How to Eat More Goji Berries: Not the Belle of the Berry Ball

In the taste pageant of the berry world, goji has many to compete with. When comparing the fresh sweetness of a deeply red and ripe organic strawberry, who is going to choose a goji, whose taste conjures the horse-y flavour of hay and the smell of mostly clean feet, with only the merest hint of sweetness?

In contrast to the tender beads of a raspberry that burst delicately and juicily to release their flavour, how can gojis, that roll around dryly, wrinkled and rough, on your tongue only to impart insipid flavour after some serious masticatory effort, win?

Compared to her more delicious cousins, in taste, and even beauty, goji doesn’t win. But in terms of substance, it’s a sweep. Goji berries shine, blinding with nutrition, in terms of health benefits.

Compared to most berries, gojis have more vitamins and minerals, more protein, and less sugar. Gojis are extremely rich in the various plant forms of vitamin A (which is what gives it its beautiful coral hue), vitamin C, and iron, as well as an impressive ORAC value (a measure of its antioxidant capacity).

While goji berries are native to China, and most commercial crops are harvested there, the plant is hardy enough to be grown more locally, such as in Nova Scotia and British Columbia. The plant, also known as lycium barbarum, can grow in harsh, dry deserts as well as humid tropics, and yet can also withstand the freezing winters of Canada. This adaptability may be one of the reasons that goji berries are considered to be an adaptogen in Traditional Chinese Medicine systems, helping the body to adapt during times of change and stress.

Intrigued? Let’s explore some of the specific researched health benefits goji berries have to offer:

Vision

Goji berries are a very good source of two key nutrients for eye health: zeaxanthin and lutein. Both of these carotenoid nutrients protect and repair the eye from damage, be it age-related or otherwise. Zeaxanthin and lutein help prevent macular degeneration, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy. [1]

Cardiovascular health

Research shows that a unique combination of polysaccharides found in goji berries may have protective effects against cardiovascular disease [2]. Goji berries are also likely to exert their protective effects through the prevention of free radical damage and the oxidation of cholesterol because of their high levels of antioxidant carotenoids [3]

Immune Health

Again the unique polysaccharides found in goji berries come up in relation to immune health. Specific polysaccharides appear to both enhance white blood cell and spleen activity and reduce tumour formation through the activation of the immune system [4,5]. These polysaccharides have also been shown to induce cell death in prostate cancer cells [6].

Blood sugar

The polysaccharides in goji berries may also help to normalize blood sugar levels. Studies show that these polysaccharides help to decrease elevated blood glucose and may reduce insulin resistance [7,8].

Brain & Memory

Goji berries may also help to protect the brain against damage and stimulate the growth of nerve cells, thus enhancing memory and cognition. Evidence supports these protective effects in drug-induced [9], stress-induced [10], or oxygen-deficit-induced (such as in sleep apnea) [11] brain damage.

All these benefits will surely make you want to plow into this nutritious super fruit, and lucky you, I’ve got five recipes where goji berries shine. In addition to the following recipes, gojis can be easily thrown into smoothies, sprinkled onto salads, or even made into a tea (and make sure to eat the steeped berries after!). And for all the ribbing earlier, I do like goji berries just on their own, piled into the palm of my hand, and thrown into my mouth. I guess I like a sweetish horse-y taste after all.

Here are the recipes:

Caramelized Pineapple and Goji Muffins

Goji Hot Sauce

Confetti Salad with Honey Ginger Lime Dressing

Internal Sunscreen Popsicle

Goji Ginger Marmalade


Alex Picot-Annand, BA (Psych), Registered Holistic Nutritionist & Certified Life Coach

www.alexpicotannand.com

References:

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25466302
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20813126
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25660385
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15099534
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25552899
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19735167
  7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15519360
  8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20606780
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24505383
  10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25497708
  11. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25714473
  12. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2835915/