Goji berries, also known as wolfberries, grow in China and Tibet and have been used in traditional Chinese medicine.
These orangey-red berries have a flavor somewhere between raisins and cherries, though slightly bitter. They can be eaten cooked, raw, dried, juiced, or in teas and wines.
Goji berries have been marketed as a cure-all for everything, but despite the hype, there hasn’t been sufficient research undertaken to draw any definitive conclusions about these health claims.
Goji berries are rich in antioxidants, so they may help protect against cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and many other illnesses, but most studies of Goji berries’ effects have used animals and it’s not known for sure if humans enjoy the same benefits.
Some research suggests that consuming juice made from Goji berries can enhance energy and athletic performance and improve psychological well-being and sleep quality.
However, this study was industry funded (the sponsor was a company selling Goji berry juice) and it used very small physiological changes such as slight blood pressure fluctuations to indicate health effects. In other words, responses didn’t need to be very large to be called significant in this study. There haven’t been any large-scale industry-independent studies conducted to prove anything conclusively.
There is also no evidence to indicate whether or not supplements are as effective as whole Goji berries in promoting health. Because nutrients in foods tend to work synergistically, it’s usually better to eat whole, fresh foods. Locally grown berries are rich in antioxidants and fiber and low in calories, but they’re far less expensive and don’t require environmentally harmful shipping.
Goji berries may interact with certain common medications such as warfarin and a few others, so check with a doctor before consuming them if you take medication.
Beck, L., RD, “Goji Berries – July 2009’s Featured Food.” http://www.lesliebeck.com/ingredient_index.php?featured_food=111
CBCNews Marketplace, “Getting Juiced: What Are Goji Berries?” 2012. http://www.cbc.ca/marketplace/webextras/goji/berries.html?goji
Sygo, J., “Reining in Health Claims about the Goji Berry,” National Post, 3 May 2011. http://life.nationalpost.com/2011/05/03/reining-in-health-claims-about-the-goji-berry/
WebMD, “Goji Berries: Health Benefits and Side Effects,” 6 March 2011. http://www.webmd.com/balance/goji-berries-health-benefits-and-side-effects
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