In recent times there has been an increase in trends that promote healthier lifestyles. The consumption of certain types of fruits, vegetables or plants known as superfoods favors health benefits and have become popular.
Goji berries are one of the first superfoods that became popular in the West. These small fruits are widely used in Asian gastronomy and medicine. In this article, we will discover what Goji berries are, their benefits, some of the best recipes, and side effects.
What are Goji berries?
The Goji berry plant belongs to the Solanaceae family known as Lycium barbarum or Lycium chinense. Although they are different, these two species are closely related.
This red, small fruit originates in Asia and has been used for a long time in traditional Asian cuisine. Depending on the plant they come from, there are different Goji berry types, even though they are very similar. The differences can be found in the taste, sugar content, nutrients, and amino acids.
For about 30 years now, the Goji berries benefits have become famous in Western countries. They contain high concentrations of vitamins, minerals, and proteins that help our health.
Nowadays, we can find these berries in most supermarkets and stores. You can buy them both fresh and dehydrated. There are also capsules so that they are easier to take as natural remedies.
If we want to include them into our diet, some of the most common Goji berries recipes are mixing them with cereal, nuts, fruits or yogurt. Another delicious recipe is adding them to lean meats, for they provide the dish with a slight sweetness.
Goji berry benefits
According to some traditional medicine, these fruits are characterized by having many health benefits. However, not all of them have been scientifically proven. The properties that are backed up by scientific evidence are listed below:
Goji contains a high level of antioxidants, especially a molecule known as zeaxanthin. In addition to the antioxidant power, zeaxanthin gives these fruits their characteristic color.
Antioxidant agents have a fundamental role in protecting cells against aging and decomposition, especially when they are exposed to harmful agents such as pollution or radiation. Also, like other antioxidant-rich foods, they are a great source of dietary fiber and are also low in unhealthy fats.
In addition to high fiber contents, these berries provide the same energy than other healthy foods but in smaller amounts. Also, their sweet taste can be of great help when losing weight, for it satiates the need for something sweet during diets. They also promote digestion.
These berries are low in calories and sugar but rich in protein, making them a great alternative to nuts, which provide many more sugars or fats.
Goji berries can help maintain low blood sugar levels, as well as improve blood sugar tolerance, alleviate insulin resistance, and improve and recover the state of the cells that help produce insulin.
However, in cases where people have relatively low blood sugar levels, it is recommended to check with a doctor before consuming them.
Their vitamins and nutrients —vitamin C and A, iron, and zinc—can help strengthen the immune system, which also means greater protection against diseases or conditions such as the flu.
Studies on animal models show that these berries can enhance the effectiveness of flu vaccines. Although it has not yet been demonstrated in humans, this is vitally important because the flu vaccine does not always provide effective protection against this virus.
Recent studies with animal models revealed that these berries could have a significant effect on testosterone levels. As a consequence, this means greater sperm quantity and quality, a shortening of the ejaculatory response and an improvement in sexual performance.
Although still under investigation, research suggests that pharmacological preparations from Goji berries may become an alternative to traditional medications administered for erectile dysfunction.
Goji berries side effects
It is a good idea to check with a doctor or pharmacist before starting to consume these berries. This is because these fruits may interact with the effect and effectiveness of certain medications.
Besides, there are some health conditions for which the consumption of Goji berries is not recommended. These include:
Potterat, O. (2010). Goji (Lycium barbarum and L. Chinense): Phytochemistry, pharmacology and safety in the perspective of traditional uses and recent popularity. Planta Medica, 76(1): 7–19.
Du, X., Wang, J., Niu, X., Smith, D., Wu, D., & Meydani, S. N. (2014). Dietary wolfberry supplementation enhances the protective effect of flu vaccine against influenza Challenge in Aged Mice. Journal of Nutrition, 144(2), 224-229.
Luo, Q. (2010). Antagonistic effects of Lycium barbarum polysaccharides on the impaired reproductive system of male rats induced by local subchronic exposure to 60Co-γ irradiation. Phytotherapy Research, 25(5).
Rivera, C. A., Ferro, C. L., Bursua, A. J. & Gerber, B. S. (2012). Probable interaction between Lycium barbarum (goji) and warfarin. Pharmacotherapy, 32(3), 50-53