The Health Benefits of Goji Berries
From nutritionists to celebrities, everyone’s touting the health benefits of goji berries. These bright orange-red berries have been labelled a superfood in the West in recent years, but have long been appreciated in other cultures for their unique taste and potential health benefits.
Native to China and the Himalayas, goji berries—also known as wolf berries—have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for millennia. As a medicinal plant, they are believed to have healing properties for eyes, liver, and kidney conditions.
Health Benefits of Goji Berries
Low in calories and virtually fat-free, goji berries are known to fight ailments, aid weight management, and improve digestion and overall health.
Goji berries are undoubtedly healthy, but also pricey and hard to find. They are a rich source of nutrients, and preliminary research shows they have a number of potential health benefits. So, should you add these delicious berries to your diet?
In terms of nutritional density, goji berries are unmatched by any other food. Even blueberries –which are hailed for their nutritional value—can’t compete with what the goji berry offers in nutrition.
With 18 essential amino acids, and a range of vitamins and minerals, goji berries deserve their “superfood” title. They are an excellent source of fibre, vitamins A, B1, B2 and C, riboflavin, beta-carotene, iron, potassium, zinc, copper, selenium, thiamin, and calcium.
The amino acids in goji berries aid the repair of body tissue and muscles. They also promote digestion.
Vitamin A present in goji berry compounds offers a whole lot of health benefits. Studies show vitamin A can protect against skin damage caused by ultraviolet rays, maintain night-vision, and give a quick boost to the immune system.
For their tiny size, goji berries are surprising highly in protein content. One serving (113 grams) of goji berries contains nearly 10 per cent of your recommended dietary protein intake.
A single serving of high-quality goji berries also provides 100 per cent of your required daily intake of vitamin C.
Gram for gram, goji berries contain more iron than spinach!
Stabilize Blood Sugar
Goji berries help manage the release of sugar into the bloodstream, making it a great natural remedy for diabetics. It prevents spikes and dips in blood sugar that is caused when glucose levels aren’t managed properly.
Goji berries are made of complex carbs that raise blood sugar gradually. You can snack on goji berries without experiencing a sugar crash later.
Well-being and Happiness
According to a popular 2008 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, goji berry juice significantly improves feelings of overall well-being.
Study participants consumed goji berry juice every day for two weeks. They reported better energy levels, better sleep quality, and generally happier moods.
Both the group that drank the juice as well as the placebo group reported higher happiness levels, but only the goji berry group experienced better energy levels, better digestion, and lower fatigue and stress.
Goji berries, like all superfoods, are packed with antioxidants— specifically, zeaxanthin. Zeaxanthin gives the bright red colour to goji berries, and is known to have a protective effect on the eyes.
Antioxidants protect our cells from damage by minimizing the effect of carcinogens. Foods rich in antioxidants are also known to contain more fibre and fewer unhealthy fats.
Goji berries are among the highest-ranking foods in terms of antioxidant levels. Preliminary research shows goji berry extract taken over a period of one month increases the levels of protective antioxidant liver enzymes that lower oxidative damage in the blood by roughly 10 per cent.
As goji berries are nutritionally dense, it only takes a small serving of them to satiate your appetite. Although goji berries don’t affect weight loss directly, eating a handful can prevent you from snacking on unhealthy foods. Their high fibre content keeps you feeling full for longer.
They make for a light and healthy snack and help avoid overindulgence at mealtime. Keep a pack of goji berries around you, and grab some when you need a healthy snack!
Goji berries are known to have a protective effect on the eyes. They protect the eyes from age-related conditions like macular degeneration, a common cause of blindness in seniors. Goji berries are a natural treatment for macular degeneration, and beneficial for vision because zeaxanthin in goji berries reduces damage caused to the eyes by UV radiation, free radicals, and other types of oxidative stress.
One of the most cited clinical studies on goji berries took place in 1994 in China. It studied 79 patients with different types of advanced cancers. The study found that subjects treated with a combination of immunotherapy and goji berry extracts experienced a regression in their cancer. Although this study showed positive results, there is insufficient research linking goji berry compounds to cancer treatment and prevention.
Other Potential Health Benefits
Goji berries are used in Chinese medicine for its potential effects on immunity, cardiovascular disease, and life expectancy. Chinese medicine practitioners also believe that goji berry extracts improve the functioning of the female reproductive system, and improve fertility.
Goji berry has been used as a treatment for infertility in women who have premature ovarian failure, and find it difficult to ovulate normally.
There isn’t enough evidence to back these claims. The research comprises of small-sized, incomprehensive studies, some of which also use highly concentrated goji berry extracts.
Eating Goji Berries
You can find goji berries in health food stores or Asian food markets.
There are many ways to include goji berries in your diet. You can soak goji berries in warm water overnight, or even eat then raw. Goji berries have a similar taste to raisins.
Top your morning cereal with goji berries, add them to healthy salads, brighten up plain yogurt, or blend them into your smoothies.
You can also add goji berries to your baked goods. They can be cooked into sweet sauces, or used to garnish meals and desserts.
Goji berries are known to interact poorly with some drugs. You may want to avoid goji berries, if you’re taking blood thinners, blood pressure and diabetes drugs. It’s best to consult your doctor first.
Some studies have also linked goji berries to skin photosensitivity and allergies. Oxalate and its related compound, oxalic acid in goji berries can cause kidney problems, including kidney stones.
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