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The convention on these sorts of articles is to dangle a question at the beginning, then slowly and intriguingly reveal the answer as the reader walks down through the copy. We’re not going go that route. Is Goji Berry Really a Superfruit?
Goji Berry Superfruit: Your Functional Food BFF
The Goji Berry (also known by its less playful taxonomy Lycium barbarum) has been an Asian traditional medicine staple for about 2,000 years—in other words, since long before the word ”wellness” began showing up all over the place.
Goji berries are the real thing. In the 21st century, science has delved into the pharmacological workings of the Goji berry and found much to admire. The news has spread, as these things will.
This news has turned Goji berries from an ancient Asian open secret, to a global plant-based nutrition rock star with commercial cultivations in Italy, Portugal, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Switzerland, Poland, and of course Lithuania. Whew!
Goji’s frequent flyer miles alone are impressive, never mind what Goji does to the human body (your body, that is). Hey, Italy’s Ministry of Health even added Goji to its official list of foods with antioxidant benefits. What else does this globe-hopping little berry do?
The World Embraces Goji Berry’s Nutritional Profile
Goji berries are a great source of dietary fiber and vitamin C, not to mention potassium, copper, manganese, iron, and zinc.
This much-used fruit has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, immuno-stimulating, anti-diabetic, neuroprotective, anti-cancer, prebiotic, and anti-obesogenic (anti-obesity) effects; all of which have been discussed at dry, clinical length across a bevy of peer-reviewed papers.
Goji Berry’s Antioxidant Awesomeness
Okay, let’s get this addressed right up front: black goji berries have stronger antioxidant properties than red goji berries.
Goji berries’ anti-oxidant mojo comes from the polysaccharides, carotenoids, flavonoids that stuff these things like candy in an anti-oxidant piñata.
The Goji berry goes to town on free radicals, preventing those electron-zombies from damaging your cells and generally wreaking cellular havoc.
Much of Goji’s antioxidant swagger comes from its carotenoid content — a pigment produced by the Goji plant for purposes of photosynthesis.
Carotenoid also offers protection for the plant from the bombardment of light that nourishes it— and plays a role in the plant’s cell-signaling.
Apart from these roles as antioxidant prizefighter and inter-cell communicator, carotenoid’s conversion to retinol makes it a valuable booster of the light-catalyzed chemical reactions that our vision so depends on.
Goji Berry’s Anti-Inflammatory Skills
So yes -- in controlled laboratory studies, Goji berry has been found to have potent anti-inflammatory properties, most particularly where liver health is concerned, and is being studied as one of several natural responses to alcohol-derived liver disease.
Goji Berry’s Anti-Microbial Madness
Research has shown that the yellow Goji berry in particular is the most effective anti-microbial, and made short work of three test bacteria allowed into the ring with yellow Goji; namely those familiar bacterial bullies K. pneumoniae, S. abony and P. Aeruginosa.
The yeast C. albicans was also pinned to the mat by yellow Goji—whose success at microbial cage-fighting (as molecular biologists no doubt call it) is attributed to its pigment’s high concentration of flavonoids, plant metabolites that also function in the human body as antioxidants and confer a number of other benefits.
Goji Berry’s Neuro-Protective Power
Researchers are avidly examining Goji’s anti-inflammatory role in parts of the brain where emotion-driven behaviors have their root. This part of the brain is called the lateral habenula, and it’s thought that mild inflammation of the nerve cells in that region may have a role in chronic depression. It may well be that Goji inhibits activation of these inflamed neurons, mellowing the depressive effect. Studies are ongoing but show promise.
Goji Berry’s Exotic Prebiotics
It’s no secret that our gut is a crowded metropolis of beneficial bacteria that mediate everything from our immune system to our happiness.
And you thought it was merely 15 feet of frightening, pulsating tubing down there.
Well, you weren’t wrong, but there’s much more to it than that.
The 100 trillion good guys who live and work in your sub-basement are alive and thriving and need constant feeding.
There was a man named Li Ching-Yuen who is reported to have lived to 252 years old. Reported by whom? The New York Times, for one. How’d he do it? Long hours of meditation, disciplined breathing — and he ate goji berries every day of his considerable life. He did break up the goji berry diet with “leaves and rice wine”.
Li is also said to have learned that the state of one’s mind — what we might call “attitude” today — has a huge role in a human life, in terms of both quality and quantity.
Hey -- that tie-dyed talk about a positive outlook actually affecting the daily deets for the better goes back that far? You betcha. Common sense has no sell-by date.
Look, goji is just a berry — an incredibly potent berry with a tool belt that'll get to work on your insides in a jiffy. A skip in your step, antioxidant swagger, and 252 birthdays. Can a strawberry offer that?!