By Dr. Mary Jane Brown
Goji berries have gained popularity in recent years, often promoted as a "superfood."
They're thought to help prevent premature aging, boost the immune system, have benefits for diabetes and protect against heart disease and cancer (1).
But do they really live up to the hype? This article explores nine benefits of goji berries that are actually backed by science.
What Are Goji Berries?
Goji berries, scientifically known as Lycium barbarum, are also known as wolfberries, fructus lycii and gougizi. These dried red berries have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 2,000 years (2).
They have a sweet taste and can be eaten raw or consumed as a juice or herbal tea. They can also be taken as extracts, powders and tablets.
All dark blue or red berries, including goji berries, contain high levels of antioxidants, which may help protect the body against damage from free radicals.
What's unique about goji berries is that they contain specific antioxidants called Lycium barbarum polysaccharides, which are thought to provide a variety of impressive health benefits.
In addition, goji berries provide 11 essential amino acids—more than other common berries (3).
Read on for 9 evidence-based health benefits of goji berries.
1. Very Nutritious
The nutritional content of goji berries is thought to vary widely depending on the type, freshness and how they're processed.
As a rough guide, ¼ cup (85 grams) of dried goji berries has about (4):
- Calories: 70
- Sugar: 12 grams
- Protein: 9 grams
- Fiber: 6 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Vitamin A: 150 percent of the RDI
- Copper: 84 percent of the RDI
- Selenium: 75 percent of the RDI
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): 63 percent of the RDI
- Iron: 42 percent of the RDI
- Vitamin C: 27 percent of the RDI
- Potassium: 21 percent of the RDI
- Zinc: 15 percent of the RDI
- Thiamine: 9 percent of the RDI
In addition, they are packed full of powerful antioxidants, including carotenoids, lycopene, lutein and polysaccharides. In fact, polysaccharides make up 5–8 percent of dried goji berries (5).
By weight, these berries contain about as much vitamin C as fresh lemons and oranges (5).
For a fruit, goji berries are relatively high in protein and fiber, two nutrients that may help keep you fuller for longer.
Goji berries are also rich in copper, iron, selenium and zinc.
These minerals are essential to the function of all your organs, protecting your cells and helping optimize metabolism (8).
Summary: Goji berries are very nutritious. They are high in fiber, protein and a range of vitamins and minerals including iron, copper, selenium and vitamins A and C.
2. Excellent Source of Antioxidants
Antioxidants protect against free radicals, which are harmful molecules that can damage your cells.
Goji berries have a high oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) score of 3,290. This rating indicates the quantity of antioxidants in certain foods.
Keep in mind that ORAC values are determined in test-tube studies, so these fruits may not necessarily have the same effects in the human body. However, there is other evidence that goji berries can boost antioxidant levels in humans.
Antioxidant markers increased by more than 8 percent among 50 healthy adults who drank 4 ounces (120 ml) of concentrated goji berry juice a day, compared to those who did not drink the juice (10).
One study in healthy elderly men and women found that taking a milk-based goji berry drink daily for 90 days increased levels of the antioxidant zeaxanthin by 26 percent and increased overall antioxidant capacity by 57 percent (11).
This is good news, since antioxidants consumed through the diet are thought to be important for health and protection against chronic diseases (12).
Summary: Regularly consuming concentrated goji berry juice can boost antioxidant levels in the body.
3. May Have Anti-Aging Benefits
Some small studies have also shown that goji berry extract may help delay the aging process in cells.
One study in mice showed that goji berry extract inhibits glycation, a process that ages the skin (14).
Another test-tube study found that goji berry extract boosted DNA synthesis in certain cells, protecting them against aging caused by DNA damage (15).
Consuming a wide range of foods high in antioxidants is thought to help protect against premature aging.
These preliminary results are promising, but human studies are needed.
Summary: Goji berry extract has been shown to protect against cell damage in test-tube and animal studies. This may protect against premature aging, but more research is needed in humans.
4. May Help Prevent Cancer Growth
Goji berry extract has been linked to anti-cancer activity in both animal and human studies (16).
One study in rats found that a regular diet of goji berries inhibited the progression of cancerous tumors. Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, noni fruit and açaí berries were equally effective (19).
The potential tumor-inhibiting effects of goji berries are likely due to their ability to boost levels of antioxidants and reduce levels of inflammatory cytokines IL-5 and IL-8 in the blood (19).
A study in 79 people with advanced cancer found that those who were given immunotherapy plus concentrated goji extract experienced a 25 percent higher rate of cancer regression compared to those who received immunotherapy alone (20).
These anti-cancer effects are likely due to the antioxidants found in goji berries.
Nevertheless, keep in mind that most of these studies used only extracted and concentrated parts of the berries, not just goji berries alone.
Summary: Goji berry extract may inhibit or slow down the growth of cancer cells and may even actively destroy them.
5. May Improve Blood Sugar Control
One study gave goji berry polysaccharide extract to rats with type 2 diabetes for four weeks. The researchers found that blood glucose levels decreased in nearly 35 percent of the rats (23).
Another study found the same thing. Rats with type 2 diabetes that consumed goji berry extract daily for three weeks had lower blood sugar levels after eating, as well as increased insulin sensitivity (25).
These positive effects on blood sugar are strongly linked to the antioxidant activity of goji berry extract.
Studies in this area have shown that goji berry extract promotes insulin sensitivity by increasing the absorption of glucose into cells through the transporter molecule GLUT4 and by boosting insulin secretion by the pancreas (26).
However, these studies are limited to animals, so it's not clear if humans would experience the same positive effects. More research in humans is needed.
Summary: Test-tube and animal studies show that goji berry extract improves blood sugar control by increasing insulin sensitivity and insulin secretion by the pancreas.
6. May Boost Energy Levels
Consuming concentrated goji berry extract or juice has been linked to improved energy and feelings of overall well-being.
When mice were given goji berry extract, they adapted more quickly to particular exercises. They also showed improved performance and better recovery after an exercise test (27).
It's thought that goji berry extract could enhance the creation of muscle and liver glycogen, a storage form of glucose that helps you maintain physical activity.
It may also speed up the clearance of blood urea nitrogen, a waste product your body produces after strenuous exercise (27).
Similar results were found in humans. In one controlled study, 34 healthy men and women consumed 4 ounces (120 ml) of concentrated goji berry juice for 14 days.
As a result, they reported increased energy, better exercise performance, improved quality of sleep and reduced stress and fatigue compared to before they began consuming the juice. They also reported feeling happier and more content (28).
Summary: Regular consumption of goji berry extract may improve energy levels, exercise performance and overall feelings of well-being.
7. May Help You Lose Weight
Goji berries have certain properties that may make them weight loss friendly.
For example, they are high in fiber, which can help control blood sugar and appetite, helping you feel full for longer (29).
Goji berries also have a low glycemic index (GI).
The GI value for a particular food or drink indicates the effect it will have on your blood sugar levels once you eat it.
Because low-GI foods release sugar more slowly into the bloodstream, they're thought to help improve feelings of fullness and reduce cravings (30).
There is some evidence that goji berry juice may aid in weight loss by increasing metabolic rate.
One study found that when healthy overweight men and women consumed a single 4-ounce (120-ml) dose of concentrated goji berry juice, their ability to burn calories after one hour was 10 percent greater than in those who didn't consume the juice (31).
When participants consumed goji berry juice over 14 days, their waist circumference decreased by an average of 1.9 inches (4.7 cm) compared to the control group (31).
However, these studies are small and more research needs to be done to determine if consuming goji berry juice definitely results in weight loss.
Summary: Goji berries are low-GI and high in fiber, which can help with weight loss. Concentrated goji berry juice may promote weight loss through increased calorie burning.
8. May Improve Cholesterol Levels
Animal studies have shown that taking goji berry extract may have positive effects on cholesterol levels.
The authors of the study suggested the improved cholesterol levels were likely caused by the antioxidant polysaccharides and vitamins in the goji berry extract.
Summary: Animal studies have shown that goji berry extract may help lower total cholesterol and triglyceride levels and increase "good" HDL cholesterol.
9. May Help Boost the Immune System
Goji berry extract may help boost immune function (32).
One study in 60 healthy older adults found that taking 3.4 ounces (100 ml) of concentrated goji berry juice daily for 30 days led to improved immune function (33).
More specifically, it boosted lymphocytes, white blood cells responsible for protecting the body from harmful bacteria and viruses (33).
Summary: Goji berry extract may help boost the immune system by increasing the white blood cells responsible for protecting the body against harmful bacteria and viruses.
Are They Really as Healthy as People Say?
Goji berries are packed with many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
They're associated with many health benefits, including improving blood sugar control, helping with weight loss, fighting aging and protecting against cancer.
Nevertheless, more human studies are needed. Most of the benefits also seem associated with concentrated juice or purified extracts, both of which have higher levels of active compounds than you would get from fresh or dried goji berries.
In addition, goji berries and their products can be costly.
Overall, it makes sense to include them as part of an overall healthy diet involving a range of other fruits and vegetables.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
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Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.
How to Rock Your Walk<p>Walking isn't just fun and healthy. It's accessible.</p><p>"Walking is cheap," says Dr. John Paul H. Rue, a sports medicine doctor at <a href="https://mdmercy.com/" target="_blank">Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore</a>. "You can do it anywhere at any time; [it] requires little to no special equipment and has many of the same cardio benefits as running or other more intense workouts."</p><p>Want to up your walking game? Try the tips below.</p>
Use Hand Weights<p>Cardio and strength training can go hand-in-hand when you add weights to your walk.</p><p>A <a href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2019/03000/Associations_of_Resistance_Exercise_with.14.aspx" target="_blank">2019 study</a> found that weight training is good for your heart, and <a href="https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(17)30167-2/abstract" target="_blank">research</a> shows it reduces the risk of developing a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/nutrition-metabolism-disorders" target="_blank">metabolic disorder</a> by 17 percent. People with metabolic disorders have a higher chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.</p><p>Rue suggests not carrying weights for your entire walk.</p><p>"Hand weights can give you an added level of energy burning, but you have to be careful with these because carrying [them] over a long period of time or while walking could actually lead to some overuse injuries," he says.</p>
Make It a Circuit<p>As another option, consider doing a circuit. First, put a pair of dumbbells on your lawn or somewhere in your home. Walk around the block once, then stop and do some bicep curls and tricep lifts before walking around the block again.</p><p>Rue recommends <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/running-with-weights" target="_blank">avoiding ankle weights</a> during cardio workouts, as they force you to use your quadriceps rather than hamstrings. They can also cause muscle imbalance, according to the <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/wearable-weights-how-they-can-help-or-hurt" target="_blank">Harvard Health Letter</a>.</p>
Find a Fitness Trail<p>Strength training isn't limited to weights. You can get stronger by <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/bodyweight-workout" target="_blank">simply using your body</a>.</p><p>Often found at parks, fitness trails are obstacle courses with equipment for pullups, pushups, rowing, and stretches to build upper and lower body strength.</p><p>Try searching "fitness trails near me" online, checking out your local parks and recreation website, or calling the municipal office to <a href="https://calisthenics-parks.com/" target="_blank">find one</a>.</p>
Recruit a Friend<p>People who workout together stay healthy together.</p><p><a href="https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-017-0584-3" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that older adults who exercised with a group improved or maintained their functional health and enjoyed their lives more.</p><p>Enlist the help of a walking buddy with a regimen you aspire to have. If you don't know anyone in your area, apps like <a href="https://www.strava.com/" target="_blank">Strava</a> have social networking features so you can get support from fellow exercisers.</p>
Try Meditation<p>According to the <a href="https://www.nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/nhis/2017" target="_blank">2017 National Health Interview Survey</a>, published by the National Institutes of Health, meditation is on the rise, and for good reason.</p><p>Researchers <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29616846/" target="_blank">found</a> that mind-body relaxation practices can regulate inflammation, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/biological-rhythms" target="_blank">circadian rhythms</a>, and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/glucose" target="_blank">glucose</a> metabolism, as well as lower <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension" target="_blank">blood pressure</a>.</p><p>"Any form of exercise can be turned into a meditation of some type, either by the surroundings you are walking in, like a park or trail, or by blocking out the outside world with music on your headphones," Rue says.</p><p>You can also play a podcast or download an app like <a href="https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app" target="_blank">Headspace</a> that has a library of guided meditations to practice while you walk.</p>
Do Fartlek Walks<p>Typically used in running, fartlek intervals alternate periods of increased and decreased speed. These are <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-hiit" target="_blank">high-intensity interval training (HIIT)</a> workouts, which allow exercisers to accomplish more in less time.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154075" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that 10-minute interval training improved <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/metabolic-syndrome" target="_blank">cardiometabolic</a> health, or lowered the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, just as well as working out at a continuous pace for 50 minutes.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111489" target="_blank">Research</a> also shows that HIIT workouts increase muscle <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fast-twitch-muscles" target="_blank">oxidative</a> capacity, or the ability to use oxygen. To do a fartlek walk, try walking at an increased pace for 3 minutes, slow down for 2 minutes, and repeat.</p>
Gradually Increase Pace<p>A faster walking pace is associated with a lower risk of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/copd" target="_blank">chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)</a> and respiratory diseases, according to a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30303933/" target="_blank">2019 study</a>.</p><p>Still, it's best not to go from a stroll to an Olympic-worthy power walk in a day. Instead, increase your pace gradually to prevent injury.</p><p>"Start by walking at a brisk pace for about 10 minutes per day, 3 to 5 days per week," Rue says. "Once you've done this for a few weeks, increase your time by 5 to 10 minutes per day until you get to 30 minutes."</p>
Add Stairs<p>You've likely heard that taking the stairs instead of an elevator is a way to add more movement into your daily routine. It's also a way to step up your walking. Stair climbing has been shown to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335519301123?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">decrease the risk of mortality</a> and can easily add a bit more challenge to your walk.</p><p>If you don't have stairs in your home, you can often find them outside a local municipal building, train station, or at a high school stadium.</p>
Is Your Walk a True Cardio Workout?<p>Not all walks are equal. A walk that's too leisurely may not provide enough burn to qualify as cardio. To see if you're getting a good workout, try to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-check-heart-rate" target="_blank">measure your heart rate</a> using a monitor.</p><p>"A target goal for a good walking workout heart rate is about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate," Rue says, adding that maximum heart rate is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/fat-burning-heart-rate" target="_blank">typically calculated</a> by 220 beats per minute minus your age.</p><p>You can also monitor how easily you can carry on a conversation while you walk to gauge your heart rate.</p><p>"If you can walk and carry on a normal conversation, that's probably a lower intensity walk," says Rue. "If you are slightly breathless but can still have a conversation, that's probably a moderate workout. If you are out of breath and can't talk normally, that's a vigorous workout."</p>
Takeaway<p>By shaking up your routine, you can add excitement to your workout and reap even more rewards than a basic walk provides. Increasing the pace and intensity of a workout will make it more effective.</p><p>Simply pick your favorite variation to add some spice to your next walk.</p>
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