Everything you need to know about goji fruits

Goji fruits are the natural source with the highest concentration of melatonin and have the third highest antioxidant capacity of dried berries. These antioxidants include zeaxanthin (which protects the eyes) and polysaccharides (which lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and skin aging).

Goji are sold and eaten in our country in dry form and are the fruits of two related plants: Lycium barbarum and Lycium chinense. Both belong to the Solanaceae family, which also includes tomatoes, aubergines, sweet and hot peppers, potatoes, tobacco and ornamental plants such as petunias or queen of the night. In contemporary times, these fruits are presented as a "superfood" due to their rich content of proteins, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, amino acids and melatonin. Today, the largest goji producers are China, the UK, Canada, the US and Australia.

Brief history of goji

Goji are a type of berries that have been part of traditional Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese medicine since the 3rd century d.Hr. Generations of Asians have consumed them with confidence, with people convinced that this way they will live longer or that they can treat health problems like diabetes, hypertension, fever and eye diseases that come with the age. Legend says that a few hundred years ago, a group of Buddhist monks in Tibet tasted some ripe fruits growing behind a fountain. Because they tasted good, they began to consume them daily and lived much longer than their convent colleagues, concluding that the colored fruits were the reason.

Types of goji

Lycium barbarum and Lycium chinense are tree species native to China; the first is now growing in Asia and SE Europe, and the second in China, Japan and the United Kingdom (where it has been naturalised in coastal areas). The fruits of these trees are "red-orange", ellipsoidal, 1-2 cm long and are full of seeds (similar to red peppers or mini-cherry tomatoes). These berries can be eaten fresh or dried (like raisins), in the form of juice, tea, wine, extract or dietary supplements (powder or capsules). They are carefully collected, then dried in the sun or by mechanical dehydration. Part of the same family as goji (Solanaceae) is the Lycium ruthenicum plant, whose fruits are called "black goji", although it belongs to another species: its fruits resemble olives when they are fresh and are usually eaten dried.

What do goji fruits taste like?

Freshly harvested fruits are slightly sweet, have a thin shell and small seeds, which do not affect the taste. After eating, a slight bitter taste remains in your mouth. Once dried, goji are bitter-sweet, leave a slightly bitter taste and have an interesting texture.

Nutritional information for goji (100 g)

The antioxidant activity present in 100 g of the product, in vitro (in the laboratory), is officially measured by the ORAC Scale (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity). According to it, dried goji fruits rank third in the list of what we commonly consider to be dried berries, after dried blueberries (Vaccinium myrtillus) – 48,320 and dried dracilla fruits (Berberis vulgaris) – 27,300, with an ORAC value of 4,310. Fresh goji fruit has an ORAC value of 3,290.

According to nutritionvalue.org, dried goji fruits contain:

Nutritional values:

  • calories: 349
  • carbohydrates: 77 g (28% of RDD)
  • fiber: 13 g (46% of RDD)
  • proteins: 14.2 g (29% of RDD)
  • total fats: 0,4 g (1% of RDD)
  • saturated fats: 0 g

Vitamins and minerals:

  • vitamin A: 26,822 IU (536% of RDD)
  • vitamin C: 48.4 mg (54% of RDD)
  • calcium: 190 mg (15% of RDD)
  • iron: 6.8 mg (38% of RDD)
  • sodium: 298 mg (13% of RDD)
RDD: recommended daily dose

Benefits and properties

The components with intense biological activity in goji are Lycium barbarum polysaccharides (LBPs), carotenoids and phenols, which are the main antioxidants that give them beneficial properties when it comes to human health. In addition, these dried fruits contain 17 amino acids (including 8 of the 9 essential amino acids), many more than other berries. However, it should be said that specialized research related to goji was done mainly on animals or in the laboratory, so additional clinical trials on people are needed to draw clear conclusions. Below we reviewed the properties and benefits that come with goji fruits – discover them too!

Goji are rich in antioxidants

Antioxidant substances in goji include: vitamins A and C, carotenoids (zeaxanthin, betacarotene), Lycium barbarum polysaccharides and phenolic compounds (flavonoids, chlorogenic acid, routine). They protect the body from free radicals and oxidative stress, which produce early aging and can promote the development of chronic diseases. Goji can increase the antioxidant level in the human body if administered as a drink, indicates studies from 2009 and 2011.

Goji can fight cancer

Vitamin C, zeaxanthin and carotenoids all fight cancer: slow tumor progression, reduce inflammation, fight cancer cells. Laboratory studies on humans and animals have linked goji extract, regular consumption of these dried fruits to anti-cancer activity (1994, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2010, 2014).

Goji can protect the heart

Animal studies show that goji extract can have a positive effect on cholesterol and triglyceride levels (2004), thanks to antioxidant polysaccharides and vitamins in it. Other research concluded that LBPs reduce myocardial deterioration (2010) and hypertension (1998).

Goji can stabilize blood sugar

Eating goji can also help diabetes patients. Specialized laboratory analyses, on humans and animals, indicate that goji fruits and their extract can balance and control insulin and blood sugar, reduce total cholesterol and triglycerides and increase the level of "good"/HDL cholesterol in the case of type 2 diabetes (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2013 and 2015).

Goji keeps your liver healthy

Studies in 2015 indicate that these dried fruits can help to manage liver health, prevent the advance of alcoholic liver disease, but also tumor growth in this organ.

Goji have neuroprotective effect

Also your brain can benefit from regular goji consumption: treatment with LBPs can protect against stroke (2012), juice and extract increase brain performance and mental acuity, improve depressive and anxious behaviors, increase calm and contentment, reduce stress (2008, 2016).

Goji helps you sleep better

Melatonin is the hormone secreted at night by the pineal gland in the center of our brain, which regulates our circadian rhythm and helps us fall asleep. Melatonin supplements are administered to prevent or reduce symptoms related to the time difference (so-called "jet lag"). This hormone is not only produced in the human body, it is also naturally present in some plants – as is the case with goji fruits. These are the largest natural source of melatonin: 15 mcg/1 serving of 28 g! Therefore, a hand full of goji consumed 30-45 minutes before bedtime can give Santa Sleep a helping hand. The 2008 research mentioned above also found a positive link between goji juice and improved sleep quality.

Goji supports the immune system

Vitamins A and C are vital for strong immunity, and animal studies show that goji fruits increase the effectiveness of the flu vaccine (2014), that concentrated extract and juice can boost immune function by increasing the number of lymphocytes – the cells responsible for protecting the body from bacteria and viruses (2000, 2008, 2009).

Goji can keep skin healthy

The betacarotene content in goji contributes to skin health, reduces irritation, combats the negative effects of sunlight and reduces the impact of aging on the skin (notes research from 2010 and 2003 – 1 and 2).

Goji can protect the eyes

The same antioxidants (especially zeaxanthin, which gives them intense color) can help you to combat degenerative eye diseases: they fight against the effects of UV rays and free radicals, reduce hypopigmentation and yellow deposits in the eye, protect the retina from the cells responsible for glaucoma (2011 and 2014). LBPs also protect the eye nerves (2011, 2012).

Goji increases energy level and athletic performance

These dried berries bring you a lot of energy in a small portion, being rich in fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. Consumption of concentrated goji extract or juice can increase your energy level, athletic performance and increase the production of muscle and glycogen in the liver – a form of glucose that helps with physical activity (2000, 2008).

Goji can increase fertility

These berries have been used since ancient times to increase fertility and a 2011 study (on animals) shows that goji LBPs can increase sperm quantity and motility, improve sexual performance and testosterone levels.

Contraindications and adverse effects

Goji fruits can be eaten safely with moderation. But it should be borne in mind that some people may be allergic, and goji may interfere with certain medications (for diabetes, anticoagulants or blood pressure), so always seek medical advice! The same advice applies to pregnant or lactating women.

Too much goji consumption can lead to toxicity speaking of the amount of Vitamin A ingested. But also at too much calorie intake, carbohydrates and fiber; the latter can, in excess, cause bloating, constipation, diarrhea and abdominal cramps.

Administration mode

The recommended daily dose of goji is:

  • 25 g/day in the case of dried fruit;
  • 20 ml 1/2 times/day in the case of juice (administered diluted or as such);
  • 1-2 capsules/day, in the case of food supplements in capsule form;
  • 6-18 g/day in the case of powdered dietary supplements.

Storage and administration mode

Fresh, goji lasts a few days in the fridge. Dry, you can store them for up to 1 year: store them in the refrigerator to extend their consumption time. A general rule of incorporation of these dried fruits into your diet is to use them as raisins: moisturize them in lukewarm water for 5-10 minutes, then add them to yogurt or whole grains with milk (for breakfast), eat them as a snack between meals (mixed with seeds, nuts and other dried fruits), sprinkle them in salads, incorporate them into sweet recipes (smoothies, muffins, cakes, anniversary cakes, checks) or salty (bread, soups, stews, Asian dishes).

You can also make goji tea: pour hot water over 2 teaspoons of fruit or a mixture of fruit and goji leaves, cover the cup with a plate and leave the tea to infuse for 10 minutes; in the end, you can consume the hydrated fruits that remain at the bottom of the pot.

Did you know that...?

  • Goji fruits are also called "wolfberries" and in Chinese medicine they are also called "Fructus Lycii" or "Gou Qi Zi".
  • A freshly picked goji fruit is, on average, the size of the tip of your little finger.
  • Dried goji fruits are quite expensive.

Beneficial effects of goji

  • antioxidant
  • vitaminizing
  • hypoglycaemic
  • hypolipidic
  • neuroprotective
  • anticancer
  • energizing
  • immunostimulator
  • normalizes cholesterol
  • normalizes triglycerides
  • helps to lose weight
  • protects the liver
  • protects the eyes
  • protects the skin
  • increases male fertility.

Adverse effects / Goji contraindications

  • People suffering from certain diseases or taking medication, pregnant or nursing women should seek medical advice before consuming goji!
  • Do not consume more than 5 tablespoons of goji per day (28 g), because you will exceed the recommended daily dose of Vitamin A!
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