You’ve seen goji berry in designer drinks claiming to drastically improve your health, but what do you really know about the much-touted fruit? Is it the key to staying young and healthy or the miracle ingredient to prevent cancer? Here’s what we know-and what’s yet to be determined-about goji benefits.
The bright orange berry hails from China. It’s also known as the wolfberry and has long been used to treat numerous health issues including high blood pressure, diabetes, fever and eye problems. Generations of Asians have eaten goji berries in an effort to live longer.
Goji benefits stem from the berries’ antioxidants, which may help to ward off diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Some health experts also believe that these compounds bolster the immune system and lower cholesterol. Goji’s antioxidant content has earned it the title of a superfruit.
Antioxidants like those in goji berries are also thought to slow the process of aging by protecting cells from damaging free radicals. For example, goji berry contains vitamin A and vitamin C, which are important for eye and immune health, two areas that often suffer and decline with age. However, researchers haven’t yet determined how goji’s antioxidant benefits stack up as compared to those of other berries, such as blueberries, strawberries or cranberries.
Some studies seem to indicate that goji benefits include improving brain health and even preventing Alzheimer’s and other age-related diseases. Others suggest that goji juice can improve mental well-being, as well as increase happiness, contentment, ability to focus, athletic performance, sleep quality and ease of awakening. However, more research needs to take place before these hypotheses can be considered fact.
In 2008, a pilot study examined the differences between subjects drinking goji juice and those drinking a placebo. Although the authors found no objective differences between the two groups, they concluded that consuming the juice for 14 days "increases subjective feelings of general well-being, and improves neurologic/psychologic performance and gastrointestinal functions."
While this study has been criticized and has received a mixed response, it appears that further research may reveal more substantial evidence about the effects of goji berries on both mental and physical health.
Animal studies have shown that goji berries may provide benefits in humans in preventing conditions such as cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases, as well as vision problems like glaucoma. Again, further study is needed to determine the exact impact on goji on these conditions.
Goji berries are available in several forms: they’re eaten raw, dried and cooked and are used to make teas, juices and supplements. The berries are also popping up in some packaged foods such as yogurt and smoothies.
What we do know for sure is that goji has high concentrations of antioxidants, as well as fiber, which helps to stave off hunger. While some manufacturers make claims about the benefits of goji that haven’t yet been proven, the goji berry still pans out to be a nutrient-rich berry with a lot of potential.