This article takes a close look at the nutrition, benefits, and side effects of goji berries.
An overview of goji berries
Also called wolfberries, goji berries (Lycium barbarum) are native to Asia.
Known for their sweet, slightly sour flavor and vibrant red hue, they’ve been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years. In fact, they’re said to slow signs of aging, maintain eye health, and strengthen your liver, kidneys, and lungs (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source).
Thanks to their growing popularity, goji berries are also frequently featured in supplements and superfood blends alongside other fruits, herbs, and extracts.
Additionally, these berries are often found in dried or powdered forms and added to a variety of recipes.
Potential health benefits
Goji berries have been linked to several potential health benefits.
They’re a great source of nutrients, including vitamins and minerals. Just 5 tablespoons (28 grams) of dried goji berries pack:
As you can see, even a small serving of this fruit is loaded with fiber, iron, and vitamins A and C.
Iron is an essential mineral involved in oxygen transport and the production of healthy red blood cells. Meanwhile, both vitamins A and C play central roles in immune function and act as antioxidants in your body.
Antioxidants are compounds that help neutralize harmful molecules called free radicals, preventing cell damage.
In fact, one test-tube study found that treating cells with goji berry extract significantly increased antioxidant levels and reduced several markers of oxidative stress.
Research suggests that upping your intake of antioxidants reduces inflammation and protects against chronic conditions like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
May support immune function
Goji berries have long been used in traditional medicine to ward off illness and infection and naturally enhance immunity.
According to a 30-day study in 60 older adults, drinking 4 ounces (120 mL) of goji berry juice per day increased levels of immune cells and improved general feelings of well-being.
In a 3-month study in 150 older adults, goji berry supplements improved immune function in response to an influenza vaccine.
Animal research supports these immune-health findings.
Still, additional studies are needed.
May promote eye health
Promising research suggests that goji berries may enhance eye health and protect against disorders like macular degeneration, a progressive eye condition that can lead to vision loss.
A 90-day study in 150 older adults found that supplementing with goji berries increased blood antioxidant levels, prevented hypopigmentation of the macula (the central area of the retina), and helped soften fatty protein deposits under the retina.
Similarly, a study in 114 people with early macular degeneration showed that daily goji berry supplements improved the density of macular pigment, which may protect against the progression of macular degeneration.
Goji berries are also packed with antioxidants like zeaxanthin, which help protect your lenses and retinas against damage.
Most healthy adults can enjoy goji berries in moderation as part of a balanced diet.
However, these berries may trigger an allergic reaction in rare cases, especially in individuals who are allergic to other fruits.
Additionally, goji berries may interact with certain drugs, including blood thinners and medications for diabetes or high blood pressure.
What’s more, you should exercise caution if you’re pregnant, as they contain betaine, a compound that may harm fetal health. Further research is needed to determine whether goji berries are safe during pregnancy.
If you’re taking medications or have underlying health conditions, you may want to talk to your healthcare provider before adding goji berries to your diet.
How to add goji berries to your diet
Goji berries are widely available in dried form.
They can be easily swapped in for other dried fruits in cereal, yogurt, trail mix, and granola. You can also add them to baked goods like cookies, muffins, brownies, and breads.
To soften and rehydrate them, try soaking dried goji berries for a few minutes. Rehydrated goji berries make a great addition to salsas, smoothies, soups, and stir-fries.
Finally, goji berry powders and juice blends can be mixed into many drinks, shakes, and smoothies.