You might have heard of goji berries and their health benefits. Their history as a medicinal plant has roots in ancient China. Many people use goji berries to treat eye, liver, and kidney issues.
Also known as wolfberries, these festive red berries have a sweet, slightly sour taste. They often come in dried form, like raisins.
But do they live up their health claims?
If you’re looking to add more nutrition to your diet, read on to decide if goji berries are right for you.
Goji berries are a good source of vitamins and minerals, including:
– vitamin C
– vitamin A
These berries contain all eight essential amino acids. A 1-ounce serving provides nearly 10 percentTrusted Source of your daily value for protein. For fruit, this is a surprising amount of protein.
Due to the higher fiber content or complex carbs in goji berries, your blood sugar will raise more slowly, reducing your risk for a sugar crash afterward.
Before you add goji berries to your diet
Always talk to your doctor before you begin eating goji berries. Some companies may say they have less side effects than medications. But goji berries can interact with any medications you’re currently taking.
Avoid adding goji berries to your diet if you:
are using certain medications, such as blood thinners, diabetes drugs, and blood pressure drugs
you’re allergic to fruit
Not enough evidence has shown if pregnant women can safely consume goji berries. There’s some concern they might cause the uterus to contract.
If you’re pregnant, err on the side of caution and avoid goji berries. It’s best to speak to your doctor or healthcare provider about consuming goji berries if pregnant.
One-fourth cup of goji berries also fulfills 340 percentTrusted Source of your intake for vitamin A. You may want to limit how much you eat to reduce the risk of vitamin A toxicity.
Goji berry health benefits
Boosted immune system and flu protection
A boosted immune system and flu protection can go hand-in-hand. The vitamins in goji berries may be able to increase and support both.
Early lab testingTrusted Source found goji berries help enhance the effectiveness of flu vaccinations in aged mice. This is important, because the flu vaccine doesn’t always provide adequate protection against the virus.
This study suggests that goji berries may prevent subsequent infections for older adults who’ve received a flu vaccine. But remember, goji berries aren’t a replacement protection against the flu. Be sure you and your family members get your flu shot every year.
Potential weight loss aid
Goji berries pack healthy energy into small servings. Their rich, sweet taste, along with their high-fiber content, can help you stay on track with eating healthy. Turn to them for a light snack to prevent overindulgence at mealtime. Add them in your yogurt or salad in the same way you would use raisins.
Their nutrition value as a low-calorie, low-sugar option makes them a perfect substitute for other dried fruits with higher sugar content. A 1-ounce serving of goji berries has around 100 caloriesTrusted Source.
Antioxidants for eyes and skin
StudiesTrusted Source have cited the high level of antioxidants in goji berries, especially zeaxanthin. It’s the zeaxanthin that gives goji berries, saffron, and bell peppers their bright color.
Antioxidants protect cells against breaking down when they’re exposed to elements such as smoke and radiation. What’s more, foods with healthy levels of antioxidants are often high in fiber and low in unhealthy fats.
The same studyTrusted Source also found that older adults who ate a daily dietary supplementation with goji berries for 90 days had less hypopigmentation and less drusen, or yellow deposits, in their eyes.
Maintain blood sugar
Sweet goji berries may be your new favorite food if you have a particular sweet tooth. Goji berries can help:
potentially lower blood sugar
improve sugar tolerance
alleviate insulin resistance
improve and recover cells that help produce insulin
Talk to your doctor before you start adding goji berries to your diet, especially if you’re using medications to manage blood sugar. If you do start regularly eating them, you may want to check your blood sugar more often.
Goji berries have a long history tied to sexual fertility. One studyTrusted Source in rats showed that goji berries significantly:
increased sperm quantity and movement
shortened erection, capture, and ejaculation response
improved sexual ability
improved recovery of testosterone levels
Research suggests that goji berries may be an alternative to prescriptions for erectile dysfunction, like Viagra.
Are goji berries a superfood?
Some brands may market goji berries as a superfood. One study compared the results of participants who consumed goji berry juice daily for 14 days to those who didn’t. People who drank goji berry juice reported an increase in:
quality of sleep
ability to focus
The same group also reported significantly better outcomes for issues of fatigue, stress, and digestion. But the results were also self-reported. They didn’t account for other conditions.
Some health claims also state that goji berries can:
increase life expectancy
lower heart risks
lower blood pressure
reduce arthritis pain
One older studyTrusted Source also claims that goji berries can treat cancer tumors. Goji berries contain a chemical component called beta-sitosterol. This may help decrease the size of overgrown cells and can cause apoptosis, or “cell suicide,” in tumor cells.
But these studies are poorly designed and have inconclusive and insignificant results. More studies are needed to confirm the health benefits of goji berries.
How to use goji berries
Most supermarkets sell dried goji berries prepackaged and in the bulk section. You can also find them fresh. Treat them like raisins or fresh berries. Mix them into your breakfast cereal or yogurt, add them to your trail mix, or drink them as juice or tea.
You can also cook goji berries with lean pork or turkey to add a savory sweetness to hearty dishes. Plus, their vitamin C content will help your body absorb the meat’s iron.
Eating two or more servings of fruit a day is usually recommended for optimum health benefits.
Be sure to buy your goji berries from a reputable source, even though they tend to be expensive. Cheaper or imported brands have been known to contain sulfites. Sulfites can cause an allergic reaction in some people.
Goji berries are generally considered safe for most people. Some people report mild digestive issues when they first starting eating them. This can be a common side effect. If you have any chronic digestive or gastrointestinal issues, ask your doctor before using goji berries as a remedy.