Ingredient of the Week: Believe It or Not, Tiny Goji Berries Are A Complete Protein

November 13, 2015
by Michelle Pellizzon for Thrive Market
Ingredient of the Week: Believe It or Not, Tiny Goji Berries Are A Complete Protein

"Li Ching-Yung Dead—Reported His Age At 197", read the Saturday, May 6, 1933 morning edition of The New York Times. 

A hoax? Many claim it's not.  Li Ching-Yung was a Chinese herbalist, and his assertion of his centenarian-and-then-some status was supported by many in China. Heck, the Chinese government sent him a "Happy 150th Birthday!" card. So what did the mystical herbalist credit his vibrancy to? Sleeping "like a dog" and a hearty diet of locally grown goji berries, of course.

It's unknown if Ching-Yung actually lived to be 197 (some reports even claim that he lived to be as old as 260), but the benefits of goji berries, or wolf berries, are definitely legit. The small, bright red berry is usually eaten dried and tastes like a cross between a blueberry and a raisin—slightly tart, but mostly sweet. Grown primarily in Tibet and Mongolia, they're palatable enough to be eaten by the handful on their own, but they also make a great addition to superfood trail mix, granola, and smoothie bowls. Or, sip on sweet goji berry-brewed tea to suck down the health benefits of this fruit.

Loaded with tons of antioxidants, vitamins, and nutrients, "wolf berries" might give your daily multivitamin a run for its money. First off, the tiny berry contains 18 amino acids, making it a complete protein. Plus, the flesh of the goji berry contains a polysaccharide called secretagogue—a substance proven to increase the secretion of human growth hormone, which can help with weight loss, fat burning, and muscle building.

Adding goji powder to your morning smoothie will also support your immune system this winter; next to the camu camu berry, goji contain the highest amount of vitamin C content per volume. A single serving—about a quarter cup—contains just over 100 calories but 180 percent of the daily value of vitamin A, 30 percent of the DV of vitamin C, and 15 percent of the DV of iron. Thanks in part to their nutritional density, studies have shown that a diet rich in goji berries is key to a avoiding seriously contagious illnesses like the flu.

Because they're low in calories and high in fiber, these little guys are a perfect snack for anyone who's worried about losing weight or sticking to a diet. Plus, they're sweet, so popping a few in your mouth almost feels like dessert!

Goji berries are gaining a reputation as a superfood for more than just their nutrient density—they could also be instrumental in fighting cancer. Because they are so loaded with antioxidants, the berries have gone through more than a few preliminary studies to test their effectiveness on cancer cells. Somewhat surprisingly, the fruit has shown to "have apoptotic and antiproliferative effects on cancer cell[s]", but more intensive studies need to be performed in order to confirm its anti-cancer benefits.

In the meantime, adding the goji berry into your diet certainly isn't going to hurt! Throw a few berries into a smoothie, or add some into your cranberry sauce this Thanksgiving.

Photo credit: Alicia Cho

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This article is related to: Antioxidants, Nutrition, Vitamin c, Ingredient of the Week, Goji berry

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