I'm a big believer in the power of whole foods. Nutrient-rich, plant-based ingredients like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans and gluten-free whole grains are the best things for our overall health on a daily basis. Food trends come and go, and what's a superfood one day may be out of fashion the next. But there are certain superfoods like Goji berries that are, well, just super. I have been using these little dried gems for years, and they continue to be part of my diet in small amounts.
In the early days of discovering superfoods and Eastern Medicine as I healed from Crohn's disease, Goji berries - also known as Wolfberries - were at the top of my list. They made early appearances in my first superpowered smoothies, salads, stocks and more. Now, they are still an integral part of my cooking, my elixir-making and I also use them in many recipes in the Culinary Nutrition Expert Program.
Why do I love them so much? Let's discuss.
The Nutritional Power of Goji Berries
These treasures are one of the most nutritionally dense fruits on earth! When local berries are out of season, these handy little red gems always give me the antioxidant boost in a flash since they are dried and keep for a long time.
Goji berries are:
- Rich in antioxidants, including immune-boosting Vitamin C and selenium
- High in beta-carotene, which is great for skin health, immunity and vision
- A good source of zeaxanthin, a carotenoid that's concentrated in the eyes and is important for vision protection and health
- Contain a wide spectrum of amino acids, which are essential for healing and repair
- High in minerals such as iron and calcium
Goji berries have been used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine, and they've only recently hit the mainstream and begun to be studied by scientists. Most of the investigation into Goji berries focuses on their immune-modulating properties, their anti-tumor/anti-cancer activities and their antioxidant power. For example:
- Breast Cancer. Extracts from Goji berries prevent the proliferation of breast cancer cells. Other research indicates that the polysaccharides in Goji berries can inhibit the growth of cancer cells in cervial, gastric, colorectal, liver and bone cancers.
- Immune Modulation. One study of volunteers who drank Goji berry juice every day for a month not only boosted their immune response, but also increased their feelings of general wellbeing, as well as improved sleep and focus compared to those who only took the placebo. Additional research shows that Goji berries have a positive influence on many components of the immune system, including T cells, B cells, macrophages and lymphocytes.
- General Wellbeing. In this study, one set of participants drank Goji berry juice while a second set consumed a placebo. After two weeks, the Goji berry reported they felt more energy, slept better, awoke more easily, had better digestion, were more able to focus and felt generally more healthy than the placebo group. energy level, athletic performance, quality of sleep, ease of awakening, ability to focus on activities, mental acuity, calmness, and feelings of health,
- Stress. In the same study mentioned above, the participants who had goji berries said they felt calmer, happier, and less stressed out.
- Diabetes. The antioxidants, fibre and amino acid content in Goji berries offers a hypoglycemic effect and can be therapeutic for diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome.
- Anti-Aging. The range of antioxidants in Goji berries means they can help improve skin, vision, cellular health, overall anti-aging and even neurodegenerative diseases. Imagine tossing out your toxic beauty products and exchanging them for tasty berries. Sounds like a pretty good deal right?
Other benefits to Goji berries include improved cardiovascular health and sexual function. They really are an all-around winner!
For those of us who live in colder climates, fresh berries can be hard to come by in the winter and organic Goji berries are the perfect addition to our diets. Even during summer months, with their greater amounts of Vitamin C and cartenoids, Goji berries can help protect you from sun damage.
How to Use Goji Berries
Goji berries are easy to add to any meal, sweet or savoury. They have a delicate sweetness, so they can be used as a natural sweetener as well.
You can use goji berries in:
- Teas (plop a few in to rehydrate and add sweetness)
- Overnight oats or chia pudding
- As salad toppers
- In raw chocolate
- In homemade ice cream
- In granola, energy bites or granola bars
Here are some recipes to get you started!