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Food Face-Off: Goji Berries vs. Acai Berries (The Berry Wars)

More and more green monsters are starting to explore and research all the nutritional wonders different parts of the world having been raving about for years.  Goji and Açaí berries are two such exotic wonders that have become increasingly popular throughout the past decade.  Both of these nutritionally-loaded berries possess the acclaimed status of “superfood” and studies are ongoing to discover all the benefits the berries have to offer. For now, check out what we do know about the nutrients of goji berries and Açaí berries!

Goji berries

Goji berries, also referred to as lycium fruit or Chinese wolfberries, are native to China and Tibet—specifically the Himalayan region.  The small orange-red berries can be eaten raw, cooked, or dried.  There are also powders available in the market.  Additionally, this berry is making its way into herbal teas, juices, wine, and medicines.  In fact, there have been suggestions to develop vaccines supplemented with goji berries!  In this study, researchers thought that since the goji berry boasts properties to improve the immune system, supplemented vaccines could further lessen the symptoms and pathology of influenza by decreasing inflammation while enhancing immune response.

Goji berries are receiving the spotlight lately for their high antioxidant concentration.  This is because goji berries make the top half of the list of foods with an ORAC value.  ORAC, oxygen radical absorbance capacity, is a measure of total antioxidant activity in a specific food that results from the presence of a number of chemical compounds in foods that act as antioxidants.  Goji berries contain specific antioxidants including carotenoids, flavonoids, and phenols.  Carotenoids, especially beta-carotene and zeaxanthin, provide excellent protection to the eyes from macular degeneration.  Flavonoids protect the heart, improve circulation, strengthen blood capillaries, build collagen, balance blood sugar and can help regenerate other antioxidants.  Moreover, phenols provide extra support in preventing damage to cells from dangerous free radicals.  Thus, phenols are believed to be cancer chemopreventives, compounds that may decrease risk of developing cancer. And that’s not all! Check out the list of nutrients housed in these little berries.

Standout nutrients in goji berries:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin B2
  • Calcium
  • Potassium
  • Zinc
  • Iron

Who knew berries could be such a great source of iron? Well, they are, especially goji berries!  Iron is part of proteins and enzymes found throughout the body, including hemoglobin and myoglobin, both of which help carry oxygen in blood.  Because of this, iron is an important component of muscles and it helps regulate the growth of cells.  There are two categories of iron: heme and nonheme.  Nonheme iron is found in plant sources while heme iron comes from animal products (ew).  Men between the ages of 19-50 need 8 mg of iron per day while women in the same age category need 18 mg per day.  What’s so awesome about goji berries though is that they are also a great source of vitamin C which helps facilitate better absorption of iron, and vitamin A which helps the body use stored iron more efficiently.  So guys and girls, try out these delicious goji recipes to ensure adequate iron intake while reaping all the other benefits health!

Açaí berries

Maybe goji berries aren’t your style, don’t fret!  More berries to come, and these berries taste a little like chocolate, who doesn’t love a berry that tastes like chocolate?  Without further ado, I introduce the purple-ish, red acai berry.  Acai berries come from the acai palm tree which is native to central and South America.  The berries, grape-sized, grow in bunches that sit near the base of the leaves of the palm tree.  Acai berries hit stardom around the mid-2000s and can now be purchased in liquid, powder, and softgel form (all perfect for smoothies!).

Acai berries all the rage now not just because of their chocolatey flavor.  Like goji berries, they are at the top of the ORAC list with a high score of 102700!  That’s a lot of antioxidants; more so than the antioxidant content of cranberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, and blueberries.  Two major antioxidants in acai berries are anthocyanins and flavonoids.  Anthocyanins are responsible for the red, purple, and blue hues of the berry and have anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties.  Also, these antioxidants are able to interact with other phytochemicals, exhibiting synergistic, beneficial biological effects which may help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.  In addition, anthocyanins and flavonoids help defend the body against environmental stressors and interfere with the aging process and disease development by neutralizing harmful free radicals.  More health benefits to follow; read the list of nutrients to find out!

Standout nutrients in acai berries:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamins B1, B2, B3
  • Vitamin C
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Copper
  • Calcium
  • Dietary fiber

With a nutrient list like that, no wonder acai has been deemed a superfood.  It’s also important to note acai berries are a great source of healthy fats like oleic acid (omega 9) and linoleic acid (omega 6).  Omega fats are essential for healthy brain function and are associated with decreased levels of bad LDL cholesterol.  Since it is clear that acai is berry berry healthy, make sure to check out the best product picks from One Green Planet!

Can’t decide which berry to try first?  Here is a granola loaded with both goji and acai!