Are Goji Berries a ‘Superfood’?
Do you ever look at the ‘superfoods’ that have rapidly been appearing on our shop shelves?
Wondered why on Earth they’re so super?
Have you been drawn to try some but then balk at the cost?
Or actually bought some and wondered if they really have done you any good?
Well this is the first of a few blogs on ‘superfoods’, where I’ll reveal the myths and the truths behind superfoods. I hope to help direct you to buy the most beneficial foods to support your health and not throw your hard earned money away on useless products.
Today I’m starting with goji berries.
Because I was a victim of their hype a while ago – so much that I bought some wholesale online to save money – but miscalculated the quantity as they were sold in weight. Needless to say, 6 months later, I have probably, oh 10,000 berries to go 🙂
So Are Goji Berries A Superfood?
Goji berries come from an evergreen shrub grown in temperate and subtropical areas in China, Mongolia and the Tibetan Himalayas …sounding pretty super and exclusive so far ….
They’re sold dried and at a high expense.
They’ve been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for nearly 2,000 years, eaten by monks in the Himalayan Mountains, apparently steeped in hot water ( the berries that is not the monks) to help aid meditation and obtain greater health, vitality, longevity, energy and stamina. They’re also used to aid detoxification in the liver and kidneys.
So we’re a little behind over here in the UK on the meditation use! :)…
This century they appeared 1st in Asia and then the Western market; US and Europe. In the US alone the goji berry market is worth billions of dollars… yep BILLIONS
10 years ago goji berries appeared as ‘superfoods’ in the UK press and BBC reports as a ‘miracle fruit’ with celebrities endorsements.
Last year Japan and South Africa got into the act.
So What Is All The Fuss About with Goji Berries? Are Goji berries a Superfood?
Well goji berries ARE nutrient dense; with high levels of calcium, potassium, iron, selenium, Vitamin C and B2 (100g gives you 100% of your daily requirement of Vitamin B2) amongst others.
They’re low in calories, fat-free, a good source of fibre and are also a good source of protein.
They also contain carotenoids which are amongst those anti-oxidants we need especially if living in cities.
They’re also thought to boost the activity of major anti-oxidant enzymes such as glutathione peroxidase and super oxide dismutase, and so protect against oxidative damage which leads to disease and is a cofactor of aging.
These include beta carotene thought to help heart disease and that which gives the berries their rich pink colour, namely zeaxanthin, thought to act as an antioxidant in eye health. Content varies from berry to berry but goji berries can be one of the richest sources.
All good so far!
Goji berries have been mainly marketed as being exceptionally high in Vitamin C and protein.
However, compared to strawberries, citrus fruit, blackcurrants and even red peppers, they don’t hit the mark. They contain way less Vitamin C.
As well as high in protein they also are high in carbohydrate – sugar! Almost 3 times as much as protein.
There are also concerns over quality as the majority come from China – even ‘Tibetan’ or ‘Himalayan’ ones. China is known for not having stringent laws on pesticide use. Also no standardised organic certification exists in Asia so ‘organic’ may not even be so.
What about the science behind the power of goji berries as a ‘superfood’?
There’s no reliable scientific proven health benefit to whole goji berries, as many studies use purified concentrated extract of the fruit, so results are nowhere the same as snacking on a handful of berries. Then again there’s not much incentive to spend money on studying someone eating goji berries as no pharmaceutical company ( who mostly fund such studies) would make any money out of the outcome.
So tell me! Are Goji Berries A ‘Superfood’?
Let me let you into a secret: There’s no such thing as a ‘superfood’. That’s a marketing term made up to entice us to think certain foods be beneficial to our health; to think of them as a healthy quick fix…
Are goji berries better than snacking on a chocolate bar or bag of crisps – yes of course! And they work well as a pick me up snack with mixed nuts, sprinkled on your morning yogurt and thrown into green smoothies as an extra boost. Soaking them in water for a few hours plumps them up and makes them less chewy.
But be aware of their high sugar content and of how many you eat, especially if you have blood balance sugar issues.
They’re also expensive and so it’s prudent to know where they come from and what you’re buying, especially if they claim to be organic.
Check the packaging for their origin and try and avoid those from China.
Just don’t think that they’ll provide any more major health benefits than many other cheaper healthy foods, such as your everyday fruit and veg. They’re what should be called our true ‘superfoods’ 🙂
I hope this will help you to choose buying wisely. Look out for my next blog on another ‘superfood’.
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Photo: Thanks to Ricette Italla