market will have them. My Chinese colleagues made herbal teas out of them and brought that to work the way Americans bring their coffee mugs to work.

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  7. If you look at LGD Farms on Facebook you will see many articles about Goji. I own a Goji Farm in NEvada. www.lgdfarms.com We are doing amazing things for Goji in America and getting FRESH Goji and Fresh Goji leaves to the market. The leaves are used for many purposes...

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    1. Thanks for sharing your page Kenny! So glad to see locally grown Goji berries. Best wishes in all your ventures and keep up the great work in offering healthy foods in the US :)

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  8. Goji berries are an amazing Superfood - I don't think the FDA know much about nutrition as they're the marketing department of Big Pharma...

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