Go-Go-Gadget Goji! – The Truth Behind Those Popular Berries

are goji berries good for you
Dr. Lindsey Mcilvena, MD

In her day job, treating patients living with chronic disease, nutrition and lifestyle are not after-thoughts, they’re central to helping her patients get well. She’s also our go-to expert on plant-based diets.

The goji berry, an age-old soldier of the Chinese Medicine armamentarium, has begun to gain fame outside of its Asian homeland. These small red berries can be found packaged, and dried in most health food stores.  Traditional uses include using goji as a tonic for increased energy, wellbeing, and stamina.

That’s what we’ve been told, but what does the science say? Are goji berries good for you?

Goji berries contain a hefty dose of zeaxanthin, an antioxidant which helps protect the eyes.  Goji berries are also rich in vitamin C and iron. One ounce of dried goji berries contains 4 grams of protein — pretty impressive — and 3 grams of fiber.

The scientific evidence currently available on goji berries is limited. An Asian study found goji supplementation beneficial to mice with inflammatory bowel disease (Chrohn’s and ulcerative colitis), the hypothesis was that goji acted as a prebiotic, catalyzing an increase in beneficial gut bacteria. Other small studies have pointed to goji having antiviral properties, specifically against the flu virus. Owing to its zeaxanthin content, other small studies have begun to look to goji as a protector of age related vision decline, showing that the zeaxanthin from gojis concentrates in the macula, part of the eye.

So what’s the verdict? Should you incorporate goji berries in to your diet?

Sure—if you can afford them, because they tend to be a bit pricey. If they’re gona break the bank, skip them for now and opt for more affordable blueberries and raspberries. If you do buy them, try soaking the dried berries in water for an hour or two to rehydrate them, then add them to a salad. Owing to their tartness, you may or may not feel like munching on them by themselves. Just remember that variety is the spice of life, so don’t forget about all the other magnificent berries out there.

Sources: The FASEB Journal, National Institutes of Health 1, National Institutes of Health 2, The Journal of Nutrition

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