Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
27 Mar

Smart Fuel: Goji Berries

Also know as lycium barbarum, lyceum fruit, fructus lycii, wolfberry and gou qi zi, type Goji berries into a search engine and your computer screen will quickly fill with warnings about how not to be scammed by this fruit.

A fruit con artist? We were intrigued…

But before we dig into the sordid world of Goji berries, let’s first learn a little more about them:

The berries – which are typically found dried and closely resemble the appearance of raisins – hail from an evergreen shrub popular in China, Mongolia and in the Himalaya Mountains in Tibet. However, wolfberries – and remember, the names can, and frequently are, used interchangeably – can be found in many climates and actually grow wild in several countries.

According to some reports, Goji berries have been used in Chinese Medicine for 6,000 years to treat maladies ranging from liver damage to poor circulation. In addition, it is also thought to promote longevity – with some Web sites suggesting that daily Goji berry consumption can increase longevity by 20 years! – and boost sexual function and fertility. The mechanisms behind these claims? Well, Goji berries are thought to contain some 18 aminos as well as Vitamin A, B1, B2, B6 and Vitamin E (which is not all that common in fruits). Rounding out its vitamin profile, certain Goji berry varieties also provide more Vitamin C by weight than an orange. In addition, Gojis contain 21 trace minerals and are an excellent source of iron, packing more iron than spinach!

However, Goji berries are perhaps more revered for their antioxidants, polysaccharide and phytonutrient properties. Specifically, the berries contain high levels of the carotenoid zeaxanthin, which is thought to ensure the health of the eye and in one study. It was found to reduce the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, an eye condition that is currently considered the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in adults over age 65.

But the good work of the antioxidants doesn’t stop there: A study of 79 cancer patients published in a 1994 edition of the Chinese Journal of Oncology* suggests that patients responded more favorably to treatment when Goji berries were added to their regimens. A second study appearing in the journal Life Sciences, meanwhile, suggested that the berries might contain compounds that can stem cancer activity by causing cell apoptosis (cell death) as well as interfere with cancer cell proliferation rate and cycle distribution. Another study also published in Life Sciences suggested that Goji berry extracts could “significantly reduce blood glucose levels and serum total cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations” in rabbit models.

As a result of these findings, Goji berries have taken off as something of a wonder fruit and are now advertised on the internet – and even on the Oprah Winfrey show – as a compound that can transform your life and your health! And this is where the scams start in: Purveyors, looking to cash a quick buck on America’s obsession with the fountain of youth, are shilling Goji berries – which they often contend have been enhanced or somehow made more powerful – by selling them on the internet, with prices hovering at around $60 per bag of berries on some sites and bottles of juice fetching nearly $35!

Our advice? Look at the Goji berry not as a solution to all your health problems – or as one internet site claimed, a source of happiness that would have a cumulative affect so that you could eventually be left smiling all day – and instead scoop up Goji berries as part of a healthy diet just as you would any other berries. We can recommend them as Smart Fuel but don’t buy into the hype of $60-a-bag miracle food. They’re just berries!

You can find whole Goji berries at Chinese herbal shops and select health food stores and supermarkets – with grocery chain Trader Joes currently selling a trail mix that includes Goji berries. Goji juice, meanwhile, might be slightly harder to find, but is generally available at health food stores and through online retailers.

* Unfortunately, this study is published by a Chinese organization that does not maintain an English Web site so we are unable to link to this study at this time.

What do you think of the Goji berry craze? Hit us up with a comment!

Vic, miheco Flickr Photos (CC)

Further Reading:

What is ORAC?

Antioxidant Powerhouse: Cranberries

diet blog: Don’t Believe the Hype

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You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. You can also buy the seeds and grow your own. Check Gardener’s Supply Company online.

    Jen wrote on March 27th, 2008
  2. Goji berries have the highest ORAC of any food. However, all goji berries are sourced from China, which makes me hesitant to buy them because of heavy spraying and poor regulation of the food industry. I am even suspicious of USDA organic. How can the US certify as organic a product grown in western China?

    Buyers of goji berries are best advised to get them from Chinese grocers at about $1.50 a bag, rather than from health food stores, where they cost more than twice as much.

    In China and Korea, goji berries are used sparingly in soups, teas, and tonic dishes.

    Sonagi wrote on March 27th, 2008
  3. They taste kinda blah. I bought a bag of them a while back, ate some and just could not bring myself to eat anymore. Tossed them out.

    Chinese medicine doesn’t involve eating them like we eat raisins. They are part of slow cooked ‘soups’ or slow cooked medical ‘teas’. The ‘goodness’ is extracted into the broth or liquid and the solids are thrown out.

    gkadar wrote on March 27th, 2008
  4. I was eating them as well but found out they are a nightshade, which I avoid. SO no more gojis for me!

    sarena wrote on March 27th, 2008
  5. The Goji berry is nothing more, nothing less than this year’s fad ostensible ‘health’ food. Last year it was mangosteens, the year before that, it was noni, before that aloe vera and gingko biloba.

    @sarena
    I have heard about avoiding plants in the nightshade family — can you (or anyone else) point to an informative article on the subject?

    Varangy wrote on March 28th, 2008
  6. Varangy, here’s a good article on nightshades on Modern Forager. I cut back on my pepper & tomato consumption after reading this.

    http://www.modernforager.com/blog/2008/01/06/nightshades/

    Heather wrote on March 28th, 2008
  7. Gojis are great and I’ve been eating them for close to a year and a half. I won’t touch the goji berry juice as I learned awhile ago the “good stuff” in the berris gets killed off when exposed to the heat processing. There’s no way of telling when it comes to a manufacturer claiming their juice is “cold pressed”. Just stick to popping the berry and skip the juice – that’s where most of the scams are anyway.

    Sue wrote on April 1st, 2008
  8. Dear all,

    Goji berries have been consumed in my family since we were kids. Usually we bought it in package of dried berries from chinese groceries/herbal shop, and used it as part of our soup base. Or, they can be consumed in small amounts every other day with warm water. I had a bottle with me at work, which I’d have a small spoonful every other day.

    Word of caution, just like any other natural food products, moderation is the key. Treat goji as a part of overall healthy diet, and not as a panacea for good health.

    All those ad gimmicks selling goji berry in liquid form or otherwise are a waste of time and potentially hazardous. Who knows if they use pure goji or just some vit. extracts?

    Feel free to ask me any questions,

    Warm Regards

    Howe wrote on May 27th, 2008
  9. hi there ,I will like to supply any one who is interested in buy miracle fruit berries or seeds .miracle fruit is a fruit that make sour food sweet .this fruit is suitable for diabetics pertain and any one ill or not .
    it does not contain or is not sweet it self.you who don’t eat fruit because it is sour ,can now eat any type using this miracle fruit .
    you can get it in any quantity
    please contact me on email russdanny@ymail.com

    russ wrote on October 18th, 2008
  10. Goji berries are truly a gift from God. Consume all the nutrients, amino acids, minerals and etc from this wonderful fruit! I’m going to continue to eat them until the day I die.

    Mark wrote on May 17th, 2009
  11. i think they are just another berry like mark said i have eaten them several times but i think you are better off buying bilberrys or blueberrys to add to a mix just because they tastebetter. I think everything in moderation and a wide variety of any type of food veges, berrys, meats, etc is the best option.

    kevink wrote on February 1st, 2010
  12. I’ve been keeping a health log for several years in which I (irregularly) track my weight, exercise, recent diet, mood, energy level, and several other factors. I recently noticed that entries where I recorded by energy level as “great” seemed to quite often be associated with eating goji berries. It’s not science, but it was enough to make me buy some more goji berries.

    I happen to like them — so does my kid.

    JD Moyer wrote on December 11th, 2010
  13. I recently learned about making a goji-berry tea and I’m thoroughly addicted to it! It’s the best way to eat goji berries. Pour hot water over a couple of teaspoons and let sit for 10 minutes. Drink and eat the plump berries with a spoon. I find when I eat them dry, they get stuck in my teeth. They taste wonderful this way.

    carolaa wrote on December 2nd, 2014

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