Inside Scoop: The surprising benefits of goji berries.
They’re tiny, they’re red, they’re better tasting dried and they’ve made a pretty epic superfood debut in North America over the past couple years, so what are they you ask
Yes, that’s right they’re goji berries (also known as wolfberries). These little guys are native to Asia and have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for well over 2000 years, and why not? Their health benefit resume is pretty detailed, and you only need a handful to reap some pretty amazing rewards. Not only do these guys have amazing healing properties but they can be used in more than just trail mix. From juices to smoothies to energy bars, goji’s have been popping up everywhere! They truly are special, and leave it to your Naughty Nutritionists to revel why they are so special. Not only have we done some digging, but we have also found some pretty delicious ways to enjoy them, including a simple tea upgrade that you will want to sip on over and over again.
10 incredible benefits of goji berries:
- Antioxidant Powerhouse: Goji berries contain a high concentration of antioxidant vitamins (A, C, E), minerals (selenium, zinc) and phytochemicals (carotenoids, polysaccharides, flavonoids) . Those compounds help you fight everyday stressors and free radicals and have anti-aging, immune and heart protective properties. In addition, human research has shown that goji increases the levels of superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione peroxidase, two of the most important antioxidant enzymes in the body .
- Healthy Skin: Beta carotene, found in goji helps to protect against UV damage from the sun  and it ensures your skin stays glowing and beautiful
- Protect the Eyes: Goji berries are known to be one of the richest natural sources of zeaxanthin. Combined with lutein (also found in goji), those 2 compounds help to protect your eye sight and prevent age-related macular degeneration .
- Boost Energy and Mood: Goji berries contain B vitamins including B1 & B2 that are important in metabolizing fats, carbohydrates and proteins to generate energy and maintain your vitality. A 14-day clinical study showed that drinking goji juice improved not only energy levels but also enhanced athletic performance and quality of sleep; improved mental acuity, calmness and overall feelings of health and happiness . We might as well call them “happy berries”.
- Complete Protein: It’s hard to imagine but those little red berries contain all of the 8 essential amino acids that our body needs to help repair and build our muscle and tissues. Just 1 ounce of goji berries has 4 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber. Incredible!
- Regulate Blood Sugar: Polysaccharides found in goji berries have been used in patients with type 2 diabetes to help balance blood sugar and increase insulin sensitivity. Low on the glycemic index, they are a great snack alternative for anyone with glucose imbalances or irregularities.
- Enhance Immune Function: Rich in vitamin C, zinc and antioxidants, goji berries reduce the risk and symptoms of the cold and flu. And because of their extremely high antioxidant content, they also protect your cells from DNA damage and mutations that may lead to cancer.
- Source of Iron: An ounce of spinach provides 4% of your daily requirement for iron, whereas an ounce of goji berries provides 14% – that is almost quadruple the amount. Iron is extremely important in the production of your red blood cells that carry oxygen to your entire body.
- Promote Liver and Kidney Health: The phytonutrients in goji berries enhance the liver’s ability to detoxify and act as a tonic to the kidneys. They have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for more than 2000 years .
- Bring Balance to Your Body: In addition to all of the above amazing benefits, goji berries are an adaptogen. Adaptogens are truly remarkable, because they work to bring the body back into balance by “adapting” to the specific needs of your body without any nasty side effects. They support the function of all body systems including endocrine, immune, nervous and cardiovascular. Goji berries support the adrenal glands and protect the body from internal and external stressors to bring it back to harmony.
Goji berries have a natural sweetness and a cross taste between cranberries (not as tart), cherries and sweet cherry tomatoes. They have a chewy satisfying texture with tiny seeds that are rich in fiber.
How can you enjoy goji berries?
Here in North America, you won’t find fresh goji berries, however the dried variety is even more nutrient dense and can be used in pretty much any dish whether sweet or savory (think of it as a substitution to raisins – with less sugar).
- Eat them as they are! Dry or socked; they are the perfect snack. To soak add a handful of goji berries to a small cup of hot or cold water (just to cover them) and soak for 10 minutes. Strain and eat, make sure to drink the water.
- Juice: Goji juice is very concentrated and mostly used like a supplement in the morning. Make sure that it is made from 100% goji juice and doesn’t have added sugars and preservatives. You can also make your own by soaking 1 cup of goji berries in 1 liter of water or coconut water for 2 hours-simply blend and enjoy!
- Tea: An amazing way to enhance the flavor and nutrition of any tea.
- Boil 1 cup of water
- Add 1-2 Tbsp goji berries to the water
- Add tea bag of your choice
- Optional: add a squeeze of lemon and/or some raw honey
- Steep the tea for 5-10 minutes, the goji berries will also soften
- Eat the goji berries and drink the tea
We love this combination with most herbal teas including rooibos, chamomile and dandelion. Goji berries also taste great with any spiced, naturally sweet or other berry tea; and they are great with plain green or white teas, but we would not recommend adding them to jasmine/genmaicha varieties.
- Smoothies: If you have a powerful blender you can add a handful of goji berries as they are; or you can pre-soak them in a bit of water for 10 minutes to soften. Make sure to add the berries along with the water.
- Trail mix: Make your own trail mix by mixing a variety of nuts, seeds, naturally dried fruit, goji berries and some chocolate chips. Put them in a ziploc bag and carry them with you for a nutritious boost throughout the day.
- Raw energy bars and baked goods: Use them in place of cranberries, raisins and other berries in muffins, cakes and granola bars.
- Rice or other grain pilafs: They add a delicious slightly sweet touch to a pilaf and any grain dishes with some nuts. Just add the dried goji berries with the rice/grain or simply fold the pre-soaked berries into the ready dish.
- Other ways to super charge your meals and snacks: add a handful to salads, oatmeal, ice cream, yogurt or soups (surprising, but commonly used in Chinese cuisine). You can even add it to sauces and dressings (in a blender).
When purchasing dried goji berries, always make sure to check the label for added sugars, artificial flavors or preservatives-such as sulfur dioxide that is commonly added to dried fruits.
Have you ever tried goji berries? What is your favourite way of eating them?