Goji berries; superfruit or traditional treat?

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You may have heard by now that goji berries are one of the most important superfoods available in markets today. The berries are said to be incredible for your health and packed with nutrients. While the Western world is starting to fall in love with the berry, China has been fond of the fruit for centuries.

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Legend has it that those who eat goji berries will live for many years. It is said that 2,000 years ago a doctor visited a remote village in rural China. When he met the village people he was shocked to learn that all the elderly lived beyond 100 years of age. There was no explanation but when he discovered the people’s well he came to the only rational conclusion available. The well was surrounded by goji berry trees. As the fruit ripened it fell into the well and seeped its vitamins into the water. Another legend tells of a man in the 1600s who lived to 252 years old, thanks to goji berries.

Whether goji berries are a superfruit or not is still up for debate. The term superfood is a marketing term, not a scientific one. Most dieticians and nutritionists avoid ever using the term as they believe that a well-balanced diet is the key to being healthy. Whether goji berries are included in that diet, really comes down to value and taste.

Goji berries are rich in Vitamin C, antioxidants, carotene, amino acids, and trace minerals. They are excellent for boosting your liver and kidney functionality and improving your eyesight. There is no doubt then that goji berries are healthy, they are delicious too. Adding them to some of your meals is a fantastic idea. My favorite is to add them to a bowl of hot porridge as the dried berry complements the steaming oats incredibly well.

However, now that they have become a superfood, they have become ridiculously expensive. A small packet of goji berries will cost you $10 in the U.S, about 300% higher than the price in China. The reason is not because of supply or demand, it is because of marketing and hype. The reality is that these are a healthy fruit option but there are many healthy fruit options and you should base your decision based on seasonality, availability, taste, and price. If the price of goji berries is not too high then they are certainly worth including in your shopping.

For years young Chinese people have turned away from traditional Chinese culture habits as they seem then as old fashioned. The fact that the entire world is now adopting some traditional behaviors from China is causing the young people of China to start embracing the old culture again. Whether the goji berry is responsible or a shift in young people’s priorities is, is not clear.

According to a recent survey, Gen Z in China prioritizes a healthy life over money, a career, personal enjoyment, and having a family. Clearly young people are aware of the growing environmental issues taking place and are placing a higher value on health. While goji berries can play a role they are not a panacea. 

Goji berry sales hit a record high this year with 179 tonnes sold during the China Single Day sales. Whether this is because young Chinese generations want to share their superfood consumption on Instagram or follow in traditional footsteps is not clear. The good news is that the young population of China is showing pride in the traditions of its ancient civilization. If the goji berry is responsible for that then perhaps it is a super-food after all.