If you visit a health food or Chinese food store, it is likely that you will come across products labeled as Tibetan or Himalayan Goji Berry. These come from the Lycium barbarum or Lycium chinense plants which are woody, deciduous, perennial shrubs that grow in China and the sheltered valleys of Tibet, Nepal and Mongolia in the Himalayan regions. These berries are growing in popularity and are garnering a large part of the heath food market. These round red berries are delicious and can be eaten raw or made into juice or included in various recipes. They are full of nutrients and offer various health benefits for both adults and kids. Dried goji berries resemble raisins.
Goji berries contain 18 amino acids including 8 essential ones that the body does not produce and must be got from various foods. It contains 21 trace minerals such as calcium, manganese, germanium, selenium, zinc, copper, iron, phosphorous etc. It contains a range of antioxidants carotenoids – especially beta-carotene and zeaxanthin. It also contains proteins, carbohydrates, essential fatty acids, vitamins E, C, A, B1, B2 and B6. When comparing its nutritive value to other nutrient-rich foods, goji berries contain more vitamin C than oranges, more iron than spinach, more vitamin E and carotenoids than most fruits and more protein content than whole wheat.
Benefits of Goji Berries for Kids
Children even in developed world are the most vulnerable to infections since their immune systems are still not fully developed. Also since they are constantly exposed to various germs in the classroom, they are more likely to suffer from colds, coughs and other common infectious diseases. Antioxidants in goji berries strengthen the immune system and reduce the risk of kids constantly developing infections.
Unless children have any specific allergies, they can safely consume this fruit. A 16oz or 28g serving of goji berries (dried) gives us 100 calories and no cholesterol and fat. Apart from improving the immune system, goji berries can improve eyesight and these benefit kids who are constantly straining their eyes when studying, watching television or working / playing on the computer.
Goji berries also increase energy levels, strengthen muscles and bones and improve circulation. This increase performance levels during sports, gym classes etc. Kids will have greater energy to take part in a wide range of physical activities – running, swimming, playing sports, dancing etc.
Carotenoids, polyphenols present in goji berries protect our kids from degenerative diseases, certain cancers and cardiovascular diseases. It can also strengthen intestinal, respiratory and urinary tracts and promote healthy skin, teeth and hair. Essential fatty acids can promote weight loss in obese kids.
In Chinese medicine, around 150g of goji berries are consumed daily. It is normally recommended that for healthy people, 10-30g of dried goji berries can be eaten. If it is taken for a specific medical disorder, then the quantity will vary depending on the condition. Kids can be given up to 5g of dried goji berries daily. The vitamins and nutrients present in goji berries can benefit them greatly.
Recipes with goji berry
Most kids are fussy eaters and knowing ways to include goji berries in their diet is important. Some kids – especially very young ones – may not enjoy the sweet and sour taste of these berries. Hence, if you plan to give them goji juice, you can mix it with other fruits like blueberries, pomegranates, strawberries etc to make it tastier.
Here is a good recipe for protein bars than can be included in kids’ snacks or lunches. (Greens and Goji Berry Protein Bars):
- Raw almonds – 1 ½ cups
- Flaxseed meal – 1 cup
- Unsweetened coconut – ½ cup (shredded)
- Vanilla protein powder – 2 scoops (any favorite brand)
- Greens powder – 2 scoops (chocolate flavored ones are preferred by kids)
- Cashew butter – ½ cup
- Salt – ½ tsp
- Coconut oil – ½ cup
- Vanilla extract – 1 tbsp
- Cinnamon – ½ tsp
- Goji berries – ¼ cup
Grind the almonds in a food processor. Add flaxseed meal, shredded coconut, greens and protein powder, cashew butter, salt and cinnamon. Melt coconut oil. Mix vanilla extract in this and blend in food processor. Now add goji berries and blend. Place the mix in a lined baking tray and refrigerate for a few hours. Once set, they can be cut into bits. Variations can be made by melting and spreading dark chocolate on top.
Smoothies are great drinks that kids of all ages enjoy. Fortunately, goji berries taste great with chocolate. The following is a great goji berry smoothie recipe. Give your kids this when they come home from school and they will be full of energy to finish their homework and take part in various extra-curricular activities.
Blend together and serve chilled:
- Water – 2cups
- Goji berries – ¼ cup
- Banana – 1
- Frozen berries of choice – ½ cup
- Sweetener – optional
- Cocoa powder – 1tbsp
- Protein powder – 1 serving
- Green superfood powder – 1 serving.
Add goji berries and dark chocolate chips to your kids’ favorite trail mix recipe.
If your child suffers from Type 1 diabetes or taking anticoagulant or blood thinning medications, goji berries might interact with these medications. Avoid goji berries if your kids suffer from pollen allergies. In such cases, check with the pediatrician before starting your kids on goji berries. They will suggest the recommended dosage.