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Goji berry, also known as Lycium barbarum, may look like a simple, tiny tomato, but this extraordinary superfood is quickly gaining popularity within the research community as well as by consumers due to its health-boosting properties. To date, research shows that goji berries offer a wide range of health benefits from anti-aging to immune system support and blood sugar regulation¹. The goji berry is primarily found in Asia where people have been consuming this bright red colored fruit for over 2,000 years as a food supplement and medicinal herb². One of the main reasons that goji berries are described as a superfood and have subsequently become so popular is because they contain powerful substances called phytochemicals, which are nutrients that are produced by plants. The most potent phytochemicals in goji berries are zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, and polysaccharides².
Zeaxanthin is a yellow-colored antioxidant that helps protect cells in the eyes by filtering out harmful forms of light. More specifically, it prevents harmful UV rays and high-energy blue light from damaging the eyes.² You could even say that zeaxanthin functions like an internal pair of sunglasses. This doesn’t mean you can just throw your sunglasses away or stop using the blue light filter on your screen if you like eating goji berries. Instead, it means that eating this fruit regularly provides extra protection for your eyes, in addition to your sunglasses and screen filters.
Furthermore, zeaxanthin supports the immune system by stimulating the enhanced production of antibodies, which improves the body’s ability to attack and eliminate harmful invaders³. Therefore, this powerful antioxidant found in goji berries serves multiple purposes.
Beta-carotene is a red-orange pigment in goji berries that also functions as an antioxidant. In particular, it disrupts the activity of free radicals (toxins) that can damage the body’s cells and it promotes their removal as well⁴. Beta-carotene is especially effective at protecting cells in the eyes, bones, and skin⁵’⁶. It also reduces the risk of sunburn, lessens UV ray-induced skin irritation, and has anti-aging properties⁶’⁷. Goji berries are an excellent source of beta-carotene and its anti-aging activity make it a beneficial nutrient for skin health, particularly in women.
Polysaccharides are carbohydrates that are found in abundance in goji berries. They have immune system stimulating, antitumor, anticoagulant (reduces blood clots), anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial (destroys pathogens), anti-fatigue, anti-mutagenic (hinders cell mutations), and antiviral properties⁸. In addition, polysaccharides increase the body’s natural antioxidant defenses, which make them especially useful towards boosting overall health⁹. Therefore, goji berries contain a variety of phytonutrients (plant-based nutrients) that support vital processes in the body.
Now that we’ve learned a little bit about the beneficial nutrients in goji berries, let’s take a closer look at the specific health benefits that are associated with consuming goji berries regularly.
Heightens Immune System Function
Goji berries contain ample amounts of vitamin A and C, both of which are known for their ability to boost immunity, target inflammation, and promote the removal of harmful pathogens¹⁰⁻¹⁵. Now you may be asking yourself, “Can’t I just take a multivitamin that has vitamin A and vitamin C in it?” Well, it is important to remember that a multivitamin provides synthetic forms of these vitamins, while goji berries are a natural source and it is much easier for the body to process vitamins in their natural form. Read on to learn more about the health-boosting properties of these two vital nutrients.
Vitamin A stimulates the production of white blood cells called T-cells and it also enhances the activity of B-cells, which are another type of white blood cell¹⁰’¹¹. These types of cells play a major role in maintaining immunity. More specifically, when foreign invaders are detected in the body, white blood cells become active and increase in number in order to attack illness-causing particles. This promotes their removal and reduces the risk of getting sick.
Consuming adequate amounts of vitamin A from goji berries also lowers the risk of experiencing repeated infections because vitamin A deficiency can increase the occurrence of infections and lengthen the recovery period¹⁰’¹¹. This is because the white blood cells that attack infectious agents need vitamin A to develop properly and if low levels of vitamin A are being consumed the body’s immune system response will be weaker due to abnormal white blood cell development. Therefore, it is important to consume vitamin A regularly and goji berries are an optimal source of this essential vitamin. Now let’s take an even closer look at what research shows.
One clinical study involving individuals with common variable immunodeficiency (CVI) demonstrated just how important it is to get the recommended serving of vitamin A daily. CVI is a condition in which the immune system is consistently weak due to low levels of white blood cells and other cells that destroy pathogens¹². The study entailed measuring vitamin A levels in 20 individuals with CVI and the blood test results showed that the participants with CVI had lower levels of vitamin A in their blood than healthy individuals¹²’¹³. Six participants with CVI were subsequently given vitamin A for 8 weeks and this approach led to increased levels of vitamin A, fewer infections, and shorter recovery times¹². This means that the vitamin A in goji berries is important for a strong immune system, especially for people whose immune systems are compromised.
Another beneficial nutrient in goji berries is vitamin C and in addition to its powerful antioxidant activity, it enhances immunity by boosting the production of a specific type of white blood cell that engulfs pathogens¹⁴. After the white blood cells encase the invaders they release substances such as enzymes or proteins that destroy the harmful organism. Therefore, the vitamin C in goji berry has the ability to strengthen the immune system, while shortening the severity and duration of colds . Vitamin C also boosts energy and targets fatigue . Therefore, vitamins A and C are vital nutrients for long-term health, and both are found in abundance in goji berries.
Supports Healthy Blood Sugar and Cholesterol levels
According to research, the polysaccharides (carbohydrates) in goji berries promote the optimal balance of insulin and blood sugar¹⁶. In particular, consuming about 300 mg of goji berries in liquid form daily is associated with lower fasting blood sugar levels (glucose), more balanced blood sugar levels after eating a meal, and an improved response to insulin production¹⁶. For people with type 2 diabetes, eating goji berries regularly not only helps the body improve its regulation of blood sugar, but this potent fruit also promotes increased HDL (good) cholesterol¹⁶. Diabetes is often accompanied by high LDL (bad) cholesterol and low HDL (good) cholesterol, which are factors that increase the risk of developing heart disease¹⁷.
Cholesterol travels around the body inside HDL or LDL. HDL is called good cholesterol because helps transport cholesterol to the liver where it is broken down and cleared from the body. On the other hand, LDL is called bad cholesterol because it carries cholesterol to the arteries where it can cause a blockage. In summary, the positive influence goji berry has on blood sugar and cholesterol levels promotes enhanced heart health, particularly for people with diabetes¹⁶’¹⁷. Women with diabetes have a higher risk of heart-related death than men and this suggests that the health-promoting properties of goji berries are especially beneficial for women¹⁶’¹⁷.
A number of factors are involved in the aging process. These include: DNA damage, cancerous mutations, and oxidative stress (an imbalance of toxins and antioxidants), among others². These issues lead to a stress response that disrupts the growth and development of cells in the body. More specifically, aging is associated with the reduced activity of cells that typically target pathogens and support healing by promoting DNA repair. However, research indicates that 3 mg/mL (300 mg/100 mL) of goji berries in liquid form improves the body’s resistance to age-related health complications (e.g., DNA damage, oxidative stress)².
More specifically, the polysaccharides, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, and additional nutrients in goji berries (e.g., vitamins, antioxidants, minerals) strengthen the body’s cells, thereby allowing them to continue to function properly even as individuals get older. The phytonutrients in goji berries also prevent the levels of natural antioxidants in the body from decreasing with age. Naturally produced antioxidants play a major role in the body’s ability to ward off illness and delay aging¹⁹. Overall, eating goji berries regularly helps reduce the occurrence of premature aging and decreases the risk of suffering from different types of age-related health issues².
Take Home Message
Goji berry is a superfood with anti-aging, immune system-stimulating, antioxidant, antidiabetic, anticancer, and cell-protecting properties. The regular consumption of about 300 mg of goji berries in liquid form supports the body’s natural healing abilities, targets low energy levels and fatigue, and supports heart health, among several additional benefits²’¹⁶. As a number of issues such as acne and heart problems related to diabetes are more prominent in women⁷’¹⁷, goji berry consumption is especially beneficial toward improving women’s health. Due to its powerful activity, goji berry is becoming more and more popular among consumers.
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