Goji berries are so antioxidant rich that they have fast become the super fruit of choice. Health claims range from prevention of illness through to relief from arthritis. Goji berries have a long history - having been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 6,000 years.
What is goji berry?
The goji berry (also called wolfberry) is the fruit of the Lycium Barbarum and Lycium Chinense species. These plant originate from central China. Goji berries are small reddish-orangey fruit rich in carotenoids (natural pigments) such as beta-carotene and lycopene.
You’ll mostly find goji berries in dried form (this makes them look shrivelled up) ready to be added to food (for example sprinkled into a breakfast cereal) or cooked in a rice congee. Goji berries also taste great boiled as a herbal tea or drunk as a juice.
Goji berries have become something of a ‘fad’ food so check the label to ensure the berries genuinely come from ‘Lycium Barbarum’ or ‘Lycium Chinense’.
Why do I need goji berry?
Goji berries get their colour from lycopene which is a powerful antioxidant believed to be protective against heart disease, cancer and other diseases. Antioxidants protect against free radicals which are dangerous particles that damage DNA and other cells in the body causing us to age and get ill.
These little berries are also rich in beta-carotene which is also an antioxidant, plus it helps in the production of vitamin A which promotes good skin and eye health. And the nutritional benefits don’t stop there. Gojis also contain the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin (these are pigments that help give fruit and veg their colour) which are known to be protective against a range of eye disorders such as age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
In addition, goji berries contain a range of vitamins and minerals including: vitamins A, C and B2 and iron and selenium, plus fibre, proteins and carbohydrates. In a study in The Journal of the American Nutraceutical Association the goji berry was found to boost the immune system when tested on mice*.
Other possible benefits include improved cardiovascular health and protection against age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s. More research is needed.
Can goji berries ever be bad for you?
If you are taking blood-thinning medication you should check with your doctor before eating goji berries as there is some evidence that goji berries interfere with blood-thinners such as warfarin. Individuals taking mediation for diabetes or blood pressure should also speak to their health advisor first if planning to introduce goji berries into the diet.