Goji berries are one of my favorite fruits. The tart-tasting, bright-red berries are native to Asia. They’re loaded with antioxidants and are clinically-proven to have several incredible health benefits. I feature them in my snack recipe for Easy Trail Mix….
Goji berries have been have been used in China and other Southeast Asian countries for more than 2,000 years. Both as a traditional medicinal herb and as food. But it’s only been about a decade since goji berries have caught on in the US. Especially in the yoga and natural health community. Yes, it’s true that some consider goji berries trendy, not to mention expensive.
But if you have the budget to treat yourself to goji berries, I strongly believe they are worth the money. (A bag of them costs about $10-$12 at a natural food market.) That’s because the health benefits of goji berries are impressive.
If you’re interested in learning about goji berry health benefits, keep reading. But if you’re only here for my Easy Trail Mix recipe, which is featured in my book, Making Cleansing Easier, I’ll indulge you.
Before I share the recipe, allow me to briefly share my inspiration for creating the recipe….
Making Your Own Healthy Snacks
One of the things I love about living in San Diego (besides the climate) is that not only am I within striking distance of the beach, but beautiful hiking trails as well. And when I go for a hike, I like to bring healthy snacks with me. And what better snack to bring on a long steep hike than trail mix….
Sure, I could go to the market and buy a bag of trail mix. But no thanks, I don’t want a bag that’s half filled with raisins. No offense, raisins, a handful of you is ok. But no more than that. This is why I like making my own healthy snacks. In this way, I control the ingredients and the flavor.
That being said, let me introduce to you my recipe for Easy Trail Mix. And make sure to stay tuned after the recipe to learn about the all-star ingredient, goji berries….
CHEF V’S EASY TRAIL MIX
Try different ingredients to create some fun mixes. I generally use one or two raw nuts, one seed, and one dried fruit. Some ideas for nuts: almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, pecans, or macadamia nuts. For dried fruit, always choose unsweetened and unsulfured fruits. My favorites include pineapple, apple, mango, and blueberries. And, of course, goji berries.
1 cup raw almonds
1 cup raw walnuts
¼ cup unsweetened dried Goji berries
¼ cup raw sunflower seeds, sprouted if available
Combine all the ingredients in a resealable bag or a bowl. I keep a bag in my car and a bowl handy in the house for easy and healthy munching wherever I am.
Goji Berries Health Benefits
I’m no expert in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) . But I do find it fascinating. How did those ancient sages come up with the concepts of acupuncture and meridians? And how did they figure out how individual herbs affect specific organ systems? It’s mind-boggling. According to TCM, goji berries (Gou Qi Zi in Chinese) nourishes and tonifies the liver, kidneys and lungs. It also improves life essence (a concept in TCM called “Jing”) and enhances vision. Another health benefit of goji berries from a Chinese medicine point of view, they help balance yin and yang energies.
But goji berries also have the backing of modern research studies. And some of this research confirms what Chinese herbalists have known for over 2,000 years. Specifically, that goji berries help fight premature aging.
Also known as wolfberry, goji berries, according to this research, show antitumor activity against various types of cancer cells and inhibit tumor growth. Moreover, they help normalize blood sugar levels and encourage insulin sensitivity. That’s great news if you have type 2 diabetes. The more sensitive to insulin you are, the less of it you need. Goji berries, says the research, increases glucose metabolism. And it turns out goji berries also benefit those with type 1 diabetes. That’s because the promote insulin secretion. In addition, they help make the cells in the pancreas that release insulin (beta cells).
It also turns out that the ancient Chinese knew what they were talking about when it comes to goji berries benefitting the eyes. Research shows they protect cells in the retina against glaucoma.
Goji Berries: More Health Benefits
The compounds in goji berries also protect the liver. They do this by helping the liver detox, even from exposure to toxic chemicals. They also help reduce toxicity caused by radiation or chemotherapy.
And although promising research studies using mice doesn’t mean the benefits will occur in humans, it’s encouraging to see that goji berries may help prevent neurological diseases. The compounds in them lessen the symptoms of mice with Alzheimer's disease. Goji berries also help improve memory and cognitive abilities.
Here’s another goji berry health benefit I especially want my husband, Brandon (who helps me run ChefV.com), to pay attention to: better sperm health. You see, I may want kids one day. And it turns out that goji berries are beneficial to male reproduction. They increase the quality, quantity, and motility of sperm. The research also states that goji berries improve sexual performance. (Not that you need to eat goji berries for this reason, hubby! [wink]) And finally, in the bedroom department, goji berries help protecting Brandon’s own precious berries against what researchers call, “toxic insults,” whatever those might be. (Perhaps radiation from having your laptop on your crotch?)
Goji Berries: Worth the Price!
While it’s true that goji berries seem to some like an elitist superfood, as you can see the health benefits are tremendous. The berries also help fight body fat accumulation, protect the heart, and fight viruses and inflammation.
Sure, other fruits might be cheaper and offer antioxidant protection against disease and aging. But few fruits offer all of these impressive health benefits. Plus, goji berries are high in fiber, iron, calcium, and vitamins A & C. But don’t go overboard with them. Just eat a handful. Goji berries contain lots of fruit sugar.