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We’ve all heard of raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and even snozzberries, but get ready for the new berry star — goji berries. Also known as wolfberries or Lycium, goji berries are most commonly seen in their dried form, resembling reddish raisins. For thousands of years, goji berries have been used in China and other parts of Asia as a way of promoting longevity — but let’s see how much of that is really true.
GO, GO, GOJI — WHY THEY’RE SUPER
Photo by Mykalee McGowan
Perhaps the most super thing about goji berries is that eating them covered in chocolate is encouraged. Besides that, they have a high concentration of protein (about one gram of protein per tablespoon), contain essential amino acids, are crazy–high in vitamin A (36 percent of the daily recommended value per tablespoon), and a tablespoon has only 18 calories, making them a great snack option.
Goji berries could have almost as many superpowers as Superman himself: One study found that after consuming the berries in juice form for 14 days, subjects reported increased energy levels and improved athletic performance, quality of sleep, focus, digestive regularity, and mental sharpness — not to mention reduced stress and fatigue. No studies have been done to show whether goji berries grant the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound… yet.
Goji berries might also be able to protect us from the elements (and we may be able to learn something from their effects on our little furry friends). One study showed that consuming goji berry juice could provide protection from UV rays by reducing the inflammatory reaction of skin when it starts to get sunburned. Which brings us to the berry’s antioxidant properties: A compound in goji berries was shown to activate antioxidant enzymes in older mice, which could point to the berries’ apparent anti–aging properties that the Chinese have sworn by for centuries.
Some studies have also pointed to goji berries’ potential for cancer prevention. In two different studies, goji berries’ polysaccharides (a type of carbohydrate) were shown to inhibit the growth of both prostate cancer and colon cancer cells.
To round out the list of superpowers, gojis also contain melatonin, which has been shown to help control weight gain, reduce triglycerides, increase “good” (HDL) cholesterol and decrease “bad” (LDL) cholesterol. Since melatonin is also the hormone in charge of regulating the body’s time cues, goji berries and other foods rich in melatonin could also help improve sleep. In another study, mice sick with the flu showed improved immune response when given a mixture of milk and goji berry juice. Doesn’t sound too tasty, but if it gets rid of the flu, why not!
GAGA FOR GOJI — YOUR ACTION PLAN
Sounds like a pretty perfect super food, right? Not so fast. It’s time for the big, fat “however.” There hasn’t been enough research to scientifically prove that goji berries actually possess the magical properties described above. Most studies were done on mice or with very small samples. While goji berries are a great addition to any diet, they shouldn’t be relied on as a cure–all for every sickness under the sun.
Use caution when trying goji berries for the first time — there have been a few documented instances of allergic reactions, and the berries can cause a harmful interaction with the drug Warfarin, which is used to prevent blood clots. Check with a physician to make sure goji berries will play nice with any current prescriptions.
Get started with gojis by snacking on a handful, adding them to trail mix, or trying out the recipes below!
Our Favorite Goji Berry Recipes from Around the Web
Breakfast: Apple Muesli with Goji Berries via Food and Wine
Breakfast: Goji Cranberry Muffins via Positive Ponderings
Lunch: Carrot Soup with Goji, Orange, and Ginger via Leslie Beck, RD
Snack: Antioxidant–Rich Breakfast Bars via Epicurious
Snack: Pistachio, Pecan, and Goji Berry Bites via Marcus Samuelsson
Dinner: Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Goji Berries via Vegetarian Times