Superfood Favorites: Goji Berries

goji berries

You may have heard of the red, tart, and somewhat trendy goji berry. Maybe you’ve even tried a handful in a superfood trail mix or a sip in a health food store juice sample. But did you know that the goji berry—traditionally known as the wolf berry—has been around for more than 2,000 years?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) considers the goji berry an integral and potent part of the Chinese Herbal Materia Medica (the collection of knowledge about therapeutic properties of substances used for healing) where goji berries have been used as a natural remedy for many health issues ranging from liver cleansing to energy boosting, and sexual health to blood sugar support.

Goji berries are native to central Asia, specifically the Himalayan Mountains, where they grow in a few specific regions. Legends say they were traditionally used by Himalayan monks to assist with stamina and focus during meditation.

The goji berry is typically eaten raw or made into a juice, wine, or tea. For medicinal purposes, the goji berries are commonly made into tinctures, powder, and tablets within TCM’s herbal applications.

When looking at the health benefits and nutritional potency of the goji berry, you will see that these little berries are dynamic and diverse, with an exceptional range of nutritional components corresponding to goji berry benefits. 

Here six important ways goji berries can support you in creating more health and vitality.

1. High Antioxidant Levels

Similar to many superfoods, goji berries are known for their high levels of antioxidants. The ORAC value (oxygen radical absorbance capacity—an evaluation of antioxidant level) of the goji berry is close in potency to that of the common queen of antioxidants—the blueberry, which is known for having the highest antioxidant levels of any fresh fruit.

Foods with high antioxidants levels, such as the goji berry, protect the cells from free radical damage—compounds and/or toxins that damage the cells—making them a great addition to your diet to combat many common health issues, such as inflammation and toxicity.

Goji berries contain a wide array of plant-based antioxidants. Some of the primary antioxidants found in goji berries include polysaccharides, carotenoids, and phenolics. Each of these compounds is related to the vast health benefits that goji berries offer.

  • Polysaccharides—a type of carbohydrate—are found in goji berries in the form of arabinose, galactose, glucose, rhamnose, mannose, xylose, and galacturonic acid. These polysaccharides are known to support energy production, digestive health, and cardio-protection (the protection of the health of the heart). 
  • Carotenoids are responsible for the bright orange and red color of goji berries (similar to carrots) and provide a specific carotenoid called zeaxanthin, which is advantageous for eye health. The level of zeaxanthin is in goji berries is higher than in any other plant.
  • Phenolics acid and flavonoids are known for their antiviral, anti-cancer, and anti-inflammatory activities, protecting the body from chronic disease. The high antioxidant quality of phenolics and flavonoids in goji berries makes them an advantageous antioxidant as well as a nutritive and immune-boosting source.

The antioxidant level of the goji berries makes them a well-rounded superfood to include in your diet.

2. Blood Sugar Stabilizing

Blood-sugar–related health issues are on the rise, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 100 million U.S. adults live with diabetes or pre-diabetes. One of the benefits of goji berries is that they support a healthy and stable blood sugar level. This is especially helpful for those struggling with diabetes, pre-diabetes, and hypoglycemia. 

Goji berries help regulate the release of sugar into the bloodstream, keeping blood sugar levels more stable as well as increasing insulin sensitivity and decreasing insulin resistance, which are important components of maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.

The study showed remarkable protective effects in patients with type 2 diabetes, with a regular intake of goji berries over a three-month period. Each patient took a dose of encapsulated dried goji berry (150 milligrams) twice daily for three months. The results showed a significant improvement in blood glucose levels. 

The natural sweet flavor of the goji berry is not only an improvement over more sugary snacks, but goji berries also have properties that prove to be biochemically supportive to your blood sugar. 

3. Energy Boosting

Elevating your energy is a perk that you, if you are like most people, likely search out regularly. Rather than reaching for another cup of coffee, an energy drink, or a sugary snack, how about sipping on some organic goji berry juice? 

One study looked at the effect of goji berry juice on a group of participants over 15 days. Each participant consumed 120 milliliters (approximately four ounces) of goji berry juice per day. The results showed a consistent rise in energy levels, athletic performance, and focus over the 15-day period.

Goji berry juice may be just the tonic you need to energize your day and your life.

4. Liver Cleansing

Goji berries are often included in liver cleansing protocols and herbal formulas such as common remedies to promote kidney and liver health in TCM. In the TCM system, goji berries are thought to nourish and tonify the liver and kidney meridians—particular TCM pathways in the body where vital energy is said to flow—promoting energy and vitality, and easing the transitions through the seasons.  

Research shows that goji berry juice also protects the physical liver from damage due to toxic or chemical exposure, and supports healing from other liver-related health issues.

5. Eye Health

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a condition of the eye that impacts the cells of the retina (specifically the macula), causing disruptions to vision and eye health. AMD is a leading cause of blindness in the world, predicted to reach approximately 40 million people worldwide by 2020.

Eye health can be greatly improved with ample antioxidants in the diet, especially zeaxanthin—a prominent antioxidant from the carotenoid family—found in high levels in goji berries.

One study examined the impact of AMD after 90 days’ use of goji berry supplementation (25 milligrams per day for three months). The study concluded that goji berries may be an effective and therapeutic intervention for preventing the progression of AMD. 

When it comes to your vision, goji berries do not disappoint.

6. Improved Testosterone Levels

Another goji berry health benefit is that they may increase men’s testosterone levels; they are often included in Chinese herbal sexual-enhancing remedies. One study states that goji berries “are beneficial to male reproduction by increasing the quality, quantity, and motility of sperm, improving sexual performance, and protecting the testis against toxic insults.”

This same study concluded that after daily consumption of goji berries, men exhibited a more positive attitude towards sex.

While more research is needed, endocrine-disrupting chemicals are on the rise, and research is exploring how these chemicals (some of them common to everyday living) interfere with testosterone production in men. This could explain why there are more men suffering with a decline of testosterone levels. Goji berries may be a supportive remedy to include in every man’s health protocol.

How to Enjoy Goji Berries

There are many ways to consume goji berries. Here are a few easy and tasty ways.

Superfood Trail Mix

Goji berries make a wonderful addition to trail mix. For best results, choose high-quality berries that are larger and have a bright orange-red color.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup goji berries
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews
  • 1/4 cup coconut chips
  • 1/4 cup raw cacao nibs or naturally sweetened dark chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

Directions:

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.

Enjoy as a snack any time of day. Exchange ingredients for your favorite nuts, seeds, or low-sugar dried fruits.

Goji Berry Tea

Goji berry tea is a traditional health-promoting tea that is easy to make and tasty to sip.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup goji berries
  • 3 cups hot water

Directions:

Boil 3 cups of purified water.

Rinse off goji berries in cold water. Add goji berries to a teapot. Pour hot water over goji berries.

Steep for up to one hour.

Enjoy and nibble on the hydrated berries too!

Superfood Oatmeal

Steel-cut oatmeal is a great way to increase your fiber intake, while helping to keep your blood sugar stable. Add in some delightful organic goji berries and enjoy the soft, warm, and hydrated version of these tasty red berries while giving your morning oats a superfood boost.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup steel cut oatmeal
  • 1/4 cup goji berries
  • 1 tablespoon chia seed
  • 3 cups purified water
  • 3 tablespoons raw honey or maple syrup
  • Topping of choice such as nut butters, coconut flakes, cinnamon, flax meal, coconut oil

Directions:

Mix oats, goji, water, and chia into a pot and bring to a boil. 

Cook for 10–20 minutes depending on how chewy you like it. Add toppings and sweetener.

Drink Goji Juice

Many folks love a goji berry juice shot for both a great taste and to amplify all of the health benefits you can receive from goji berries. Be sure to choose a low-sugar version, then enjoy a few ounces per day and/or mix with sparkling water for a refreshing mocktail.

If goji berries are new to you, it’s time to try them out. Whether you eat them or drink them, you’ll be missing out on a bright, tart flavor and their numerous health benefits if you don’t start including them in your diet.

*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.


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About the Author
SueVanRaes

Sue Van Raes

Functional nutritionist and Food Psychology Specialist
Sue Van Raes is a functional nutritionist, food psychology specialist, and author in Boulder Co. As founder of Boulder Nutrition , Sue helps people navigate how to make sustainable changes in their health and make peace with their plate. Sue uses a combination of science-based testing, clinical nutrition, holistic nutrition, natural medicine, functional medicine, homeopathy, and metabolic typing to guide folks in experiencing clarity, vitality, and body-positive living. She works with clients locally, remotely, online, and on her local and international health and yoga retreats....Read more