Goji Berry Benefits: Separating Fact and Fiction


“Super foods” is one of the most used buzz-words today. It seems like any time a food has a lot of nutrients, people want to call it the next super food. Some of them are actually pretty great and others are… meh.

Since there is no real definition to what makes or doesn’t make a super food, people usually use it for any food they think is healthy.

Gogi berries are marketed as one of these super foods with a large following that is gaining more and more popularity. The question about these little fruits is it all the buzz warranted or is it just another one of those gimmicky products, with a lot of hype with no evidence to support it.

In this article, I’m going to look at some of the goji berry benefits and determine if there is any research to support any of the claims.

Goji berry benefits and background

Goji-Berries-Lycium-barbarum-plantGoji berries (aka wolfberries) are fruit from the Lycium barbarum plant. They have been used in China and Tibet for thousands of years for food and medicine. They have been used to treat all sorts of things, from eye problems all the way to kidney and liver issues and even things like erectile dysfunction.

Whether or not goji berries can actually treat those ailments is up for debate, but they are very nutrient dense and are very high in antioxidants.

Goji berries are high in Vitamin C (ascorbic acid,) Iron, Vitamin A (beta carotene,) Riboflavin, Copper, and Selenium. They also contain good levels of potassium, zinc, calcium and thiamin.

The exact amounts of these nutrients vary depending on where you are getting your info from. All the sources that I looked at gave different amounts for the nutrients in goji berries. Some suggested that where the plant is grown plays a role in the amount of nutrients it contains.

A few sources referenced a 1998 study from the Beijing Nutrition Research Institute, but none of them linked to that study and I was unable to find any other information on it.

According to nutritiondata.self.com, a ounce (28 grams) of goji berries has:

23 calories, 0 grams of fat, 6 grams of carbs (2g fiber and 4g sugar) and 3 grams of protein. It also contains the 50% of the Daily value of Vitamin A, 21% of Riboflavin, 14% of Iron, 28% of Copper, and 25% of Manganese.

The 2 grams of fiber is a good amount (9% DV) and the 3 grams of protein is more than any other fruit. They contain 18 amino acids including all 8 of the essential amino acids that can’t be synthesized in the body.

Another one of the goji berry benefits is the high antioxidant levels. It’s ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) score, which measures antioxidant capacity, is 25,300 which is one of the highest of all foods.

Goji berries are especially high in the antioxidant zeaxanthin. The oxidation of cells is what many believe causes aging and goji berries can help to increase the antioxidants in the blood.

Examining the Goji Berries Health Claims

drying-goji-berriesIn addition to the goji berry benefits because of their nutrient content and the high levels of antioxidants, there are also numerous other claims floating around. There is no research to back up most of the claims but there are a few that has some science supporting them.

One of them is from a small short-term 2008 study that found goji juice helped subjects overall well being, digestion and brain function. Sounds good so far so let’s take a look at some of the other researched claims.

May help to treat cancer

The polysaccharides in goji berries (aka Lycium Barbarum polysaccharides or LBP) shows some promise in the treatment of cancer. A small Chinese study indicated that the LBP helped to increase remission rates. Another Chinese study suggested that LBP may help to decrease tumor size and improve the immune system. LBP may also help to inhibit breast cancer.

A study in mice also suggested that LBP may be therapeutic for some of the effects of chempotherapy.

All the information on goji berries and it’s link to cancer treatment is intriguing but more research is definitely needed to determine how much of an impact it plays.

Goji berries may be anti-aging

It certainly makes sense that one of the goji berry benefits may be preventing the effects of aging. They are high in anti-oxidants, especially zeaxanthin, and many believe that anti-oxidants prevent cell degeneration.

There is a lot of research on the oxidation of cells and how this ages the body but as far as a direct link to goji berries, I only found one study… and yes, it’s another Chinese study. It suggests the extract from goji berries have neuroprotective effects and may be helpful in preventing age-related brain disorders like Alzheimer’s Disease.

Goji berries can help weight loss

Even though there is not a lot of research on goji berries and it’s effect on weight loss, there are a few that indicate that it may help with losing a few pounds.

A short-term study from 2011 found that goji juice helped overweight people burn more calories and reduce inches around their waist.

Many people have trouble losing weight because of high insulin levels. When insulin is raised for too long the body may become less sensitive to its effects which could lead to weight gain and other problems such as type 2 diabetes.

A study on rats that found that goji berries helped to reduce insulin resistance. Since this was done in rats in may or may not have the same impact in humans.

Can help skin

There is not a lot of research in the area of healthy skin and goji berries. The one study that I found in this area indicated that goji berries may help to protect the skin against the UV effects of the sun. Unfortunately, like most of the test on goji berries, this test was not done on humans. It was done on mice, so take it with a grain of salt.

May Prevent Sickness

In another study on mice, goji berries helped to increase the effectiveness of a flu vaccine. They also noted an increased response in the immune system. Just like the other studies in animals, it is not known if this effect will carry over to humans.

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How To Eat Goji Berries

fresh-goji-berriesThe most common way to buy goji berries is dried. Viva labs has some pretty good amazon reviews. They have a tangy taste and can be used instead of or in addition to anything that you would use raisins or cranberries for. They’re great in salads, cereal or you can add them to smoothies and tea. If you want them a little softer, you can soak them in water for a couple minutes. They can also make a great addition to trail mix or oatmeal.

Goji juice is also a popular way to get some of the benefits. The word on the street is that it tastes like prune juice.

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Fresh goji berries are a little harder to find, but is available in some specialty stores. They look like little tomatoes and can be used like used like any other small fruit.

Wrapping Up

Goji berries are a great food to add to your diet. They are packed with nutrients and antioxidants. Even though the actual amounts of nutrients may vary, the low end numbers are still pretty good.

As far as the other claims, the research looks promising, but more research is needed (especially in humans) before these claims can be definitive.

I think they are a great addition to most diets and their low sugar content can even fit into a low-carb plan. Make sure you visit my Facebook and YouTube page to stay up to date with all the latest content. You can also find me on Twitter and leave a comment below.