Goji berries, also known as wolfberries, are a reddish-orange berry with a sweet and sour flavor. One variety of goji berries tastes almost like a tomato while another tastes closer to a cranberry.
Goji berries have long been used as a central ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine, and the vast majority of goji berries sold in the United States are dried and imported from China. They’ve been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years. Research shows consumption of goji berries slows signs of aging, maintains eye health, and strengthens your liver, kidneys, and lungs.
Goji berries grow on vines and look a bit like tiny grape tomatoes. Like tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplant, they belong to the nightshade family. Goji berries aren’t easy to find fresh in the United States.
Goji berries are often called a superfood because they contain chemical compounds called phytochemicals that are produced by plants. Phytochemicals in goji berries include polysaccharides, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin.
The polysaccharides are an essential source of dietary fiber. Beta-carotene is responsible for the orange-red color pigment in goji berries. Beta-carotene is vital for eye health, bone health, skin health, and cell development. The amount of beta-carotene in goji berries is among the highest of all edible plants. Zeaxanthin plays a crucial role in supporting the immune system. Many researchers believe that zeaxanthin can prevent macular degeneration.
Beta-carotene is an ingredient used in skin creams to:
- improve skin health
- reduce skin irritation
- manage the effects of the sun
- manage the impact of aging
One study reported in the American Academy of Optometry’s journal Optometry and Vision Science stated that seniors who drank goji berry juice for 90 days increased zeaxanthin and other antioxidant levels significantly. Another study reported in the journal Drug Design, Development and Therapy shows goji berries protect the retina from the ganglion cells responsible for glaucoma, a condition that can lead to vision loss.
Zeaxanthin can fight:
- UV light
- free radicals
- oxidative stress.
A 1-ounce serving contains 4 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber, plus all nine of the essential amino acids humans don’t produce and need to obtain from food sources.
Just 5 tablespoons of dried goji berries has:
- Calories: 98
- Protein: 4 grams
- Fat: 0.1 grams
- Carbs: 21.6 grams
- Fiber: 3.6 grams
- Sugar: 21.8 grams
- Iron: 11% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Vitamin A: 501% of the DV
- Vitamin C: 15% of the DV
Goji berries contain large amounts of vitamins A and C, similarly to other berries, including blueberries and raspberries. Vitamins A and C are vital for building immunity and preventing illnesses, ranging from the common cold to cancer.
Goji berries’ high levels of antioxidants slow tumor growth, reduce inflammation, and help to remove harmful substances from the body.
Goji berries may be helpful in controlling the release of sugar into the blood. Research from 2015 shows that goji berries balance insulin and glucose levels in the blood. The same study linked goji berries to increased HDL levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
Goji berries may trigger an allergic reaction in rare cases, especially in individuals who are allergic to other fruits.
Goji berries may interact with certain drugs, including blood thinners and medications for diabetes or high blood pressure.
How to Buy
Goji berries are almost always sold dried (rather than fresh) in the U.S. and can usually be found in the supplement section or occasionally in the bulk foods section at natural foods stores and organic co-ops. A local Asian grocery store may have a better price and some larger Asian grocers also stock frozen goji berries.
How to Store
Keep dried goji berries in an airtight container in a cool, dark location. Avoid exposing them to any type of moisture, which causes them to get sticky and clump together. With proper storage, dried goji remain fresh for at least a year; some producers add sulfur dioxide and other preservatives, which can increase the shelf life. Fresh goji should be eaten shortly after harvest; you can store frozen goji for up to six months.
How to Cook
Dried goji berries are good in smoothies. If you don’t have a powerful blender, you may want to rehydrate them first in a little water or apple juice to soften them before you blend them. Goji berry powder is also available and can be stirred directly into juices, herbal teas, or even just water.
Sprinkle goji berries onto salads, into granola, add to energy bars and cupcakes or trial mix.