Benefits of Gogi Berries: Extend Your Lifespan and Stay Young. The Ningxia Hui region of Northern China, where these goji berries are grown, has 16 times as many centenarians — people over 100 years old — as the rest of the country combined. This small red berry, traditionally regarded as the longevity fruit, is a key ingredient in their diet.
Indeed, researchers who study medicinal plants have identified a variety of antioxidants in goji berries that may help people enjoy longer and healthier lives. Traditional Chinese folk medicine has used goji berries for centuries to cure a variety of ailments.
These berries are similar in size to a cranberry, though a bit lighter in color, and belong in the tomato family. The taste has been described as a cross between a cherry and a cranberry.
Antioxidants. The goji berry contains numerous antioxidant phytochemicals with potential health benefits. It is rich in the carotenoids: beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene.
Disease-Resisting Compounds. The benefits of goji berries include the ability to strengthen the immune system and enhance your body's ability to resist disease. This benefit is provided by unique carbohydrate compounds in the goji berry known as polysaccharides.
These polysaccharides have a chemical structure similar to substances found in echinacea and maitake mushrooms, herbs known for their ability to support a healthy immune system.
Vitamins and Minerals. Goji berries contain 18 amino acids, including the 8 essential amino acids; 21 trace minerals, including zinc, iron, calcium, selenium and phosphorus, and an array of B vitamins.
Other nutrients in goji berries include 5 unsaturated fatty acids, including linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid, 11 essential and 22 trace dietary minerals. They are also an excellent source of dietary fiber.
Ounce for ounce, the goji berry has more vitamin C than oranges, more beta carotene than carrots and more iron than steak. These berries are also a rich source of vitamin C and zinc, both of which are known to protect against disease and aid in recovery from illness. A 3-ounce serving of dried goji berries contains 1,600mg. of potassium — four times the potassium in bananas.
The ORAC Table. Sometimes, manufacturers will compare the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) capacity of goji berries to other antioxidant fruits. This test shows that one ounce of goji berry juice provides about ten times more capacity to absorb free radicals than one ounce of most other common fruits and vegetables.
The goji berry scores about equally well on the ORAC chart with acai berries, mangosteen and noni, three other superfruits discussed elsewhere on this website. However, the ORAC system doesn't measure fat-soluble antioxidants like the carotenoids, which the goji berry happens to be high in. For more information about the ORAC table, go to ORAC Values.
The goji berry is an adaptogen, a term used in the world of medicinal plants to describe any natural compound that increases the body's resistance to stress, trauma, anxiety and fatigue. The goji berry is believed to harmonize functions of the entire body, resulting in enhanced stamina, strength and energy.
Improved Physical Performance. The goji berry's properties as an adaptogen also allow these berries to enhance your health in the following ways:
Goji berries strengthen the adrenals, thymus, thyroid and pituitary — the glands that are responsible for generating energy, muscle growth and repair.
The polysaccharides (special carbohydrate compounds) in these berries help to reduce muscle soreness, and aid in the removal of lactic acid and other toxins that accumulate in muscles during exertion.
If you're like millions of other people who have difficulty losing weight, you probably engage in two common behaviors: You can't control your appetite — especially your cravings for sugary, starchy foods — and you don't have enough energy to exercise regularly. The nutrient-rich goji berry directly target these two weight-losing obstacles.
The Vicious Cycle of Cravings. High-calorie sugary and starchy foods tend to have little nutritional value. In addition, they trigger a reaction in your blood sugar that leads to uncontrollable cravings. The process works like this:
1. You eat a starchy food that quickly converts to blood sugar.
2. Your levels of blood sugar go up rapidly.
3. In response, your pancreas produces a burst of insulin.
4. Too much insulin, and your blood sugar levels crash.
5. Low blood sugar makes you crave more sugary, starchy foods.
6. Back to square one.
Goji Berries are Low on the Glycemic Index. The speed at which a food converts to blood sugar (glucose) is measured on a numerical scale known as the glycemic index (GI). The lower the glycemic index of a food, the more slowly it converts to blood sugar. Therefore, it's less likely to stimulate uncontrollable urges to eat more starchy food.
On the glycemic index, pure glucose gets assigned a value of 100. Foods rated below 55 are considered low-GI and are more likely to satisfy, rather than increase your appetite. Here's how the GI of the goji berry compares with some other common fruits:
Auto-Immune Disorders. Immune cells are like guards that constantly police our bodies, looking for harmful intruders, such as bacteria, viruses and carcinogens — and attacking any that they find.
Your immune system can malfunction in two different ways. If it's weakened, it can allow pathogens to attack, such as a cold virus. Or it can mistakenly identify healthy cells as invaders and attack these, essentially making the body turn on itself and triggering what is known as an auto-immune disease.
One in five Americans suffer from some type of auto-immune disease like allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's, type 1 diabetes, lupus, multiple sclerosis and psoriasis.
The goji berry helps the immune system to distinguish more effectively between friend and foe. The polysaccharides in this fruit provide cells with special sugars that support healthy immunity and enable cells to communicate more effectively with each other.
Promotes Friendly Intestinal Bacteria. These berries also support your immune system by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria, known as probiotics, in your gastrointestinal tract. Probiotics have numerous benefits, including:
Goji berries have traditionally been used as a therapy for allergies. Allergies occur as a result of a malfunction in the immune system, and can be triggered by many different substances in the environment, including food ingredients.
In Asian medicine, allergies are traditionally treated with remedies designed to balance the immune system, rather than suppressing symptoms with medications.
Chinese scientists have observed that the goji berry reduces antibodies that are generated in response to an allergen. In addition, these berries are believed to enhance normal function of the immune system, resulting in a reduction in allergy symptoms.
A healthy immune system has natural killer cells that are designed to destroy abnormal cells that can develop into cancerous ones. However, if the immune system is not able to do its job, it sets the stage for cancer growth.
The antioxidants in goji berries protect you against free radical attacks and gene mutations that lead to cancer. In addition, goji berries may also help with the side effects of chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer.
Health Benefits of Goji Berries: Improving Vision. The goji berry contains two key nutrients for healthy vision: the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. These are concentrated at the center of the retina and protect the eye from the most common causes of age-related eye problems, including macular degeneration, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy.
Health Benefits of Goji Berries: Controlling Cholesterol and Blood Pressure. The goji berry has the ability to combat two key factors that promote heart disease: oxidized cholesterol and elevated blood pressure. Cholesterol only becomes dangerous when it oxidizes as a result of free radical attacks, and the oxidized cholesterol then attaches to artery walls as plaque.
Your body has a built-in defense system against this happening, an enzyme called superoxide dismutase (SOD). SOD produces antioxidants to prevent cholesterol from oxidizing, but levels of SOD decline as we age. Chinese research shows that goji berries can increase your production of SOD. They also contain other antioxidants that decrease oxidation of cholesterol and help to control blood pressure.
See my article on What Causes Heart Disease for more information on the real cause of heart disease.
Health Benefits of Goji Berries: Regulate Blood Sugar. The goji berry has been used in Asia for the treatment of diabetes and to help regulate high blood sugar, which is a precursor to both diabetes and heart disease.
Health Benefits of Goji Berries: Strengthen Your Liver. Several types of phytonutrients in these berries enhance the ability of the liver to detoxify and guard against the organ being damaged by carcinogens and the hepatitis virus.
Health Benefits of Goji Berries: Aid Digestion. The goji berry is helpful for all types of digestive problems and can aid in recovery from digestive illnesses, such as ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome.
Health Benefits of Goji Berries: Younger-Looking Skin. The goji berry contains fatty acids, which can stimulate collagen production and retain moisture, resulting in younger-looking skin.
Health Benefits of Goji Berries: Support Brain Health. In addition to antioxidants that protect against free-radical damage to the brain, goji berries prevent the narrowing of the arteries that deliver oxygen and nutrients to brain cells. This fruit also helps your body produce choline, an essential nutrient that combats free radical damage linked to Alzheimer's disease. This combined effect supports healthy brain function.
Among the most popular goji berry products are dried berries and berry juices, which are frequently mixed with other fruit juices. Health food and specialty stores also sell teas, crunch bars and granola cereals, but these are not as nutritious as dried berries, powders or pure goji juice.
When it comes to selecting goji juice, here are some questions you need to answer to help you decide which product is best for you:
Does the company provide you complete information about their product?
Reputable manufacturers will disclose manufacturing details and ingredient information on the supplement's packaging or the company's website.
Are goji berries the primary ingredient? What percentage of the product do they make up?
Sometimes, companies will create a blend to make a product taste better; in this case, it should also be lower in price. Goji berries should still be the primary ingredient, however — that's what you're paying for.
More Information on Antioxidant Fruits
Go to these individual pages for detailed information
on the different antioxidant fruits:
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