Ever wonder if there are healthy snacks that taste great AND are a powerhouse of antioxidants? Enter the Goji berry, a small oblong shaped berry, generally sold dried or as juice in the US, with a taste that mimics raisins, but with a distinct, almost anise (licorice) background. Because they are dried, they last longer than some of our other favorite superfruits do, and can be mixed into delicious portable snacks, like trail mix.
Goji berries, or wolfberries, are mostly grown in China, but are also cultivated in Tibet and England. In China particularly, wolfberries have been eaten for years, and are used in traditional Chinese medicine, thanks to their high antioxidant content.
How great can it be, you may ask? Recent analyses show that Goji berries contain many vitamins, minerals, nutrients and antioxidants:
- 18 types of amino acids
- 29 fatty acids
- B Vitamins 1, 2, 5, 6 and E
- Beta carotene
- Vitamin C
- 29 trace minerals
How’s that for super? That nutritional rap sheet makes Goji berries one of the highest antioxidant charged fruits out there. These little berries have been shown in some studies to stop the growth of human leukemia cells and to protect against cellular damage. Apparently Chinese healers use the Goji berry to strengthen the immune system, power up circulation and protect the eyes, liver and kidneys.
Eat Goji, See Better
Eating goji berries, which are rich in the carotene zeaxanthin, promises that your eyes are better protected from age-related disorders, like cataracts or macular degeneration. This powerful antioxidant grabs onto free radicals that are formed by exposure to sunlight each day and won’t allow said free radicals to damage macular cells in the eye. Maintaining the daily recommended levels of zeaxanthin in your diet will cause it to build up in the macula and keep specific photoreceptors in the eye from dying out.
However, be aware that zeaxanthin is prominent in fresh or dried Goji berries. In fact, Goji berries tend to have the highest zeaxanthin concentration of any plant source. The daily recommended dose tops out at 4mg. A 1g serving of the berries serves up nearly 1.5mg of zeaxanthin. The juice, on the other hand, contains only traces of the antioxidant. So toss some Goji berries in your favorite trail mix. Or make your own with a combination of dried fruits like apricots, raisins, cranberries and Goji, and throw in a few almonds and sunflower seeds.
There are many studies out there that assert that antioxidants and minerals have a positive effect in the body, reducing free radicals in a number of body systems, and therefore also improving the immune system. They have a positive effect on skin cells, inhibiting skin aging and reducing the risk of cancer and other diseases, and they even lower cholesterol. Numerous studies have shown that the same effects are related to consumption of Gogi berries, and on all of these diseases as well.
Sounds like those ancient healers had the right ideawhen they began using the Gogi berry, more than 300 years ago. Time to jump on the antioxidant bandwagon with these healthy snacks!