One of the first-in-class superfoods, goji berries are an incredibly popular fruit that can help prevent aging, boost your immune system, and protect against cancer and heart disease. If that sounds too good to be true, check out these scientifically backed goji berry benefits, and find out what this little fruit can do for your health.
What Are Goji Berries?
Produced by a shrub native to China, goji berries (Lycium barbarum) are commonly referred to as wolfberries, gou qi zi, and fructus lycii. They are red berries that have been incorporated into traditional Chinese medicine for over two millennia. With a sweet-tart taste when consumed raw, juiced, dried, or steeped in a tea, goji berries can also be ingested as a powder, extract, or tablet.
All dark berries (blue or red) are high in antioxidants, which are natural defenders against dangerous free radicals in the body. Specifically Lycium barbarum polysaccharides are the antioxidants that make goji berries unique, and along with all the essential amino acids, the health benefits of goji berries are off the charts.
The Top 10 Goji Berry Benefits
Here are the most impressive, scientifically proven goji berry health benefits.
1. Unique Goji Berry Nutrition Facts
The nutritional density of goji berries makes them incredibly good for you. Just a quarter cup of dried goji berries has:
- 70 calories
- 12 grams of sugar
- 9 grams of protein
- 6 grams of fiber
- 0 grams of fat
- 150% DV (Daily Value) of vitamin A
- 84% DV of copper
- 75% DV of selenium
- 63% DV of vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
- 42% DV of iron
- 27% DV of vitamin C
- 21% DV of potassium
- 15% DV of zinc
- 9% DV of thiamine
Along with all that, goji berries also contain carotenoids like lutein, lycopene, and polysaccharides, all powerful antioxidants that make up a hefty percentage of goji berries.
Goji berries have as much vitamin C as a fresh lemon or orange by weight, and for a fruit are remarkably high in fiber and protein. Just 100 grams of goji berries can provide 11 grams of protein, while the same amount of blueberries or raspberries would give you only 1 gram. With the minerals iron, copper, zinc, and selenium, goji berries have the essentials you need for optimal metabolism and cell health.
2. Antioxidant Superiority
Antioxidants like vitamins A and C help protect against free radical damage, and the goji berry in particular has a score of 3,209 on the oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) scale, which indicates its antioxidant quantity. To place that score in perspective, bananas have a score of 795, and apples a score of 2,828.
Goji berries have been clinically shown to increase antioxidant levels in human beings, as can be seen in this 2009 study of 50 adults who consumed 4 ounces of goji juice per day (concentrated) and saw an 8% rise in antioxidant markers. Likewise this 2011 study with elderly participants showed that a goji berry drink taken each day (milk-based) for 3 months increased antioxidant zeaxanthin levels by up to 26%. Dietary antioxidants have been proven to help guard against oxidative stress and chronic diseases, and goji berries know how to deliver.
3. Anti-Aging Attributes
The antioxidants in goji berries keep free radicals from damaging the collagen in your skin, which means they can help prevent the symptoms of aging. Small studies have revealed that goji berry extract can help delay cell aging, like this 2003 study on mice models that showed it inhibits the glycation process (which contributes to skin aging), and this laboratory study from the same year, which showed goji berry extract bolstered the DNA synthesis of cells. The more antioxidants you eat, the more you increase your defenses against premature aging and cell damage.
4. Anti-Cancer Abilities
Goji berry extract can also help prevent cancer, as seen in animal and human studies. In lab studies, goji berry extract inhibited cancer cell growth and even destroyed cancer cells, while a rat study revealed a diet of goji berries slowed the proliferation and growth of cancerous tumors. This may be due to the goji berry’s ability to increase antioxidant levels and reduce blood levels of the inflammatory cytokines IL-5 and -8. A 1994 human study found that participants with advanced-stage cancer who were administered goji extract along with immunotherapy had a 25% higher rate of cancer regression than those who were given immunotherapy alone.
5. Improvement of Cholesterol Levels
Goji berry extract has been shown in animal studies to positively impact cholesterol levels. Rabbits with high cholesterol that were given goji berry extract for 10 days experienced decreased triglyceride levels and elevated beneficial HDL cholesterol levels. Researchers suggest that these results have to do with the vitamins and antioxidant polysaccharides contained in goji berry extract. Another study from 2005 appears to confirm these results, as diabetic rats given 10 milligrams of goji berry extract for 3 weeks also saw a decrease in their cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
6. Better Blood Sugar Control
Both animal and laboratory studies have shown that goji berry extract can have a positive influence on blood sugar control. A 2006 study found that rats with type 2 diabetes who were given goji berry polysaccharide extract had a decrease in blood glucose levels of nearly 35%. Another study from 2005 found the same results when rats with type 2 diabetes were administered goji berry extract over 3 weeks, resulting in lower blood sugar levels and increased insulin sensitivity. Again researchers link these results to the high levels of antioxidants in goji berry extract.
7. Energy Enhancement
Consumption of goji berry extract or juice is linked to improved energy levels and feelings of well-being. In a recent study, goji berries improved anxiety-like behaviors and depression in rats, and an earlier study on human subjects showed that goji berry juice enhanced mood, digestion, and energy levels. Participants consuming 120 milliliters of goji berry juice for 2 weeks reported more energy, increased athletic performance, improved quality of sleep, and enhanced mental focus without any adverse side effects whatsoever.
8. Weight-Loss Aid
Goji berries are supportive of healthy weight loss in many ways. High in fiber, they contribute to feelings of satiety and help control spikes to your blood sugar, which reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Goji berries have a low score on the glycemic index (GI), and low-GI foods are linked to reduced food cravings and increased feelings of fullness.
Goji berry juice is also associated with an increased metabolic rate, as evidenced by this 2011 study that found that overweight participants who consumed just 4 ounces of goji berry juice a day were able to burn calories better than the control group. After 2 weeks, their waist circumference went down by an average of 1.9 inches.
9. Increased Immune System Support
Goji berries may have a beneficial impact on your immune function. This 2009 study of 60 older adults showed that just 3.4 ounces of concentrated goji berry juice per day for a month improved the immune function of participants, specifically boosting their lymphocytes, which are white blood cells that help protect our bodies against invading viruses and bacteria. Animal studies have shown the same boost in T-lymphocyte production, leading experts to assert that goji berries are indeed good for the immune system.
10. Liver Health Aid
Goji berries have the potential to aid liver function. One 2004 study on rat models found that goji berries increased free radical protection for the liver specifically. By preventing the viruses and bacteria in our bodies from attaching to the liver’s cell membranes, the goji berry’s antioxidants come to the rescue again.
Go for Goji
With the vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant concentration in goji berries, they’ve definitely earned their place on the superfoods list. Either by enjoying the tangy raspberry-like goji berry taste with a cup of juice each day, eating goji berries as part of a healthy trail mix, or consuming a goji berry powder or supplement, you can gain the phenomenal health benefits of this fruit, including its anti-aging effects, ability to improve blood sugar control, and its anti-cancer abilities. Add goji berries to your diet and you have a stellar natural remedy to keep you robust and thriving.