Goji berries, also known as Wolfberries, grow on an evergreen shrub found in temperate and subtropical regions in China, Mongolia and in the Himalayas in Tibet. They are in the nightshade (Solonaceae) family.
Goji berries are usually found dried. They are shriveled red berries that look like red raisins.
Goji berries have been used for 6,000 years by herbalists in China, Tibet and India to:
Goji berries are rich in antioxidants, particularly carotenoids such as beta-carotene and zeaxanthin. One of zeaxanthin’s key roles is to protect the retina of the eye by absorbing blue light and acting as an antioxidant. In fact, increased intake of foods containing zeathanthin may decrease the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in people over the age of 65.
In recent years, goji juice has become popular as a health beverage.
Wolfberry contains significant percentages of a day’s macronutrient needs – carbohydrates, protein, fat and dietary fiber. About 68% of the mass of dried wolfberries exists as carbohydrate, 12% as protein, and 10% each as fiber and fat, giving a total caloric value in a 100-gram serving of 370 (kilo)calories.
Micronutrients and phytochemicals
Wolfberries contain many nutrients and phytochemicals including
11 essential and 22 trace dietary minerals
18 amino acids
6 essential vitamins
8 polysaccharides and 6 monosaccharides
5 unsaturated fatty acids, including the essential fatty acids, linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid
beta-sitosterol and other phytosterols
5 carotenoids, including beta-carotene and zeaxanthin (below), lutein, lycopene and cryptoxanthin, a xanthophyll
numerous phenolic pigments (phenols) associated with antioxidant properties
Select examples given below are for 100 grams of dried berries.
Calcium. Wolfberries contain 112 mg per 100 gram serving, providing about 8-10% of the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI).
Potassium. Wolfberries contain 1,132 mg per 100 grams dried fruit, giving about 24% of the DRI.
Iron. Wolfberries have 9 mg iron per 100 grams (100% DRI).
Zinc. 2 mg per 100 grams dried fruit (18% DRI).
Selenium. 100 grams of dried wolfberries contain 50 micrograms (91% DRI)
Riboflavin (vitamin B2). At 1.3 mg, 100 grams of dried wolfberries provide 100% of DRI.
Vitamin C. Vitamin C content in dried wolfberries has a wide range (from different sources) from 29 mg per 100 grams to as high as 148 mg per 100 grams (respectively, 32% and 163% DRI).
Wolfberries also contain numerous phytochemicals for which there are no established DRI values. Examples:
Beta-carotene: 7 mg per 100 grams dried fruit.
Zeaxanthin. Reported values for zeaxanthin content in dried wolfberries vary considerably, from 2.4 mg per 100 grams to 82.4 mg per 100 grams to 200 mg per 100 grams. The higher values would make wolfberry one of the richest edible plant sources known for zeaxanthin content. Up to 77% of total carotenoids present in wolfberry exist as zeaxanthin.
Polysaccharides. Polysaccharides are a major constituent of wolfberries, representing up to 31% of pulp weight.