Goji berries are one of the most nutritionally rich foods, containing the carotenoids- beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, lutein, β-crytoxanthin, and lycopene, at least 6 vitamins (C, B1,B2,B3,B6,E), over 30 essential and trace elements, polyphenolic antioxidants and 19 amino acids.
Goji contains signifigant percentages of a day`s macronutrient needs- carbohydrates, protein, fat and dietary fiber. 68% of the mass of a goji berry exists as a carbohydrate, 12% as protein, 10% fiber and 10% fat, giving a total caloric value of 370 for a 100 gram serving.
The seeds of the goji berry contain polyunsaturated fats such as linoleic (omega-6) and linolenic (omega-3) acids.
Goji`s diversity and high concentration of micronutrients brand it as an exceptional health food.
Calcium. The primary constituent of teeth and bones, calcium also has a diverse role in soft tissues where it is involved in cardiac, neuromuscular, enzymatic, hormonal, and transport mechanisms across cell membranes. Goji berries contain 112 mg per 100 gram serving, providing about 8-10% of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI).
Potassium. An essential electrolyte and enzyme cofactor, dietary potassium can lower high blood pressure. Giving about 24% of the RDI (1132mg/100 grams), goji berries are an excellent source.
Iron. An oxygen carrier on hemoglobin, iron also is a cofactor for enzymes involved in numerous metabolic reactions. Goji berry delivers 100% of RDI at 9 mg/100 grams and is regarded as one of the best sources of iron.
Zinc. Essential for making proteins, DNA and functions of over 100 enzymes, zinc is involved in critical cell activities such as membrane transport and repair and growth. Zinc in goji berries has a high content at 20% RDI.
Selenium. Sometimes called the "antioxidant mineral", selenium is often included in supplements. Selenium has unusually high concentration in Goji berries (50 micrograms/100 grams) at nearly 100% RDI.
Riboflavin (B2). An essential vitamin supporting energy metabolism, riboflavin is needed for synthesizing other vitamins and enzymes. A daily serving of 100 grams provides the complete RDI (1.3mg).
Vitamin C. A universal antioxidant vitamin protecting other antioxidant molecules from free radical damage, vitamin C content in dried berries ranges from 29mg to 148mg/100 grams. Even at the lower estimate 35% of RDI is still provided. Vitamin C content of fresh berries is much higher and provides the full RDI.
Goji berries contain dozens of phytochemicals whose properties are under scientific study. Five of these are of particular interest
Beta caroten. A carotenoid pigment in orange-red foods like goji, pumpkins, carrots and salmon, beta-carotene is important for synthesis of vitamin A, a fat-soluble nutrient and antioxidant essential for normal growth, vision, cell structure, bones and teeth and healthy skin. Goji's beta-carotene content per unit weight (7 mg/100 grams) is among the highest for edible plants.
Zeaxanthin. Goji berries are an extraordinary source for this carotenoid important as a retinal antioxidant and pigment filter of ultraviolet light. Goji berries contain 162 mg/100 grams.
Lycopene. Unknown previously as a constituent of berry fruit, lycopene in powder made from goji juice concentrate has been measured at 1.4 mg/100 grams (contracted assay, UBE Analytical Labs). As lycopene's antioxidant role as a possible cancer-inhibiting agent occurs at microgram blood levels in humans, this is a potentially important discovery inviting further research.
Polysaccharides. Long-chain sugar molecules characteristic of many herbal medicines like mushrooms and roots, polysaccharides are a signature constituent of goji berries, making up 31% of pulp weight in premium quality goji berries. Polysaccharides are a primary source of fermentable dietary fiber in the intestinal system. Upon colonic metabolism, fermentable or "soluble fibers" yield short-chain fatty acids which are valuable for health of the colonic mucosal lining, enhance mineral uptake, stabilize blood glucose levels, lower pH and reduce colon cancer risk and stimulate the immune system. Polysaccharides also display antioxidant activity.
Phenolics. Also called phenols or polyphenols, this group of phytochemicals numbers in the thousands of individual chemicals existing across the plant kingdom, mainly as protective astringents or pigments that give bright colors to plants like the red, ripe goji berry. Phenolic pigments have the metabolic property of high antioxidant capability transferable to animals by eating the plant. New assays have demonstrated the presence in goji berries of phenolics such as ellagic acid (86 mg/100 grams) and p-coumaric acid, with a total phenolics content of 1,309 mg/100 grams -- one of the highest values for any plant food yet tested