Discover the 7 unbelievable health benefits of goji berry.
A thousand virtues, including being the source of eternal youth, are attributed to these small vermilion fruits which are pecked like peanuts. They come from China, the Himalayas, Mongolia, sometimes from France. Why are Goji berries, originally used in Taoist medicine, now in any self-respecting granola?
What is the goji berry?
Cultivated in China for at least two thousand years, it is also called the goji or wolfberry berry ( Lycium Barbarum and Lycium Chinense ). The name “goji” was created in 1973 by an American botanist, it is a derivative of the Chinese word for these fruits, gǒuqǐzǐ.
Goji comes in the form of elongated, slightly sweet red berries that grow in altitude on shrubs that can grow up to 3 meters high. They are part of the Solanaceae family, just like tomatoes, eggplants or potatoes.
Their bright colour has brightened up our granolas, smoothies and other healthy desserts for a few years, but they have been known in China, the Himalayan regions and Mongolia for millennia.
Today, 80% of world production comes from NingXia in northern China, moreover, it is found more and more in France, in plantations on a human scale and small quantities.
Goji berries are native to the Himalayan regions
They are among the main remedies of traditional Chinese medicine, as food and tonic for the liver and kidneys. In the Chinese pharmacopoeia, they are considered as a vector of eternal youth, insofar as their antioxidant properties prevent ageing of neurological functions, eyesight, skin, and support the immune system.
They would strengthen Qi, our vital energy. In Tibet, this fruit is nicknamed “berry of smile”. Goji berries are usually eaten dried, they are also found in juice, powder or capsule, more rarely raw.
Goji is a remarkable source of nutrients. These berries contain more beta-carotene than carrots, more protein than wheat, and 1.5 times more calcium than milk.
The richness in nutrients and active principles of goji berries could be explained by the fact that they originally grew at altitude, in rather hostile regions, subject to severe droughts and frosts.
Their benefits have been praised for millennia in Asia and more recently in the West, where studies on this subject are still little developed.
Nutritional composition of goji berry
Proteins: 18 amino acids including the 8 essential (including tryptophan and isoleucine)
21 minerals and trace elements including iron, zinc, copper, selenium, phosphorus, calcium, germanium
Antioxidants: carotenoids including beta-carotene
Vitamins: B1, B2, B6, C and E
red fruit shrub
Goji berry shrub
Health benefits of goji berry
🥝 Source of antioxidants
Goji berries have remarkable antioxidant properties, in particular thanks to the carotenoids they contain, and thus make it possible to fight against free radicals, responsible for cellular ageing.
They are classified among the first fruits richest in antioxidants, with an ORAC index ( Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity ) of 36,000 per litre. This ranking is established by the US Government’s Institute of Health.
These antioxidants help fight oxidative stress and promote collagen production, acting as an anti-ageing agent for the skin.
They would also promote concentration and memory, and fight against neurodegenerative diseases due to age.
This preliminary study conducted by the University of Hong Kong demonstrated that goji berry extract protected rat neurons from a protein found in Alzheimer’s disease.
🛡 Strengthen the immune system
Wolfberry berries have a high content of vitamins B1, B2, B6, C and E . These contribute in particular to boost our immune system.
They also contain polysaccharides which help to regulate and stimulate it. They would participate in particular in preventing flu, colds, and treating urinary tract infections.
Like camu camu and acerola, goji berries contain more vitamin C than an orange, acting as an anti-fatigue and general stimulant. Vitamin C also contributes to better iron absorption.
They are also particularly rich in iron, which promotes the development of red blood cells and allows you to feel less of the effects of fatigue. This high iron content is also one of the reasons why they are recommended for people following a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Their high content of trace elements helps to overcome certain dietary deficiencies and thus stimulate our energy.
Goji berries are an excellent detox food because they allow toxins to be eliminated more easily, and protect the liver.
They help improve liver function and repair liver damage, especially those caused by excessive alcohol consumption. Be careful, this is not a miracle cure, the ideal for having a healthy liver is to eat a healthy and balanced diet.
This study from Chongqing University of Medical Sciences in China showed the benefits of consuming berries in rats with alcoholic hepatitis.
🍳 Anti-cholesterol and help to lose weight
Goji berries help fight cholesterol thanks to the beta-sitosterol they contain. The latter is a plant substance similar to cholesterol, which will limit its penetration into the body.
They have hypoglycemic properties and therefore help lower blood sugar levels and blood pressure.
They are real nutritional shots with a sweet taste and therefore a good snack option low in sugars and calories compared to other dried fruits.
They fit perfectly into a diet aimed at losing weight, especially as their high protein content enhances the feeling of fullness.
👁 Protect the eyes
Goji berries are loaded with zeaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant that gives them that beautiful red-orange colour. The latter acts directly on the retina, protecting its cells from degeneration.
They contain 5 carotenoids including beta-carotene, pro-vitamin A, promoting visual acuity.
This study conducted by the Nestlé Product Technology Center in Switzerland on subjects aged 65 to 70 shows that the daily consumption of goji berries for 90 days helps fight against the deterioration of the macula and cataracts.
🔬 Potentially anti-cancer
Goji berries help prevent the appearance of cancer cells thanks to their high content of vitamin C and antioxidants (zeaxanthin and beta-carotene in particular).
This study from the Second Military Medical University of Shanghai, conducted on 75 patients with various advanced cancers, shows that taking goji berries combined with an anti-cancer drug has beneficial effects and causes cancer cells to regress.
How to consume goji berries?
Dried goji berries
At present, the majority of supermarkets sell dried goji berries, either in the dried fruit section or in the organic section. Organic stores, health food shops and e-commerce are equipped, they can also be bought in bulk.
They are harvested when maturing and then ideally dried in an artisanal way in the sun (these will be the softest), by cooking, or by a mechanical dehydration process.
This is the most practical way to consume them, either plain, as one would taste dried fruits, or in a savoury or sweet recipe.
They can accompany main dishes with chicken or fish, such as red fruit smoothies, granola, cakes, white cheeses. In any case, they will give a very nice colour to your preparations!
Goji berries in juice
Another great way to consume goji berries is in the form of juice. These juices are often made in Europe, from berries imported from Asia.
Their composition is variable, they are often composed mainly of water and other fruits, so we must check their high content of goji berries to make the most of their effects. Be careful, a pure juice may be rather acidic, it is advisable to mix it with water.
Their price and nutritional value, due to the multiple processing steps, are often less attractive than for dried berries, but they are easy to consume and mix with other juices, or coconut water.
The goji berries are also available in tablets, in capsules and powder.
Can goji berries be dangerous?
These berries are not unanimous among nutrition experts and several controversies are ongoing. On the one hand, they would not be more beneficial than other red fruits that we are used to eating: raspberries, blueberries …
On the other hand, some producers irradiate them to preserve them better over long journeys, a process which limits their nutritional value, and which is suspected of being negative for the organism in the long term.
Moreover, following a study conducted by the magazine Test Achat, the Belgian cousin of 60 million consumers, Goji berries have recently had a bad press. Out of 15 product references, 10 contained a lot of pesticides, including 3 certified organic brands.
The taste of goji berries
Goji berries are slightly sweet and tart, much like regular berries. Their taste varies from one producer to another and according to their method of manufacture. They go well with both salty and sweet!
Consume sustainably: favour organic, fair trade and local goji berries
Small French producers have embarked on the cultivation of organic goji berries
✓ Organic goji berries are better in terms of nutrients, for your health in general and the planet. To ensure that they are organic, we must trust the labels, and their traceability must be clear. The small farms are preferred, whether in China, Tibet, and Mongolia. Fairtrade goji berries should be encouraged to ensure a better income for their producers and growers.
✓ One of the means of ensuring optimal quality of culture is also to obtain supplies from small French producers, in the Midi, in Beaujolais, or Alsace for example. French goji berries are more expensive, but because they are local, their carbon footprint is much lower than those from Asia.
✓ One last option is to grow them yourself! All you need to do is get seeds or a plant and follow the steps indicated by your merchant.
Their absorption is very easy, and their good sweet taste would make you want to eat unlimited. What dosage to adopt?
⚖️ For an anti-fatigue cure: 6 to 12g per day (about 2 tablespoons) for three months.
💊 Goji extract capsules (approximately 600 mg): 2 to 3 capsules per day to start, then increase the amounts if necessary.
🥄 In a therapeutic setting: up to 80 dried berries per day.
Contraindications and side effects of gogi berries
There is no major contraindication to consuming goji berries. However, they are not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women as well as for children and people on anticoagulant therapy.
At the start of the treatment, you may experience unwanted effects such as nausea, stomach aches and headaches. They can mean that the detox is working, but it is better to reduce the daily dose even if it means resuming it gradually.
History, culture and goji berry market
The traditional Chinese medicine prescribed goji berries in the treatment of various pathologies. It is in particular people of the third age who use them, to reinforce the Yin, opposite force of the Yang.
They would especially strengthen Qi, our vital energy, and promote healthy longevity.
They are eaten raw or as a decoction, to treat liver and kidney problems. They say they lubricate the lungs.
They originally come from regions where the climate is very harsh, with temperature variations ranging from -20 ° C to 20 ° C, in Inner Mongolia, Tibet, and the Chinese region of NingXia. The latter, made up of highlands at an altitude of more than 2000 meters, is the main world producer of goji berries with 80% of production.
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