8 Health Benefits of Goji Berries You Didn’t Know About
You know it's crucial to get nutrient-rich berries into your diet—but don't stop at strawberries and blueberries. Goji berries might not be as common, but they're loaded with nutrients.
Healthy foods like quinoa, kale, and oats are staples at juice bars and eateries. Now, there’s a new food you might want to add to the healthy food list: goji berries.
The fruit (and herb) has been part of traditional Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years. Yet, it’s just starting to gain popularity throughout the U.S. Why? The antioxidant-rich food has a cornucopia of benefits that may boost your health.
Here are the benefits of the latest health food craze.
Good for your eyes
Could goji berries replace carrots on the list of foods that are good for eyesight? The berries are high in beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, as well as the antioxidant zeaxanthin. This makes them a potential way to help protect against macular degeneration. “These antioxidants help to combat the damage done to the macula by UV light exposure and other oxidative stress,” says Los Angeles-based nutritionist Lauren Cornell, MS, RD. The fruit seems to help protect retinal cells in experimental models of glaucoma, according to a report in the journal Drug Design, Development, and Therapy.
High in fiber
“Goji berries are high in fiber, a nutrient that 95 percent of Americans don’t get enough of,” says Los Angeles-based nutritionist Mascha Davis, MPH, RD. “Fiber has tons of benefits, including lowering the risk of certain cancers and helping reduce and eliminate excess cholesterol and even toxins.” (Here are ways to get more fiber in your diet without even trying.)
Keep you regular
“Since goji berries are considered a good source of fiber, they can help promote bowel movement regularity,” says Cornell. “They also provide nutrients such as vitamins A and C and minerals like zinc, iron, calcium, and selenium, which are necessary for the repair and regeneration of the tissue of the gastrointestinal lining.” Here are some other food rules to follow for good gut health.
Lots of iron
“These berries are also a good source of iron,” says Davis. Three tablespoons of dried goji berries provide about 3 mg or 15 percent of the recommended daily value. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, iron deficiency anemia is one of the more common deficiencies in the U.S., especially among women. “Adding goji berries to your diet can be a good way to boost this essential mineral,” adds Davis. (Here are the anemia symptoms you shouldn’t ignore.)
Filled with antioxidants
One of the main goji berry benefits is that they may help fight disease and inflammation since they are high in antioxidants. Goji berries score high on measurements of antioxidant capacity, says Davis. Adding, “this may even help to slow the aging process by keeping cells healthy.” Here are some other foods rich in antioxidants you should be eating.
If you’re looking to boost your immune system, turn to goji berries. “The fruit can help keep our immune system healthy and give us an extra boost to help ward off colds, the flu, and similar illnesses,” says Davis. “Vitamins C and A are critical to good immune health, and goji berries provide high amounts of both.” And check out these 12 habits that can support your immune system.
If protein is a priority for you, Goji berries are a good choice. They are unique in that—unlike most fruit—they’re a good source of protein, delivering about a gram per tablespoon. They also contain 18 amino acids, including all eight essential amino acids, making them a great addition to everything from your breakfast oatmeal to salads. (Here’s how to eat more healthy protein without even trying.)
If there’s one thing many people crave, it’s extra energy. (Here are 25 natural energy boosters.) Goji berries could be on the list: A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that volunteers who drank goji berry juice daily for two weeks reported increased energy levels, improved athletic performance, better focus, and mental sharpness compared to those taking a placebo. “Goji berries can also speed up the clearance of blood urea nitrogen, a waste product we produce after strenuous exercise, making it extremely helpful for consumption prior to workouts,” says Carrie Gabriel, MS, RDN, a nutritionist in Los Angeles.
- Lauren Cornell, MS, RD, nutritionist, Los Angeles
- Drug Design, Development, and Therapy: "An evidence-based update on the pharmacological activities and possible molecular targets of Lycium barbarum polysaccharides"
- Mascha Davis, MPH, RD, nutritionist, Los Angeles
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Micronutrient Facts"
- Leslie Beck, RD: "Goji Berries"
- Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine: "A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Clinical Study of the General Effects of a Standardized Lycium barbarum (Goji) Juice, GoChi™"
- Carrie Gabriel, MS, RDN, nutritionist, Los Angeles