Often classified as a superfood, goji berries, also known as Lycium or Wolfberry, are delicious, nutrient-dense red berries. They grow on evergreen shrubs that are native to the temperate and subtropical regions of China, Mongolia and Tibet. These berries can been eaten in a multitude of ways and are usually sold sun-dried in North America. Goji berries have the shape and chewy texture similar to raisins and a mild, tangy, sweet-sour taste resembling a combination of cranberries and cherries.
The berry has been a staple in China for thousands of years, used in cuisine and herbal medicine. Goji berries contain the most carotenoids of all foods, are chock-full of Vitamin C, contain 21 trace minerals, and are a great source of fiber. The berries are high in phytochemicals (common in plant-based foods) that protect against various diseases and cancer. Calcium, zinc, selenium, iron, 18 kinds of amino acids (all 8 essential amino acids), and a large number of polysaccharides are in abundance in this small fruit. It’s no wonder that goji berries are so widely considered as a superfood!
Goji berries are still used as a medicinal plant in herbal medicine to treat eye, liver and kidney ailments, lower back problems, headaches, and hypertension. There are several Chinese legends associated with goji berries, including the famed Li Qing Yuen who is said to have lived to almost 200 years old, and was accredited for the rise in popularity of goji berries. Some people even tout that the berry has anti-aging effects that increases longevity.
As a Chinese-Canadian, I have grown up eating goji berries and I can tell you that the small red superfood is something that can be incorporated into your diet in number of ways.
How Can You Include Goji Berries in Your Diet?
Raw: If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on fresh goji berries, you can always eat them raw! Fresh goji berries are great addition in a salad, or even eaten by itself as a snack. Just eating a handful of these berries a day can do wonders for your health.
Juice: Goji berries are offered in a delicious juice form. Omega Alpha offers a 100% Goji Juice without any added juice concentrates, color or flavoring to give you the full effect of the berry. The juice can also be mixed into a smoothie for those who enjoy blended drinks.
Soups: A common use of goji berries is an additive into clear broths. The sweetness of the berries mixes well with meats and the tender berries can be consumed with the soup. This has been a staple of Chinese cuisine for thousands of years. Alternatively, dried berries can be used as a garnish for thicker soups to add an extra texture and flavor.
Tea: Goji berries can be used to make tea. You can add a handful of goji berries to a mug of your favorite relaxing hot tea and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes until the berries become plump and juicy. Add in the juice of one lemon, a teaspoon of cayenne, and 1-3 teaspoons of maple syrup to create a healthy morning drink full of antioxidants.
Trail Mix: Goji berries can be treated similar to raisins and mixed into your favorite combinations of nuts, dried fruit, and granola.
Breakfast Foods: Add goji berries to your oatmeal, cereal, or granola in the morning instead of other dried fruit.
Baked Goods: Substitute goji berries into recipes that would require dried cranberries or raisins such as in muffins or scones. The slightly sweet flavor of the dried fruit works well in baked goods.
Other Dish Additives: You can stir goji juice into salsa, chili, or sauces and gently mix hydrated berries (soaked in water for 5-10 minutes) into rice, salsa, or stir fry. Experiment by using goji berries wherever you could include fruit, such as in ice creams, popsicles, or cakes.
Goji berries belong to the nightshade (Solanaceae) family which includes tomatoes, white potatoes, peppers, and eggplant. Some people are intolerant to nightshade but the effects, mainly on the digestive system, are hard to isolate. If you are intolerant, the risk of leaky gut syndrome increases as you consume more nightshade foods. The best way to determine if you have a nightshade intolerance is to slowly reduce the amount of nightshade foods you consume and monitor the effect on your digestion.
Since the popularity of goji berries has increased, more places are stocking the dried fruit. The best priced goji berries can be usually found in Asian supermarkets or herbal medicine stores. Keep in mind that there are many different brands of goji berries that are dried and stored differently. Shop around for goji berries that are organic and natural. Avoid brands that seem too deep a red color, as they may include unhealthy dyes.