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Eat Goji Berries for Eye Health

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Goji berries will remind you of cranberries or tart cherries with a pleasant hint of tomato. Studies show they may be good for eye health and clear long-term vision.

Gojis have been cultivated in the Tibetan Himalayas for thousands of years. Their powerful antioxidant properties are backed by modern science. Eating a small serving of dried goji berries a few times a week provides nutrients that may slow age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and support healthy vision.1Li X, Holt RR, Keen CL, Morse LS, Yiu G, Hackman RM. Goji berry intake increases macular pigment optical density in healthy adults: a randomized pilot trial. Nutrients. 2021;13(12):4409. Published December 9, 2021. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13124409

AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in older adults. It affects more than 11 million people in the United States and 170 million globally. The condition is characterized by fatty and protein deposits, called drusen, that build up in the back of the eye. When drusen grow large in certain parts of the eye, it may become difficult to see in different light conditions. Your eyes might not adjust easily from bright to low light. Vision may also be affected by a blurry or blank spot.

Goji Berries and Eye Health

Green salad with goji berries in bowl

In a small study, healthy 45- to 65-year-old participants ate 28 grams (about one ounce or a small handful) of goji berries five times a week for 90 days. Eating goji berries led to more protective pigments in the eyes. In contrast, study participants who consumed a commercial supplement for eye health over the same period showed no change.1Li X, Holt RR, Keen CL, Morse LS, Yiu G, Hackman RM. Goji berry intake increases macular pigment optical density in healthy adults: a randomized pilot trial. Nutrients. 2021;13(12):4409. Published December 9, 2021. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13124409

Goji berries contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which filter out harmful blue light and provide antioxidant protection.2Li S, Liu N, Lin L, Sun ED, Li JD, Li PK. Macular pigment and serum zeaxanthin levels with goji berry supplement in early age-related macular degeneration. Int J Ophthalmol. 2018;11(6):970-975. Published June 18, 2018. https://doi.org/10.18240/ijo.2018.06.12 Goji berries also contain micronutrients like vitamins A and C and all eight essential amino acids that humans don’t produce naturally and must get from food. Although the results are promising, the researchers note the study size was small and more research is needed.

Treating Mid-Stage AMD

AMD is complex and multifactorial, involving genetic risks, aging, and environmental factors like smoking, diet, and sun exposure. Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2) dietary supplements are used to treat the intermediate stages. AREDS2 supplements contain copper, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin, and vitamins C and E. Although there are no symptoms of early AMD, ophthalmologists can detect degeneration and other problems during a regular comprehensive eye exam.

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How to Eat Goji Berries, a Vibrant Superfood!

Swap standard dried fruit (raisins, cranberries) with goji berries in recipes for granola, breakfast bars, cookies, pies, and jam. They also make a fantastic salad topper. Goji powder works well in salad dressings, soups, and smoothies. Try one of these ideas the next time you’re craving a zesty dish!

Fruit bowl with goji berries, bananas, strawberries, and raspberries
  1. Add goji berries to a chicken, beef, or tofu and ginger stir fry.
  2. Reconstitute berries in hot water. Drain, puree, and add them to a piquant barbecue sauce.
  3. Sprinkle a few berries atop overnight oats or chia pudding.
  4. Toss berries in spicy vegetarian soups (tomato or sweet potato, for example), and blend until smooth.

Dried and powdered goji berries are commonly found in stores. (Fresh goji berries are difficult to find.) Check for added sugar, preservatives (like sulfur dioxide), and color. They should be soft, like raisins, not hard or crunchy—a sign they may have gone bad. Store your berries in a cool, dark place for up to a year.

Harvest Vegetable Stew with Goji-Tomato Paste

This hearty stew is remarkably forgiving. Use any vegetables on hand (including those a little past their prime). Root veggies, end-of-summer corn, and spicy peppers bring a terrific earthy flavor to this dish.

Ingredients

  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 2 small summer squash
  • 2-3 leeks (or one onion)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 3 carrots
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 14.5-ounce can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, drained
  • 6 tablespoons goji berries
  • 8 dried apricots, cut into strips
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 3 tablespoons tomato goji paste (see recipe below)
  • Salt to taste

Directions

  1. Peel butternut and cut into large chunks.
  2. Cut summer squash into large one-inch pieces.
  3. Cut tops off leeks (discard or save for vegetable broth). Slice leeks into one-inch pieces. Soak cut leeks in a bowl of hot water and mix to loosen any dirt. Break the rings apart where dirt remains. Repeat this process to remove all sediment.
  4. Seed bell pepper and cut into one-inch squares.
  5. Scrub carrots. Cut into one-inch pieces.
  6. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven pan.
  7. Add winter squash, leeks, carrots, and peppers. Cook for 10-20 minutes until caramelized and slightly softened.
  8. Add summer squash, garlic, and the powdered spices. Cook for 10-15 minutes to lightly brown squash.
  9. Add tomatoes, goji berries, apricots, and broth. Bring to a strong simmer. Add the tomato-goji paste. Stir well. Turn heat down to a low simmer.
  10. Let the flavors come together while slowly simmering for another 20 minutes.
  11. Adjust seasoning with salt.

Tomato and Goji Berry Paste

Use this paste for a flavorful punch in sauce or stew.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup dried goji berries
  • 1/2 cup boiling hot water
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste

Directions

  1. Pour hot water over goji berries to reconstitute. Let sit for 10 minutes.
  2. Drain goji berries; reserve the water.
  3. Place berries in a small food processor or bullet blender with tomato paste.
  4. Puree until a thick paste forms. Use reserved water to thin the mixture if necessary.

Footnotes

  • 1
    Li X, Holt RR, Keen CL, Morse LS, Yiu G, Hackman RM. Goji berry intake increases macular pigment optical density in healthy adults: a randomized pilot trial. Nutrients. 2021;13(12):4409. Published December 9, 2021. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13124409
  • 2
    Li S, Liu N, Lin L, Sun ED, Li JD, Li PK. Macular pigment and serum zeaxanthin levels with goji berry supplement in early age-related macular degeneration. Int J Ophthalmol. 2018;11(6):970-975. Published June 18, 2018. https://doi.org/10.18240/ijo.2018.06.12

This article is provided by

The Institute for Natural Medicine, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. INM’s mission is to transform healthcare in America by increasing both public awareness of natural medicine and access to naturopathic doctors for patients. INM believes that naturopathic medicine, with its unique principles and practices, has the potential to reverse the tide of chronic illness that overwhelms existing healthcare systems and to empower people to achieve and maintain their optimal lifelong health. INM strives to achieve this mission through the following initiatives:

  • Education – Reveal the unique benefits and outcomes of evidence-based natural medicine
  • Access – Connect patients to licensed naturopathic doctors
  • Research – Expand quality research of this complex and comprehensive system of medicine

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