4 Health benefits of Goji berries

Lycium is a shrub from the large Solanaceae family. It is known for its fruit, the emblem of superfruits: Goji berries. Goji berries are bright red and their flavor is sweet and tart.

To a European or American eye, they seem new. However, they have been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine to protect the liver and the immune system.

The berries can be eaten fresh, in juice or even dried, which is the main way of eating them in Western countries. Studies have reported a high presence of vitamin C, iron and protein in dried Goji berries.

4 Health benefits of Goji berries

However, if we had to remember only one thing about Goji berries, it would be their polysaccharide content, which has been widely studied for their therapeutic benefits.

This has even led them to be isolated in order to produce treatments for various symptoms or pathologies. This article therefore covers all current knowledge related to the real benefits of Goji berries.

Latin name: Lycium Barbarum L.

Botanical family: Solanaceae.

Part used: Fruit.

Benefits of Goji berries

1. To fight against oxidative stress

Goji berries help fight oxidative stress. The latter is an imbalance between pro-oxidant and antioxidant molecules. It induces oxidative damage to cells and is one of the main causes of diseases linked to cell aging (neurodegenerative, cardiovascular, and cancer). The modern diet is too low in antioxidants, so it is essential to increase your intake.

In this context, the ORAC index of Goji berries (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity = Absorption Capacity of Oxygen Radicals), which evaluates the antioxidant capacities of a food, is 3290. This means that the berries of Goji have a high antioxidant capacity (3,000–10,000).

These antioxidant benefits are promoted by the polysaccharides that goji berries contain. Indeed, the latter are considered very interesting antioxidant molecules, to the point that these polysaccharides have been isolated to produce certain treatments.

Advice from the dietician-nutritionist:

Encourage the intake of foods rich in antioxidants such as spices (turmeric, cumin, curry, ginger, and oregano) and aromatics (thyme, cloves, and basil). Indeed, like any other food, goji berries alone are not enough to effectively combat oxidative stress.

Increase consumption of “colored” fruits and vegetables. Indeed, the pigments giving color to fruits and vegetables are antioxidants, so it is wise to include them with each meal.

Consume a handful of goji berries per day, which corresponds to approximately 30 g. It is nevertheless wise to remember that a food consumed alone cannot fight effectively against oxidative stress. It is therefore important to vary your sources of antioxidants to optimize their intake.

2. For vegetarians and vegans

Goji berries can be useful as part of a vegetarian or vegan diet. Indeed, the latter are composed of a fairly interesting quantity of proteins and iron, two nutrients that are generally found in lower quantity and quality in foods of plant origin .

Plant proteins regularly contain limiting factors in protein synthesis; that is, they contain one or more amino acids in insufficient quantity or even absent. This compromises the synthesis of the protein, limiting its use in the body.

As part of Goji berries, they contain 18 of the 20 amino acids essential for protein synthesis. In this sense, Goji berry proteins seem to present two limiting factors (asparagine and glutamine), but they contain proteins in good quantities, which can justify their consumption . In fact, 30 g of berries (a handful) contains 3 g of protein.

In addition, they contain a fairly interesting iron content, and its assimilation is favored by the presence of vitamin C, which they possess. In general, non-heme iron (of plant origin) is very poorly assimilated, unlike heme iron (of animal origin).

However, vitamin C can help with iron assimilation. In this sense, the iron in Goji berries can be more assimilated than its plant counterparts since the latter are also rich in vitamin C , which promotes the absorption of non-heme iron .

Advice from the dietician-nutritionist:

Understand the principle of complementarity between proteins , which consists of combining certain foods rich in proteins but containing limiting factors. For example, a food with lysine as a limiting factor should be combined with a food rich in lysine in the same meal or on the same day. The best-known complementarity is the cereal-legume pair.

Promote the intake of foods rich in iron, such as legumes and leafy vegetables (particularly spinach), in the case of a vegetarian or vegan diet. Indeed, an iron deficit or deficiency can cause intense fatigue or even iron deficiency anemia.

Consume a handful of Goji berries per day , which corresponds to approximately 30 g, to promote protein intake .

Supplement with vitamin B12 if you are vegan or if your consumption of animal products is low . In fact, this vitamin is only found in animals (except certain algae, even if the latter often contain too little). A vitamin B12 deficiency can therefore cause neurological disorders as well as Biermer anemia (anemia, diarrhea, anorexia, and neurological manifestations).

3. To help prevent cardiovascular disease

Goji berries have been studied for their potential role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.

Indeed, they would improve the blood lipid profile, which includes the levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol (Low Density Lipoprotein = Low Density Lipoprotein), “good” HDL cholesterol (High Density Lipoprotein = High Density Lipoprotein) , triglycerides and total cholesterol.

A disrupted lipid profile over the long term is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease . The latter are regularly found in type II diabetics, since the majority have a disturbed lipid profile and are overweight or obese.

In this context, a study showed that a Goji berry extract helped improve the lipid profile (reduction in serum levels of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol) in certain diabetics.

It seems that this was possible thanks to the polysaccharides present in Goji berries. However, the mechanism of action is currently unknown.

Thus, Goji berries can be included in a balanced and varied diet to improve a disturbed lipid profile and, therefore, partially prevent cardiovascular diseases.

Advice from the dietician-nutritionist:

Favor oils rich in omega-3 to balance the omega-6 / omega-3 ratio : flax vegetable oil , walnut vegetable oil , camelina vegetable oil , Perilla vegetable oil , rapeseed oil, etc.

Indeed, omega-6 intakes are very high in modern diets, despite omega-3 intakes. A balanced omega-6/omega-3 ratio promotes a good-quality blood lipid profile.

Limit the consumption of meals that are too large and too fatty because these promote a disruption of the blood lipid profile . It remains obvious and important to want to treat yourself from time to time, but it is recommended to limit these excesses.

Favor the consumption of fatty fish (tuna, mackerel, sardines, and herring) and oilseeds for their richness in omega-3, compared to red meats, which tend to provide saturated fatty acids.

4. To help prevent cancer

Goji berries could help prevent cancer . Indeed, they contain polysaccharides recognized for their interesting antioxidant roles. Antioxidants help fight oxidative stress, which is one of the main causes of cancer.

One study evaluated the impact of a Goji berry extract on the viability and proliferation of NK-92 cells in human colon cancer cells. These NK cells are considered our natural killer cells and are the body’s first line of defense against cancer.

This extract was reported to significantly increase NK cell proliferation but had no impact on NK viability. This means that the extract of 25 g of goji berries increased the multiplication of NK cells in 48 hours and significantly improved their ability to recognize and eliminate colon cancer cells.

Thus, goji berries could constitute an interesting support for a balanced, varied diet rich in antioxidants in order to prevent cancer. Indeed, they cannot alone prevent cancer since the latter has very variable factors.

Advice from the dietician-nutritionist:

A diet to prevent cancer focuses on a balanced and varied diet composed of sufficient proteins, good fats, fiber, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. Goji berries can therefore be consumed to support this diet, thanks to their nutritional contributions.

Promote a diet rich in antioxidants every day. Indeed, antioxidants are the main molecules capable of helping antioxidant enzymes fight against oxidative stress, which can induce the formation of cancer.

Do not hesitate to add spices (turmeric, cumin, garlic, etc.) and herbs (thyme, bay leaf, etc.) to each meal because the latter are the main sources of antioxidants.

Favor the consumption of “colored” and seasonal fruits and vegetables. Indeed, the pigments giving color to fruits and vegetables are antioxidants.

For this, it is recommended to consume 2 fruits per day (breakfast, at the end of a meal, as a snack, etc.) as well as vegetables at each meal. Furthermore, generally speaking, it is recommended to eat 5 servings (80–100 g per serving) of fruits and vegetables per day.

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