By: Nutrition Expert- Vidula Kozarekar, Mumbai.
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“Goji berries contain many nutrients and bioactive compounds which allowed to classify them as Super-Fruits.”
Goji, also called wolfberry, has been used as traditional medicinal foods in China and other Asian countries for centuries. They are very hard, spiny, and shrubby vines in the tomato-nightshade family Solanacaea. Goji berry has different vernacular names; its most common name is wolfberry, which comes from “Gou” meaning wolf (1).
Traditional Use: (2)
- It is a 1-2 cm long berry, bright orange-red ellipsoid colour with a sweet and tangy flavour. After harvesting in late summer-early autumn, it is sun-dried as a dried fruit.
- Traditionally, dried Goji berries are cooked before they are consumed.
- They are commonly used in Chinese soups and as herbal tea.
- Moreover, Goji berries are used for the production of tincture, wine, and juice.
- Many pharmacological functions related to the eyes, kidney, and liver particularly have been promoted by the consumption of Goji berry in populations.
- One of the recommended therapies in the treatment of atrophic gastritis is to consume twice daily with 10 g Lycium fruits each time.
- Besides that, 15 g of Goji berries per day is considered beneficial to supply adequate zea-xanthin which is estimated at 3 mg/day as a dietary supplement for eye health.
Nutritional Content of Goji Berries: (3), (4)
- There are many bioactive compounds distinguished by high antioxidant potential in Goji berries.
- The nutrients in Goji berries are included 46% of carbohydrate, 16% of dietary fibre, 13% of protein, and 1.5% of fat. Thus, Goji berries can be an excellent source of macronutrients.
- Micronutrients which included minerals and vitamins can be found in Goji berries as well. There are studies that reported the presence of riboflavin, thiamine, nicotinic acid, and minerals such as copper, manganese, magnesium, and selenium in Goji berries.
- The high biological activity components in Goji berries are polysaccharides, carotenoids, and phenolics. These functional components are related with the health-promoting properties of Goji berries.
Health Benefits of Goji Berries: (5)
- Hypoglycaemic Effect
It was found in a study that all Goji preparations resulted in significantly decreased blood glucose levels, indicating that there was a substantial hypoglycaemic effect. Polysaccharides in the Goji Berries were major bioactive components in the hypoglycaemic effect.
- Lipid Lowering Properties
Polysaccharide fractions supplementation caused a decrease in total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol fraction and triglyceride concentration compared to control high-fat diet.
- Immuno-stimulatory and anti-cancer properties
Traditional Chinese medicine has utilized compounds present in Goji fruits to prevent the onset and progression of cancer. Goji also exhibits Immuno-stimulatory activity. It has been confirmed in many tests that compounds present in Goji berries have pro-apoptotic and anti-proliferative activity against cancer cells
- Protective property on Retina Cells
A protective property of Goji extracts on retina cells has been proved in the early stage of the degeneration of the retina. It is suggested that Goji extract containing taurine may inhibit the progress of diabetic retinopathy.
- Anti-oxidant Potential
Chemical analysis of Goji berry confirmed its high antioxidative activity. Based on the current analysis it was concluded that L. barbarum displays scavenging activity against free radicals (superoxide anion, hydroxyl radicals). Goji antioxidative activity is mainly attributed to carotenoid pigments, flavonoids, polysaccharide fraction and vitamin C.
How to consume Goji Berries?
- Eat them raw.
- Use them in cooking.
- Drink Goji fruit juice.
- Take a Goji supplement.
- Use them in an herbal tea.
Goji berry is well-known in traditional Chinese medicine and has been utilized as an important element of a health-promoting diet for hundreds of years. Recently, there has been rapidly growing attention surrounding wolfberries in the Western world. Health food stores provide a rich variety of Goji products, such as dried fruits, tea, beer, juice, sweets, muesli and supplements.
Goji is a safe food supplement, free from toxins; however, it can cause allergies; thus, the risks should be taken into consideration in individuals with food allergies.