The first time I ever heard of goji berries was about 6 years ago when I was playing golf with a family friend and she whipped out a bag of these wrinkled red magic niblets. I initially laughed at her, thinking the name of these superfood berries was a joke. Goji sounded like something I would name my pet guinea pig (I actually considered the name after I was addicted to the actual berry and acquired a classroom pet. Don’t judge.). However, once I took a bite, I was hooked and sought these things out whenever I went to a health food store. Known for their super antioxidant properties, goji berries have been eaten for thousands of years in Asia and the ancient Americas. They are also known as Wolfberries, Boxthorn, Matrimony Vine, and Desert Thorn, ranging in appearance from pale yellow to dark orange and most notably, a pinkish red. Goji berries look very much like leathery red raisins and are a little more chewy, tasting like a cross between a cranberry and a tart cherry. There are an estimated 85 species of goji berry in Asia and 15 species in North and Central America. Even though these tidbits of tastiness are a tad expensive (how did you like that alliteration?), they are worth every penny if you can budget for them as a treat every now and then. Kids and adults love them and everyone should love how their health can benefit from these marvels. I recommend buying goji berries in bulk to save on cost, as they range from $11-$16 a pound (stores like Whole Foods carry them and you can even buy them online at places like www.naturalnews.com). Organic, raw (meaning they were dried in the sun versus heated, which destroys many of the nutrients) goji berries are your best bet, but not necessary to incorporate a healthy punch into your diet. They are perfect for eating by themselves or mixing into granola, smoothies, atop cereal/oatmeal, or sneaking into recipes. Here’s the low-down on these superfood superstars (SOURCE: Superfoods, by David Wolfe):
– Goji berries are characterized as being an “adaptogen”, meaning it’s something that invigorates and strengthens the body’s system while helping the body to deal more easily with stress by supporting the adrenal glands.
- The main health benefit of goji berries is to nourish the body and support the body in healing itself by providing an insane amount of nutrients.
– ANTIOXIDANTS – GOJI BERRIES TYPICALLY CONTAIN 2-4 TIMES MORE ANTIOXIDANTS FOUND IN BLUEBERRIES!
- Did you know that goji berries are perhaps the most nutritionally rich berry-fruit on the planet?!
- The goji berry is nature’s richest food source of antioxidant carotenoids (such as beta carotene; carotenoids are natural fat-soluble antioxidant pigments). à The more carotenoids mammals eat, the longer they will typically live because the ability to fight aging and disease is greater.
- GOJI BERRIES CONTAIN MORE BETA-CAROTENE THAN CARROTS!!
– PROTEIN – GOJI BERRIES ARE A COMPLETE PROTEIN SOURCE!!!
- They also contain 19 different amino acids and all 8 essential amino acids (such as adrenal supporting phenylalanine and serotonin-building tryptophan).
– BRAIN HEALTH! Goji berries help our bodies produce choline, an essential nutrient that combats free-radical damage linked to neurological degeneration.
– HEART HEALTH – Goji berries have the ability to combat oxidized cholesterol, which is one of the greatest causes of heart disease. Our bodies have a built-in defense system (an enzyme called superoxide dismutase) to prevent cholesterol from oxidizing (caused by free-radicals) and attaching to artery walls forming plaques. Goji berries help increase the production of this heart-disease-fighting enzyme.
– EYE HEALTH – Goji berries contain perhaps the highest concentration of the eyesight-improving antioxidant zeaxanthin (helps heal the membranes of our eyes and also gives them luster) of any natural superfood or herbal product currently on the market.
– MINERALS – Goji berries can contain 21 or more trace minerals (the main ones being zinc, iron, copper, calcium, germanium, selenium, and phosphorus) as well as vitamins B1, B2, B6, and E.
- Some mature goji berries cam contain about 11 mg of blood-building iron per 100grams (2-3 handfuls) as well as beta-sitosterol (an anti-inflammatory agent), and linoleic acid (an essential fatty acid).
– Goji berries get two thumbs up in the sugar department – they contain long-chain sugars known as polysaccharides that fortify the immune system.
– In the Chinese medicinal system, the goji berry is known to cleanse the adrenals and kidneys, thus resulting in enhanced stamina, strength, longevity, and overall energy.
– IMMUNE SYSTEM – Goji berries are awesome at boosting the immune system.
– They increase alkalinity in the body (too much acidity can lead to health conditions like cancer and degenerative diseases, therefore we are always looking to eat more “alkaline” to restore balance).
– Goji berries provide liver protection, improve eyesight, and cleanse the blood.
– Eating goji berries helps deliver anti-aging compounds throughout the body, helping to maintain optimal health.
– IMPROVED DIGESTION – Goji berries appear to draw digestive juices into the stomach and intestines ,therefore helping with digestion.
Here are some healthy goji berry snack recipes for you to try (and kids will love):
2 cups dried goji berries blended in a high-speed blender like a Vitamix (or you can try a food processor)
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons raw honey
1 handful cacao nibs (or dark chocolate chips, if you prefer)
1 heaping teaspoon of chocolate powder (or you can use a protein powder or greens powder)
¼ cup almonds blended into a fine powder in a high-speed blender
Directions: Mix all of the ingredients with your hands into bite-sized balls. You can even dust them in dried coconut or crushed nuts (if no nut allergies exist)
White Chocolate Orange Goji Berry Fudge (Recipe by Ginger Robinson)
½ cup goji berries (this will be sticky, not a powder)
Blend until smooth:
½ cup melted cacao butter or dark chocolate chips
½ cup raw cashews
½ cup agave nectar (or molasses)
Blend in the ground gojis.
By hand, mix in whole:
½ cup cacao nibs or dark chocolate chips
½ cup whole goji berries
Zest from 1 orange (preferably organic; be sure to wash skin thoroughly first)
Spread in a glass pie plate (think chocolate almond bark). Chill in the freezer until firm and enjoy!
Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for goji berries next time you are in the store (if you aren’t already a goji berry connoisseur). Kids love to pronounce the name (and why wouldn’t they?!?). Give them a shot and I guarantee, your family will love them (although your budget might hate me…sorry!).