Eat Goji Berries for Eye Health

goji berries

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

Goji Berries
Goji Berries for Eye and Vision Health

They have been grown in the Himalayas in Tibet for thousands of years and used for medicinal properties. Today, their historical use is supported by modern science. The most recent study shows eating a small serving of dried goji berries supports healthy vision and provides important nutrients for slowing age-related macular degeneration, or AMD.

The condition of AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in older people. 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. If the drusen are large and occur in specific areas of the eye, it can make it difficult going from bright light-to-low light, or seeing a blank or blurry spot that blocks vision.

Goji Berries for Eye Health

In a small study, healthy participants, aged 45 to 65, ate 28 grams (about one ounce, or a small handful) of goji berries five times a week for 90 days. Scientists found eating goji berries led to an increase in the density of protective pigments in their eyes. In contrast, study participants who consumed a commercial supplement for eye health over the same period did not show an increase.

The nutrients lutein and zeaxanthin increased in the group eating goji berries, which filters out harmful blue light and provides antioxidant protection. “Lutein and zeaxanthin are like sunscreen for your eyes,” said lead author Xiang Li, a doctoral candidate in the Nutritional Biology Program. “The higher the lutein and zeaxanthin in your retina, the more protection you have. Our study found that even in normal healthy eyes, these optical pigments can be increased with a small daily serving of goji berries,” said Li. Goji berries also contain micronutrients like vitamin A and C, and all of the 8 essential amino acids that humans don’t produce naturally and must get from food. Although the results are promising, the researchers note that the study size was small and more research will be needed.

Nutrients for Vision

The current treatment for intermediate stages of AMD are AREDS 2 dietary supplements that contain vitamins including C, E, zinc, copper and lutein and zeaxanthin. There are no known therapies shown to influence early stage AMD. The cause of AMD is complex and multifactorial, involving genetic risks, aging, and environmental factors like smoking, diet and sun exposure. Early stages of AMD do not have symptoms; however, physicians can detect AMD and other eye problems during a regular comprehensive eye exam.

More Goji Berries in your Diet

The easiest way to use goji berries is in any recipe calling for dried fruit or raisins, such as granola or bars, cookies, pies, jams and salads. The powders work well in salad dressings, soups and smoothies. See below for more ideas.

Fresh berries are difficult to find, so dried or powdered is most commonly seen in stores. When shopping for dried Goji berries, make sure there is no added sugar or preservatives like sulfur dioxide to enhance and preserve the red color. They should be soft like raisins, not hard or crunchy (this is a sign they may have gone bad). Store in a cool, dark place for up to a year.

  1. Add goji berries to a chicken or tofu and ginger stir fries.
  2. For added tang to barbeque sauces, reconstitute the berries in hot water, drain and puree them in the sauce.
  3. Use goji berries in overnight oats and chia puddings.
  4. Toss in goji berries to spicy creamy vegetarian soups (tomato or sweet potato for instance) and blend until smooth.
  5. Goji berries add a nice tart flavor to spicy vegetable stews (see below for recipe).

Harvest Vegetable Stew with Goji-Tomato Paste

This recipe is remarkably forgiving. Use any vegetables you have on hand or need to use up, such as root vegetables, end of summer corn, and spicier peppers.

Goji Berry Vegetable Stew
  • 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 teaspoon 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 with scissors
  • 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), cut leeks into one inch pieces. Soak cut leeks in a bowl of hot water and agitate to loosen any dirt. Break the rings apart where dirt remains. Repeat this process to remove all the dirt.
  4. Seed bell pepper and cut into one inch squares
  5. Scrub carrots and 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 all 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 down the heat to a low simmer.
  10. Let the flavors come together in a slow simmer for another 20 minutes.
  11. Adjust the seasoning with salt.

Tomato and Goji Berry Paste

Use this paste when you want to pack a flavorful punch to a sauce or stew.

  • 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 in small food processor or bullet blender with the tomato paste.
  4. Puree until a thick paste forms. If you need to thin it out, use the reserved water a little bit at a time as you blend the paste.

Source: Xiang Li, Roberta R. Holt, Carl L. Keen, Lawrence S. Morse, Glenn Yiu, Robert M. Hackman. Goji Berry Intake Increases Macular Pigment Optical Density in Healthy Adults: A Randomized Pilot Trial. Nutrients, 2021; 13 (12): 4409 DOI: 10.3390/nu13124409

This article is provided by the Institute for Natural Medicine, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, partnered with the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. INM’s mission is to transform healthcare in America by increasing both public awareness of naturopathic 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 health care 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 naturopathic medicine
  • Access – Connect patients to licensed naturopathic doctors
  • Research – Expand quality research of this complex and comprehensive system of medicine

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Deb Hubers

Debra Hubers is a serial entrepreneur and has started seven businesses; ranging from an advanced genomics to an employer health care purchasing cooperative. Deb has over 35 years of experience in healthcare finance, education, technology, and pharmacogenomics.

Ms. Hubers has dedicated her career to measuring and improving healthcare outcomes. Her expertise is leveraging technology to deliver personalized, preventative medicine. Ms. Hubers co-founded La Vita Compounding Pharmacy in 2007. Collaborating with her business partner, physicians and strategic partners, Deb has grown La Vita to be one of the most respected and sought-after personalized medicine providers on the west coast. She is also Co-Founder of EpigeneticsRx, a leading provider of precise, personalized, prevention which positively impacts genetic expression.

Alex Keller, ND

Dr. Alex Keller, ND, AFMCP is a graduate of the University of Ottawa with an Honours Bachelor in Health Sciences and Psychology. Although originally intending to attend conventional medical school, following a three-month volunteer internship at a rural Kenyan hospital where he observed how doctors used local food to treat patients, he shifted his career goals and pursued a degree in naturopathic medicine at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto.

After one year of practicing with the esteemed Dr. Chris Pickrell, ND, RH in a community acupuncture setting, in 2015 he and his wife Dr. Jenn Keller, ND moved to rural Ottawa, Canada where they started an organic farm and retreat center. In the same year, Alex and his athletic therapist sister Jess Keller combined their practices to form Keller Active Health, an integrative physical therapy clinic.

Ever curious and passionate about the education of evidence-based natural medicine, in 2017, Dr. Keller joined a fledgling Ottawa-based health tech startup named Fullscript. He serves as its Medical Director and oversees the development of medical education content for practitioners across North America.

Prior to medicine, Alex worked in the renewable energy sector, where he developed a deep passion for sustainable agriculture and environmental stewardship. This connection between medicine and agriculture now drives Alex to focus much of his energy on bringing awareness to the quality and sourcing standards in the supplement and organic agriculture supply chains.

Today, he splits his professional time practicing as a clinician, working for Fullscript, and expanding the farming operation while chasing his kids with Jenn and occasionally running ultra-marathon trail races. He is also currently completing an Executive MBA through the Quantic School of Business & Technology with a focus on supply chain innovation.

Pamela Snider, ND

Pamela Snider, ND, is Executive and Senior Editor for the Foundations of Naturopathic Medicine Project, producing a first of its kind international textbook of Naturopathic medicine through a series of international retreats and symposia. A nationally recognized integrative health and policy leader, she is active in both national and regional integrative health initiatives. Dr. Snider serves on the Board of Directors, was founding Executive Director and co-founder of the Academic Consortium for Integrative Health (ACIH/ACCAHCa consortium of the councils of schools, accrediting agencies and certifying bodies of the licensed, traditional and emerging integrative health professions, and is currently Vice Chair and co-founder of the Integrative Health Policy Consortium (IHPC).  Dr. Snider served as a founding Board Member of the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine from 2014-2016. Her public policy work includes completing a two year appointment to the DHHS Center For Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) Medicare Coverage Advisory Committee (MCAC); serving as a Steering Committee Member for  the HRSA funded American College of Preventive Medicine NCCIM Integrative Medicine in Preventive Medicine Residency program, co-directing in USPHS Region X the Building Bridges Between Provider Communities Group, an exploration of interdisciplinary collaboration and common ground between public health and CAM; serving for 22 years on Washington State’s Health Professional Loan Repayment and Scholarship Program Advisory Committee (HPLRSP); providing technical assistance to and developing key language for the enabling legislation for NIH Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCIH/NCCAM); and staffing Joseph Pizzorno ND during his appointment as Commissioner on the White House Commission on CAM Policy.

From 1994-2003, Dr. Snider served as Associate Dean for Public and Professional Affairs and Naturopathic Medicine at Bastyr University, dividing her work between academic and public affairs activities, including chairing the Naturopathic Medicine Program Curriculum Review Committee.  Dr. Snider has been teaching, publishing and lecturing widely on Naturopathic philosophy, theory integrative health, public policy, and other topics for over 30 years. Currently, an Associate Professor at National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM) in Portland, OR, Dr. Snider also continues at Bastyr University in her 22nd year as a faculty member teaching naturopathic medicine history, clinical theory, and global context. Among her Naturopathic medicine professional roles she serves on the Institute for Natural Medicine’s Leadership Council.  In 1989, she co-led the naturopathic profession with Dr. Jared Zeff, in developing a unifying definition of naturopathic medicine and its principles of practice adopted unanimously by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) House of Delegates. She was a co-investigator in the 2004 NIH NCCAM research study, the North American Naturopathic Medical Research Agenda and CAM Advisor in NIHCCAM’s Financing Integrative Health Care (University of Washington).  Her areas of experience include healthcare education; naturopathic and interdisciplinary clinical theory, curriculum development; clinical practice; government and legislative affairs, public policy, interdisciplinary collaboration, and community organizing.  Dr. Snider has received the Ontario Naturopathic Physician of the Year Award, the Physician of the Year Award from the AANP, the President’s Outstanding Vision Award and Distinguished Alumnus Award at Bastyr University, AANP’s President’s Award, an honorary Doctorate of Naturopathic Philosophy from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM), the William A Mitchell Vis Award from the AANP and The Gathering – NMSA’s Beacon Award. She received her ND degree in 1982 from Bastyr University of Natural Health Sciences and is a licensed naturopathic physician in the State of Washington. She lives with her husband and children at their homestead in North Bend Washington, in the beautiful mountain to sea landscape and home of The Revival – Restore the Vis, an annual student-led community gathering.

Susan Haeger

Susan Haeger is Founder/Principal of Transformative Health Solutions Inc. She has applied her twenty plus years in executive leadership to help shape and drive adoption of progressive health policy for whole person healthcare. She was a section contributor to the 2021 INM/AANP published professional white paper, Naturopathic Physicians as Whole Health Specialists: The Future is Whole Person Health Care that provides supporting evidence for the profession’s significant and unique contributions to preventive, whole person care and models of integrative clinical practice.

Bruce Barlean

Bruce Barlean is an owner and founder of Barlean’s, a global dietary supplement manufacturer located in the Pacific Northwest in Ferndale, WA. Bruce has been actively involved in the Natural Products industry since 1989 and is passionate about making a difference in the world and positively impacting the lives of others.

Bruce believes that people can make a difference in the world through ordinary purchases. He is committed to improving the quality of life for every person on the planet by making the best products and by using the profits to support outreach programs. Bruce summarizes it simply, “We make good stuff to do good stuff”.

In the late 1980’s Bruce became passionate about how health could be dramatically improved with Flax Oil Supplementation. Bruce along with his entrepreneurial parents saw the potential to improve the lives of many people and in 1989 they began selling Flax Oil under the Barlean’s name. From 1989 – 2000 the business grew an average of 40% year over year. While most companies saw a decline in business in the 2001 recession, Barlean’s continued to grow and soon became America’s #1 selling flaxseed oil and continues to be to the present. The brand has since expanded to include additional oils, green food concentrates and other premium supplements. Bruce continues to drive innovation and over the years his products and company have won countless awards including: Eight consecutive Vity Awards for #1 EFA, Six consecutive Vity Awards for #1 Greens Food Supplement, Natural Choice Award for Best Specialty Supplement, Best Product of the Year, Best New Product, Gold Medal Taster’s Choice Award, Gold Medal American Masters of Taste Award, #1 Health Food Store Brand for Consumer Satisfaction by Consumer Lab, and Manufacturer of the Year.

In 2013 as the company was on the eve of celebrating the 25th year in business Bruce and his parents decided to take their desire to help people to a new level that they call Pathway to a Better Life – which is now seen in the Barlean’s logo. Bruce and his parents had always been generous in their giving and support of charities, but as part of the Pathway to a Better Life they decided to increased partnership with charitable organizations such as: Vitamin Angels, Compassion International, KidsTown International, Autism Hope Alliance, Engedi Refuge, Project 92, and others. And because so many people are unable to meet basic nutritional needs, Bruce created a comprehensive Omega-3 and multivitamin formula that he distributes free-of-charge to local food banks. In addition, Bruce decided the company would supply food banks with organic coconut oil to provide people with a health alternative to standard cooking oils.

Always generous with his time Bruce has served as a youth leader for his local church for several years and continues to mentor youth. He has been on several not for profit boards including; Whatcom County Pregnancy Center (2003-2006), Natural Products Association (dates?), and the Institute for Natural Medicine Leadership Council (presently).

The Barlean family have been avid supporters of Bastyr University since the 1990’s and in 2013 were given Bastyr’s most prestigious honor, the Mission Award, which recognizes their leadership over time in improving the health and well-being of the human community.

Bruce currently resides in Ferndale, WA with his wife Lisa and their two dogs: Heinz & Shadow. When he’s not helping others he can be found fishing (catch & release).

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Michelle Simon, PHD, ND

President & CEO

As president and CEO of INM, Dr. Simon brings her passion for working with organizations dedicated to improving the quality and delivery of healthcare. This desire stems from her years of practice as a licensed naturopathic physician. In addition to holding a Naturopathic Doctorate from Bastyr University she also holds a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

She has served on boards for the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), the Naturopathic Physicians Research Institute (NPRI), and several advisory boards. Dr. Simon served nine years on the Washington State Health Technology Clinical Committee, as Ambassador to the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM) and was recognized as 2018 AANP Physician of the Year. Dr. Simon shares with her husband a passion for adventure travel, preferably by boat or motorcycle. She also enjoys teaching a women’s off-road motorcycling class.