Goji berries are emerging as the latest ‘superfood’ berry touted for their amazing health benefits. Let’s find out more with nutrition Expert Janice Chow on why these tiny little berries pack a nutritionally dense punch!
Growing up in Hong Kong, dried goji berries were a staple in my Chinese household. My family uses them in almost every types of dish and beverage, such as soups, hot pots, desserts, tea, and even…medicinal wine!
These bright red-orange raisins were my grandmother’s favorite attempts to improve my short-sightedness, because she said, “they are good for your eyes”. In fact, many ancient Chinese books and legends claim that goji berries could preserve liver functions and promote longevity.
So, what are goji berries?
Goji, commonly known as goji berry or wolfberry, is native to China and has been widely used in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 2,000 years. Its usage was first recorded in an ancient Chinese medicinal book called Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing around 200 B.C. Typically they are consumed in a dried form which tastes mildly sweet and tart.
Goji berries are a good source of vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B2, iron, selenium, copper, dietary fiber and antioxidants. According to USDA Nutrient Database, a 1-ounce serving of these berries provides about 4 grams of protein and 3 grams of dietary fiber. Also, this is a surprising amount of protein within a small portion for fruit.
Let’s take a look at how goji berries can benefit our health:
Better eye health
Goji berries contain high levels of carotenoids such as vitamin A and zeaxanthin. Furthermore, carotenoids are antioxidants that are essential for vision by protecting healthy cells in the eye. 1 ounce of dried goji berries contains about 50% daily value of vitamin A! One study has shown that daily supplementation increases plasma zeaxanthin, which provides protection to the eyes. Perhaps my grandmother was right!
Stabilize blood sugar levels
L. barbarum polysaccharide (LBP) is an active ingredient in goji berries. Recent studies show promising benefits of lowering blood sugar levels with LBP, although more studies need to confirm this effect. Additionally, goji berries contain large amounts of protein and dietary fiber. As a result, it slows down sugar absorption into the bloodstream and stabilizes blood sugar levels.
Containing vitamin A, C, selenium, iron, copper and zinc, goji berries provide nutrients essential for a healthy immune system. As reported by some studies, there is an increase in immunomodulatory function after consumption of goji berry products.
Goji berries are nourishing whole food source to add to your meals and snacks. Consider adding these dried berries,packed with antioxidants and fiber, to your smoothies, trail mixes and savory broths. Alternatively, you can enjoy as a tea in the traditional way. Simply add 1 tablespoon of dried goji berries and steep in hot water.
Janice Chow, MS, RD is a San Francisco-based dietitian, food enthusiast, and food photographer with a passion for promoting health and wellness to people of all different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. With a focus on helping others with their everyday health, Janice sets out to empower individuals to achieve a healthier life by forming a deeper connection with their mind and body. Make a visit to learn more about Janice!