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Goji - Goji Berries - Wolfberry: A Super Superfood

As far as superfoods go, goji berries are one of the best. They practically define the superfood category.

Also known as wolfberries, goji berries are one of the most nutritionally dense foods you can eat. They're usually found in health food stores or Asian markets in dried form, and look a little like small red raisins. Goji berry leaves can also be found as a tea.

The berries have reportedly been used in China and Tibet for 6000 years. Herbalists have prescribed them for liver protection, to help with eye sight, to improve fertility and sexual function, to boost immune function, improve circulation and to promote longevity. In vitro studies have found goji berry extracts may prevent cancer cell growth, bring down blood glucose levels and have a positive effect on cholesterol levels.

Goji berries contain an array of nutrients including calcium, potassium, iron, zinc and selenium. Goji is widely touted for its high levels of vitamin C, containing as much as 148mg per 100 grams of berries. That's about three times higher than an orange, by weight.

The berries also contain a significant amount of carotenoids and phytonutrients, which have been found to be statistically significant in determining maximum lifespan. In goji berries you'll find five different carotenoids, including beta-carotene (precursor to vitamin A), zeaxanthin and lutein (two carotenoid antioxidants needed for functional eyesight and found helpful in preventing the onset of/or the progression of macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in those over the age of 65), lycopene and cryptoxanthin. By weight, goji berries even have more carotenoids than the previous champion, carrots.

Surprisingly, goji berries also contain all eight essential amino acids, making them a complete protein; something quite unusual in a plant based food. While chances are you're not going to eat enough of them to get a significant amount of protein, goji berries could help to round out the protein profile of a vegetarian meal.

You can eat goji berries as a snack as is, or toss them in salads, soups or stir-fries to add a nice hit of tart sweetness. I like to include them in my morning smoothies by first soaking them in water for a few minutes to soften and then throw both the berries and the soaking water in the blender. You could also put them into rice, quinoa or other grains when cooking as you would with other dried fruits.

Sourcing goji berries can be a bit of an issue. Many complain that the price of goji berries can be as much as four times higher in health food stores versus their price in Asian markets. However, goji berries sold in Asian markets are not organic and goji imported from China have been subject to seizure in the past by the FDA in the U.S. due to excessive amounts of pesticides and fungicides. Personally, I pay the premium for organic.

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