Lycium Genus is the scientific name of goji berries, but that’s not the reason why you came here, right? You came here in order to know why are they so popular these days, what is all the fuss about. What do they taste like? What can you use them for? What are the main benefits of Goji Berries and what are the substances that provide these amazing health benefits? Well, dear readers, today is your lucky day. Throughout the next paragraphs, I will answer to all of these questions and provide you with some relevant information about or red, Asian friend, Lycium Genus.
What are Goji Berries?
Well, they are a type of berry. Duh. All jokes aside, these orange/red circular berries have been used as a common method of healing and even considered a medicine in Eastern countries, mainly in China, where it’s originally from. Chinese cultures consider it part of their traditional medicinal herbs and an important source of nutrient supplements. In this regard, both the berry and the bark have been used as medicinal sources, even making it all the way to traditional Chinese medicine patents. In this region, people even consume the leaves as vegetables.
The main reason these berries have been increasing with popularity it because now all of the Asian knowledge has started to leak out to the Western civilization, making it available to more people to thrive on its power for increasing overall health and working as a powerful antioxidant, filled with anti-aging compounds.
Taste, main uses, and presentations
Goji berries come in different presentations: Juice, infusions, wine or dried. The most common one is the sun-dried presentation, which is the way they are mostly seen in western countries. Most of these presentations have an acidic and sweet taste, which reminds me of dried cranberries, but a little bit more bitter. In regard to its uses, Goji Berries can be added to most preps by just by adding some chopped sun-dried ones or by using the wine for cooking.
They can be also consumed as a snack or added to a morning cereal breakfast. Of course, the juice can be mixed with most other preparations, and the infusions can be drunk directly by adding hot water. My personal use is adding them to my morning porridge or having them as a post workout snack together with some whole-wheat cereal.
Taste: Sweet and bitter, with an acidic touch
Uses: As an ingredient in cooking, as a snack or as a beverage
Presentation: Wine, juice, sun-dried or as wine
What are the health benefits of Goji Berries?
This is the most exciting part. Goji Berries are really an amazing product of nature. They are well known by the Asian culture for their benefits to improve eyesight, liver and kidney functions. Recently it has been discovered that they are powerful immunoregulators, pack great antitumoral activity, provide anti-aging and antioxidant substances, may help regulate blood glucose and even have neuro protective characteristics. Having said that, there are also reports that they are therapeutic remedies to some chronic diseases such as diabetes.
- Liver protection
- Eye-health promotion
- Antioxidant and anti-aging
- Prevention of atherosclerosis
- Prevention & treatment of diabetes
Which are the substances that provide these health benefits?
Among the chemical constituents of these berries, we can find polysaccharides, glycerogalactolypids, phenylpropanoids, coumarins, lignans, flavonoids, amides, alkaloids, anthraquinones, organic acids, terpenoids, sterols, and steroids. Yes, these guys are packed with a lot of boring but really healthy stuff, mainly antioxidants and bioactive compounds. For the sake of your minds (and mine as well), I will only elaborate on three of the most important groups, making this article “user-friendly”: polyphenolic compounds, polysaccharides, and carotenoids.
These compounds are basically the main group that provides the anti-aging and anti-inflammatory characteristics to the Goji Berries, being present mainly in the form of amides and glycosides. By being able to expose their flavonoid fraction, researchers could be able to account these compounds of having a great role in supporting most of the important health benefits presented by them.
Mainly present in only up to 8% of the dried berry, these guys are well-known substances that provide minor health benefits to the body but account for the major fiber intake and the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Let’s say that they are the most “boring” of the three, but also really important in regards to gastrointestinal health.
These compounds are the ones responsible for the berries color, and also for a high number of health benefits. By being present in the form of xanthophylls and carotenes, such as preventing eye disease, maintaining bone health, searching and destroying oxygen free radicals (preventing cell damage). In the same regard, lutein and zeaxanthin are responsible for the antihepatotoxic benefits of the Goji Berries.
After having seen all the information above, are you really going to question if Goji Berries are good for you? Now you have all the tools you need to make an informed decision next time you see them in the grocery shop or in some internet/tv ad. I personally consider them to be an amazing superfood and use them regularly.