Super Food: Are Goji Berries Good For You?

Super Food: Are Goji Berries Good For You?

Goji berries; for a minute there, it felt like you couldn’t move an inch without someone telling you they simply have to be part of your diet. Also known as wolfberries, they're a Chinese fruit with an impressively stacked nutritional profile. But its modern status as a trendy ‘superfood’ has obfuscated its true significance, culturally, historically, and even (potentially) medicinally.

Hundreds of years before food brands and nutritional gurus got their hands on them, wolfberries were highly prized. Indeed, they weren’t just championed for their rich, tangy sweetness; records show that Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners were extolling the medicinal virtues of this tiny red fruit from the 16th century.

If you didn’t know that, it’s not your fault - goji berries are buried beneath heaps of overblown buzzwords and marketing jargon. So that seemingly simple question becomes a surprisingly difficult one to answer. Are goji berries good for you? Yes, probably*. But maybe not. But they also might be better for you than you ever thought to imagine. It’s a complicated little berry. 

Goji berries are the real deal, at least we think, but we don’t expect you to take our word for it. So join us we dispel the cliches, demystify the myth and try and get to the bottom of why this unassuming Chinese super fruit holds so much cachet within the culinary universe.

What is the history of the goji berry? 


pile of goji berries


The unofficial history of the goji berry begins with a legend that stretches back some 2000 years. After spending time in a Chinese village, a doctor noticed the oldest residents all had something in common. They all lived closest to wells lined with goji berry trees, implying a link between the auspicious fruit and longevity.

While the story is unverifiable, it nonetheless gives insight into the cultural impact of the famed wolfberry in the country it comes from. The first recorded use of goji berries in medicine comes from the largest medicinal text in Chinese history, the 16th century Compendium of Materia Medica.

Utilised in TCM for its proposed ability to treat issues within the Zang-fu organ system, Chinese doctors have long been advocating for their potential power.

What does TCM say about goji berries? 

Goji berries Traditional Chinese Medicine layout

Goji berries has been a mainstay in TCM for a long time. Thought to tonify Liver and Kidney yin, they're used in formulations to treat a variety of issues.

These mixes seek to ameliorate lung issues, immunity system issues, and symptoms associated with poor Liver and Kidney qi respectively. Depleted Liver qi can result in joint pain, impotence, faintness, whereas weak kidney qi can cause blurry vision, fever, palpitations and anxiety*.

While its continued use in TCM suggests there might be something special going on there, it still doesn’t definitively answer the crucial question. To do that, we need to strip things back a bit, starting with a little clarification.

What exactly is a superfood? 

Row of superfoods

A superfood is a term used to describe nutritionally dense, low calorie foods that may also confer medicinal benefits. The definition of the word is loose and hard to pin down, and has no current basis in nutritional science. 

What it essentially does is lump a bunch of foods with exciting potential into one homogenous, albeit delicious, blob. Categorising foods in this way means that the individual characteristics of each are diluted when they should be celebrated in great detail.

This leads to a legion of people asking if wonderful fruits like the goji berry are good for you, and then finding that ‘it’s a superfood’ isn’t really an answer at all. 

So, are goji berries good for you? 

Well, the answer’s reasonably simple, and it all starts with what’s in a goji berry

What’s in goji berries? 

- Vitamin A

- Vitamin C

- Iron

- Potassium

- Dietary Fiber

- Lipids

- Antioxidants

So, goji berries are fibrous, nutritionally dense, rich in essential vitamins and packed with antioxidants. They're filled to the brim with stuff that in theory promotes good health*. 

What are antioxidants, and why are they important? 

Antioxidants are the combative chemicals responsible for keeping free radicals in check within the body. Free radicals are unstable atoms 'that seek other atoms of molecules to bond to.' If this happens enough, oxidative stress occurs. 

This process can harm cells within the body, which can lead to a number of worrisome diseases. Antioxidants are locked in a constant battle with free radicals to manage and limit their ability to cause oxidative. They're uniquely important, and goji berries have a tonne of them*.

So, goji berries are good for you, right? 

Want the simple answer? Goji berries are good for you*. Why? They’re packed with nutrients that are conducive to better overall health.

So for 99% of you, the answer is pretty simple; even if they didn’t taste heavenly we’d be urging you to incorporate them into your diet. That’s the no frills answer, but there’s an allure to wolfberries that can’t be explained merely by peering at what’s inside them. 

Maybe it’s the nutrients weaving their magic, maybe it’s successfully treating imbalanced qi in the ways TCM suggests. But maybe, just maybe, it’s something else entirely. Something that is, interestingly, extremely quantifiable by its nature. It’s time to explore the burgeoning world of… 

Do goji berries offer potential benefits*?

Goji berries in a heart shape

Protect against AMD (age-related macular degeneration)*

Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss for the older population; figures suggest that it affects over 150 million people across the globe. One study found that intake of goji berries five times a week ‘increased the density of protective pigments’ in subject’s eyes. Conversely, the fourteen participants that ingested a commercial supplement for eye health displayed no improvement.

Increase general well-being, neurological function and gastrointestinal performance*

A randomised, double-blind clinical study in 2008 explored the effects of daily goji juice. After fourteen days, an improvement in general wellbeing, neurological function and gastrointestinal performance was reported among test subjects. In short, it made people feel better, think better, and improved the ever-crucial digestion process. 

Blood glucose control*

One study researched the potential anti-diabetic applications of goji berries, discovering that mice suffering from type 2 diabetes displayed a 35% reduction in blood glucose levels after being treated with a goji berry extract for a month. 

Hypertension and cardiovascular benefits*

Hypertension is one of the most common medical conditions in the world; in the States alone, just under 50% of all adults suffer from high blood pressure. With the significant risks associated with prolonged, untreated high blood pressure - circulatory diseases, organ failure, vision issues - it’s important to keep it under control. This study suggests goji berries could provide a protective cardiovascular effect that helps reduce hypertension.

One last time... are goji berries good for you?


Goji berries became so intertwined with the confusingly broad tag of 'superfood' that it was hard to pinpoint what exactly is so special about this Chinese fruit. Stripping everything back, the answer seems pretty simple: yes, they very much seem to be good for you, at least from a nutritional standpoint*

But if there's anything we've learned about the goji berry, it's that it's far from simple, and to understand its enduring appeal, you have to be willing to look past its nutritional brilliance. 

Because that direction holds a multitude of possible answers; ones that draw on centuries of Chinese medicinal wisdom, and ones that propose miracles while still conforming to the metrics of modern day science. Not bad for a little red berry. 

Dried DaoDi Goji Berries

For our full range of culinary herbs, check this link

 *Vita Herbal Nutrition cannot guarantee the positive effects of its products. Results may vary. Our products are not designed to treat medical conditions or diseases, and have not been evaluated by food and drug administrations.

Older post Newer post

Leave a comment