Even though goji berries date back to the early days of Chinese medicine, people (including celebrities like Madonna and Miranda Kerr) can't seem to stop talking about this tiny scrunched up fruit.
"The sky is the limit when it comes to incorporating goji berries in your diet," says health and nutrition expert Rosanna Lee based in Toronto.
Considered both a fruit and a herb, goji berries are typically found in Asian and European countries, but sold in bulk or packages across North America. Although they are a bit pricey, Lee says they include a long list of benefits.
"Goji berries are an excellent source of antioxidants," she says, though she cautions against immediately believing all of the berries' health claims. Helping to reduce cancer risk and its "fountain of youth" claims, for example, aren't backed up by scientific research.
And these berries aren't for everyone either — anyone who uses blood thinners or takes diabetic medication may have a negative reaction eating goji berries, according to WebMD. When in doubt, ask your doctor first.
But if you're just looking for ways to eat a handful of berries here and there, you can make just about anything with them. Add goji berry powder when baking or soak them to blend in with a smoothie.
Here are 12 things you need to know about goji berries before you buy them:
What Are Goji Berries?
A raw goji berry is about the size of the tip of your pinky finger, if not smaller. However, these size berries are difficult to find in North America and are native to parts of Asia (usually in China) and Europe.
The Health Claims
Goji berries have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years, says health and nutrition expert Rosanna Lee.
Some even claim these berries are natural remedies for diabetes, hypertension, malaria or even fever. However, Lee says a lot of these claims may not be true. "At present, there is still inconclusive evidence from research for such claims to be made."
They Have Other Names
Sometimes goji berries are called wolf berries. They have also been referred to Chinese wolfberries and Tibetan goji.
Where Can I Buy Them?
Typically, goji berries are found in dried packages or sold by weight at bulk food stores, specialty food stores, herbal stores or at markets in Chinatown, for example.
What Do They Taste Like?
Goji berries have a natural tinge of sweetness with a very slight herb-like aftertaste. They also contain tiny seeds (which contain fibre) that add a nice texture to your meals.
How Do You Eat Them?
You can eat them raw or soak them in hot water before munching. Others prefer adding goji berries to trail mixes, smoothies or as a garnish on cereals, salads or yogurts. Basically, goji berries can be baked, cooked, steamed, and processed in any way after they are washed.
But They Can Be Expensive
A 500-gram bag of dried goji berries costs about $15 to $20 at most natural food stores and online. However, prices may vary depending on claims of whether they are organic, naturally sourced, or combined with other ingredients to make a unique trail mix, for example. Organic goji berries have been known to sell for $30 to $40, but you can buy the cheapest bags at local Asian stores.
Healthy, Glowing Skin?
Similar to the benefits you get from eating other berries, goji berries are loaded with beta-carotene (a pigment found in plants and fruits) which helps promote healthy skin.
Protect Your Health ... All Over Your Body
Goji berries have also been known to help boost the immune system and protect the eyes — talk about a super fruit. And like other berries, goji berries are also an excellent source of vitamin C and can reduce tough cold symptoms.
Packed With Antioxidants
Goji berries are an excellent source of antioxidants because of their oxygen radical absorbance cpacity (ORAC) value. An ORAC value indicates a food's antioxidant power on a relative scale, Lee says.
Yes, They Are Healthy
As a plus, goji berries are low in calories, fat-free and are packed with fibre — which also helps you manage weight and go the bathroom on a regular basis.