Goji Berries and Why to Use Them

Photo Credit: Allyson Kramer

Goji Berries are all the rage in the health-conscious food communities, with their tangy and sweet flavor and chewy texture. But, what exactly are these little red morsels--and more importantly: are they as good for you as many articles boasting their superfood status want us to believe?

Considering that goji berries are are simply dried berries, they are certainly good for you; but in this article we'll dig into their nutritional benefits a little deeper and compare them to another dried fruit, the common mulberry.

First, what is a goji berry?

Goji berries, also known as wolfberries, are the fruit of a deciduous perennial plant species called Lycium Barbarum, which is native to Asia. Goji berries have been enjoyed for centuries in Asian regions, but have only gained popularity in the West in the 21st century. Goji berries are related to the tomato, eggplant, and chili pepper and are therefore considered a nightshade. Even though gojis are typically eaten dried, the fresh berries are beautiful. The shiny red oblong globes ripen on the tree in the warmer months between July and October. In traditional Asian recipes, dried goji berries are often cooked before adding to recipes such as jellies and puddings. In the West, the berries are generally consumed dried, often chopped and added to recipes such as granola bars and chia puddings.

And the health benefits?

Rumor has it that goji berries earned their "superfood" title by association with Li Ching-Yuen, a controversial figure who is credited with an extremely long lifespan.

Reports claim that Ching-Yuen lived somewhere between 197 to 256 years! That's well beyond the recorded oldest age of 122 years, and Li Ching claimed that it was a combination of healthy mind, body and diet, which included goji berries, that led to such longevity. While these claims are unsubstantiated as no official records of his true birthdate have surfaced, the legend of the goji's health benefits still hold strong.

When you look at the data, goji berries do have a pretty impressive nutritional profile:

1 ounce of goji berries contains 3g Protein, 4g Sugar, 50% DV of Vitamin A, 9% Vitamin C, 3% Calcium, 14% Iron, and 23 Calories.

Let's see how this information compares to dried mulberries:

1 ounce of dried mulberries contains 3g Protein, 13g Sugar, 2% DV of Vitamin A, 130% of Vitamin C, 8% Calcium, 20% Iron and 90 Calories.

Even though mulberries may not be as popular, the dried mulberries are also quite nutritious. They are even higher in Calcium, Iron and Vitamin C than goji berries. Gojis come out ahead of mulberries in Calorie count, Vitamin A, and they are lower in sugar than dried mulberries.

With this information, it's safe to assume that goji berries may not be the stand-alone superfood that they are often assumed to be; however, goji berries, like most berries, are nutritional powerhouses. When enjoyed dried, gojis make an easy and irresistible snack if eaten alone or added to trail mixes or your favorite recipes. So go ahead, grab some gojis and enjoy!