Native to China, goji berries have been used for traditional medicine and in local cuisine for over two thousand years. Inundated with nutrients, they are quickly gaining popularity in the United States for their many health benefits. Their scientific name is Lycium barbarum, and they belong to the nightshade family of fruits and vegetables. These small berries have a delightful taste best described as a cross between a cranberry and a cherry. China has long been the leading exporter of the berry, but due to rising interest, the United States has begun growing them. Goji berries are most often sold dried, similar to raisins, and can also be found in yogurts, teas, granola bars, and assorted dietary supplements. Get to know their significant health benefits now.
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Helps Control Blood Sugar
The polysaccharides in goji berries help control blood sugar in patients with Type 2 diabetes by reducing cell resistance to insulin and enlarging glucose transporters in the cell membrane, which takes the sugar out of the blood and into the cell to be used for energy. Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is important to cellular function, as low blood sugar can cause hypoglycemia and can result in shaking, sweating profusely, tunnel vision, or even fainting.
Over time, high blood sugar can damage nerves, blood vessels, and organs. Since the carbohydrates in goji berries are complex, blood sugar levels rise slowly, which prevents sugar spiking and crashing. During lab tests, diets that included goji berries showed overall lower blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.
Goji berries are essential in antioxidant support. Antioxidants combat free radicals in the body, which are unstable molecules with unpaired electrons that roam around in the body searching for electrons from the body’s cells with which to pair. Once these free radicals pair up, they either donate an electron or steal an electron from the body’s molecule, beginning a chain reaction of oxidation to the cells and ultimately to the body. Like the browning of an apple or the rust on iron, cells begin to die prematurely. The antioxidants in goji berries like vitamin A, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin balance the unstable molecules by bonding to them, preventing free radical damage from the beginning.
With the myriad of vitamin, minerals, and antioxidants packed in goji berries, it is easy to see how they contain anti-aging properties. This does not include the eight essential amino acids and unsaturated fats they carry. Vitamin A, abundant in the berry, is often used in topical skin creams for fine lines and wrinkles. Vitamins C and E help strengthen and firm the skin. Amino acids aid in collagen production, which is essential for healthy, younger-looking skin, joints, hair, and nails, as well as muscle repair. Collagen is the single most bountiful protein throughout the body, but the body slows collagen production around age twenty. An intake of amino acids supporting collagen production can result in a younger-looking and younger-feeling body.
Boosts Energy Levels
Goji berries are well-balanced with fat, protein, and complex carbohydrates. They also quickly boost energy levels. One serving of goji berries, roughly equal to a quarter cup, has about 2.8 grams of unsaturated fat, thirty-eight grams of complex carbohydrates, and eight grams of protein. Complex carbohydrates administer energy to the body slower so it lasts longer. Equalizing carbohydrates with protein and healthy fat helps keep the body satiated and maintains endurance levels.
Studies have shown individuals who include goji berries in their diets report consistently higher energy levels and higher athletic performance. Those same individuals also reported less stress and fatigue, better digestion, and better sleep quality, which can also contribute to higher energy levels. With their countless phytonutrients, goji berries are a healthy alternative to other quick, synthetic energy sources.