(NaturalHealth365) Although the goji berry has a plain outer appearance – somewhat like a raisin – its nutritional value is simply outstanding. With its sweet, nutty and tart-like flavor, this fruit has been a favorite of superfood enthusiasts for many years. Packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals – goji berries can help improve your health – especially eyesight.
Where do goji berries come from?
These brightly-colored berries, also called wolfberry and desert-thorn, are the fruits of the Lycium barbarum plant, a member of the boxwood family. Revered in Chinese Traditional Medicine – where they are known as Gou Qi ZI – goji berries have been used by healers for over 2000 years to prevent and alleviate diabetes, cancer, hepatitis, immune disorders and blood clots, and appear in the official Pharmacopeia of the People’s Republic of China.
Most commercially produced goji berries come from the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region of north central China, which lies along the floodplains of the Yellow River. Bright orange-red when harvested, the berries darken to a crimson color when dried.
What makes the goji berry such a ‘superfood’?
Like other brightly colored fruits, goji berries contain high levels of antioxidant carotenoids – including beta-carotene. In addition, goji berries are rich in two phytonutrients, lutein and zeaxanthin, which doctors say can help prevent eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration. Beta-sitosterol, another goji berry constituent, is a natural anti-inflammatory.
Animal and test tube studies have supported the ability of goji berry extracts to scavenge harmful free radicals, lower blood sugar, boost the immune system and protect the eyes and liver.
This is the kind of nutritional profile every body could use
Without trans fats or processed sugar, goji berries are relatively high in protein and fiber. They are also an outstanding source of vitamin B-2, or riboflavin, which is needed for normal vision.
A little over three ounces, or 100 grams, of goji berries provides 100 percent of the DRI, or Dietary Reference Intake, of vitamin B-2 and vitamin C – another essential antioxidant.
Goji berries are also mineral-rich — the same three ounces gives you 100 percent of your DRI of iron, essential for creating red blood cells, as well as a quarter of the DRI of potassium, needed for regulating blood pressure. Finally, goji berries contain 18 different amino acids, needed by the body for protein formation. When it comes to a ‘superfood’ – it doesn’t get any better than goji berries.
O.K. – what does the science tell us about goji berries?
In a study published in 2007 in Journal of Ethnopharmacology, researchers described the antioxidants in goji berries as “potent,” and credited them with restoring proper immune function and total antioxidant capacity in aged mice. Other animal studies have supported goji berries’ ability to lower levels of fats in the bloodstream and decrease harmful liver enzymes.
In addition, goji berries have increased macrophage activity and caused tumor-fighting effects in human cells in test tubes. In both animal and human cells, goji berry extracts stopped cancer cells from proliferating and even caused apoptosis, or self-destruction, of the malignant cells.
A word of caution for those with food allergies
Although dried goji berries can be mixed with yogurt or oatmeal, baked into desserts, sprinkled into salads, or simply eaten as a snack (alone) – if you have food allergies, you should consult a well-trained healthcare provider before changing your diet.
Goji berries can interact with blood thinners and other medications; so ask your doctor before using them, especially if you take anticoagulants or any other medications for diabetes or high blood pressure. And, although not a ‘serious’ side effect, eating too many goji berries can cause digestive disturbances. Like anything else, eat healthy food (in moderation) and you can’t go wrong.
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