Welcome to the Running on Real Food Superfood Series! An ongoing series all about my favourite and some of the most potent superfood ingredients. This superfood series post features the nutritional little powerhouse, the goji berry! Goji berries are chock full of nutrients, taste amazing and are not only make a delicous, healthy snack but are the perfect addition to these addictive Vanilla Goji Berry Balls.
What Are Goji Berries
Considered both a fruit and a herb, goji berries or sometimes called wolfberries or the Tibetan goji, have long been enjoyed in China and the Himilayas for their sweet taste and medicinal properties. A raw or dried goji berry is a little smaller than a raisin or cranberry. They’ve been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years and Tibetan Medicine includes these berries in the treatment of everything from kidney and liver problems, to lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, treat psoriasis, depression, allergies and even insomnia.
What Do Goji Berries Taste Like
The flavour of goji berries lands somewhere between a cranberry and a cherry. They’re a little tart, slightly sweet, have a dry, chewy texture and tiny seeds. I love the sweet and tart flavour and enjoy them on their own or in salads, smoothies, homemade trail mix, added to baking or used in raw food recipes.
Goji Berry Nutrition Facts
Dried goji berries contain over 20 different vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals as well as a whack of antioxidants. The nutrition facts can vary slightly depending on freshness and how they’re processed but 1/4 cup of goji berries has about:
- 100 calories
- 0 grams fat
- 3 grams fiber
- 13 grams sugar
- 4 grams protein
- 140% RDA vitamin A
- 15 times more iron than spinach
- weight for weight, 500 times more vitamin C than oranges
- 100% RDA vitamin B2
- 18 amino acids (11 of which are essential)
- trace minerals zinc, calcium, phoshorus, selenium
- ounce for ounce, more betocarotene than carrots
The goji berry has a ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) of 3290. ORAC measures the antioxidant value of various foods. Goji berries fall slightly lower than blueberries and pomegranate but higher than apples and raisins. Goji berries stand apart however in that they contain 18 amino acids, 11 of which are “essential” and the body can’t make on it’s own.
It’s important to eat a wide range of foods with a high ORAC value not only for their ability to fight free radicals in the body, but for their other important nutritional properties as well. The key is to eat the rainbow on a daily basis!
Top Health Benefits Of Goji Berries
1. Boost Immunity and Fight Cancer
Thanks to their high levels of antioxidants and nutrients, goji berries help boost the immune system and reduce inflammation in the body. Goji berries contain high levels of vitamin C and vitamin A, two key nutrients to building immunity and fighting disease. The polyphenols found in goji berries could help protect against the development of cancer. These antioxidants diminish and repair cell damage caused from inflammation and oxidative stress.
2. Promote Healthy Skin
High levels of betacarotene help promote healthy skin and help protect against skin cancer by preventing the oxidative damage cause by UV radiation.
3. Promote Healthy Eyes
With their high levels of antioxidants such as zeaxanthin, goji berries can help stop damage from UV light exposure, free radicals and oxidative stress making them important in protecting the yes from age-related disease. Increased intake of foods containing zeathanthin may decrease the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration.
4. Boost Mood
One study showed that after drinking goji berry juice for 15 days, participants reported perceived improved levels of energy, less fatigue and stress, quality of sleep an feelings of happiness.
Just like blueberries, pomegranates and other antioxidant-rich fruits, there are many health benefits you can enjoy by including goji berries in your diet. From protecting skin and eye health, to boosting mood, preventing heart disease and even fighting common illnesses like a cold or fever, the goji berry is a true nutritionally-dense superfood. Not only that, they taste great and are easy to make part of a heathy, balanced diet!
How To Use Goji Berries
Goji berries are typically found dried, just like a raisin or cranberry. You can eat them as is or soak them in hot water first if you prefer. Basically, goji berries can be baked, cooked or processed in any way after they are washed. I love them as a topping for smoothie bowls, oatmeal, coconut yogurt and salads or just enjoyed on their own as a healthy snack.
I love them mixed with nuts and cacao nibs for an energizing snack or used in recipes like granola, homemade energy balls and even baking. I also love adding a few tablespoons to glass of warm lemon water or green tea. After soaking in hot water, they’re plump, juicy and extra delicious!
Where to Find Goji Berries
Goji berries are typically found in dried packages or sold by weight at health and natural food stores. They’re often found in major grocery stores as well. You can check in the dried fruit or health food section. If you can’t find them in your local stores, they’re easy to purchase online through Amazon or other natural food providers. They should be readily available in Asian food stores as well.
Vanilla Goji Berry Balls
To highlight the little superfood we’ve been chatting about, I’m sharing a recipe for delicious Vanilla Goji Berry Balls! In addition to the goji berry, these balls are made from a few of my other favourite ingredients: dates, raw cashews, cacao nibs and pure vanilla extract. Yep, you only need 5 ingredients to make them!
These raw food energy balls are sweet but a little tart from the goji berries and have nice crunch and hint of chocolate from the cacao nibs. Cashews are one of my favourite nuts for raw energy balls for their softer texture and mild flavour. Dates make up the base and hold it all together. You can use any kind of date to make these, just make sure they’re fairly soft. If your dates are very dry, you can soak them in hot water for 10 minutes and drain before using.
- Place all ingredients in a food processor or high-powered blender and mix until it forms a dough.
- Roll into 10-12 balls and store in the freezer.