Wolfberry Benefits & Side Effects

Wolfberries, typically called Goji berries and sometimes called Chinese wolfberries or lycium berries, are edible berries that pack a nutritious punch. Ancient Chinese medical practitioners used wolfberries to treat dry skin and dry cough, and to promote longevity and improve sexual desire. Current medical literature can't back up the use of wolfberries as medicine, but these berries have nutritional value that can make them beneficial for your health.

Close-up of wolf berries growing on a tree. (Image: Noppharat05081977/iStock/Getty Images)

A Healthy Source of Macronutrients

A one-quarter-cup serving of dried wolfberries has 104 calories, with just one gram of fat. The majority of the calories come from carbohydrates, but they're also a decent source of protein. Wolfberries give you 4 grams of protein per serving, and have 18 different amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein that play basic but important roles in the body. They also contain 3 grams of fiber per serving, which promotes digestive health.

High in Micronutrients

Wolfberries are a potent source of vitamin A -- just one-quarter-cup serving gives you 140 percent of your daily recommended intake of it. The same amount also gives you 20 percent of your daily vitamin C recommended intake. If you're iron deficient or at risk of iron deficiency, you would do well to incorporate wolfberries into your diet. Just one serving provides 10 percent of your daily iron requirement.

Antioxidant Content

Antioxidants are plant compounds, including pigments, vitamins, minerals and other compounds, that counteract cell damage and have been associated with lower risk of chronic diseases. Wolfberries provide a variety of antioxidants, including plant pigments called phenols, polysaccharides, vitamins A and C, beta carotene, lycopene, riboflavin, thiamine, selenium and nicotinic acid. A study on rabbits published in "Life Sciences" in 2004 verified the antioxidant effect of wolfberries. Scientists found that wolfberry extract significantly reduced blood sugar, cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the rabbits after just 10 days. The researchers attributed this phenomena to their high antioxidant content.

Side Effects

In "Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects," researchers concluded from the current medical literature on wolfberries that there are no significant short term or long term side effects from eating them. However, there has not been rigorous study of their side effects. New York University's Langone Medical Center notes that wolfberries have been eaten since ancient times and are generally considered safe and free of side effects.

Incorporating Wolfberries into Your Diet

You're most likely to find wolfberries in their dried form, and you can use them like you would any other dried fruit. Try snacking on them alone, or mix them into salads, trail mix, cereal, yogurt or desserts. You could also add them to smoothies or protein shakes.

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