“Goji Berries and Pregnancy: All You Need to Know” is written by Kathryn Pare and reviewed/edited by Jamie Adams, MS RD LDN. Kathryn is currently a graduate student at Montclair State University studying nutrition and Food Science. Kathryn has a passion for helping children grow up while pursuing a healthy lifestyle.”
A superfood on the rise, goji berries are becoming popular fruits enjoyed fresh in smoothies or dried on salads. Originating from Asia, this fruit (also known as a “wolfberry”) is called “super” because of its nutrient-packed nature and antioxidant qualities. With all of the hype, you might be wondering, is it safe to eat goji berries during pregnancy? Here we’ll dive into the benefits of goji berries, and determine if those same benefits apply throughout pregnancy.
What are Goji Berries?
Most commonly consumed dried, goji berries are a bright orange-red fruit that grows off a shrub. The leaves of the shrub can also be made into a tea and used for its medicinal benefits. The berry has a flavor that is similar to a cranberry, a texture that is chewy when in the dried form, and can be used in food as one would use a raisin.
Nutrient Profile of Goji Berries
The recommended serving size of dried goji berries is about 28 grams, which is about 5 tablespoons or 1/3 of a cup. Goji berries are comprised of 46% carbohydrate, 16% dietary fiber, 13% protein, and 1.5% fat; thus, having a strong macronutrient profile with an abundance of micronutrients. Below we highlight the nutrient content of goji berries in comparison to the daily recommended intake of what nutrients a pregnant woman should consume.
|Recommended Daily Dietary Allowance for Pregnant Women >18||Percent Recommended Daily Allowance from Goji Berries|
|Carbohydrate||21.6 grams||45-64% of daily calories||–|
|Protein||4 grams||60 g/day||6.7%|
|Fat||0.109 grams||20-35% of daily calories||–|
|Fiber||3.64 grams||20-35 g/day||18.2%|
|Calcium||53.2 mg||1,000 mg/day||5.3%|
|Iron||1.9 mg||27 mg/day||7%|
|Vitamin C||13.6 mg||85 mg/day||16%|
|Vitamin A||2,250 mcg||770 mcg/day||292%|
|Riboflavin||0.4 mg||1.4 mg/day||28.5%|
It shows that along with all the macronutrients, goji berries contain a good amount of calcium, iron, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and riboflavin that adds to a nutritious diet of pregnant women for those who are able to consume them.
Benefits of Goji Berries
With their robust micronutrient profile, goji berries are well known for their nutritional benefits including:
Contain antioxidant properties
The antioxidant properties are found within Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and other minerals of the berry. These minerals are used in the body in such a way that they fight the potentially dangerous substances or free radicals in the body to help prevent some diseases. These diseases can include: cancer, arteriosclerosis, and hypertension.
A small pilot study found that those who consumed goji berry juice for 2 weeks had increased metabolism and decreased waist circumference.
Aids in anti-aging effects
Rich in Vitamin C and beta-carotene, goji berries provide optimal skin health by supporting skin tightening, firmness, and decreases wrinkles.
Protects the eyes
This antioxidant packed berry is rich in zeaxanthin, a potent antioxidant known for its vision benefits. Reducing damage from UV light, oxidative stress, and free radicals, goji berries support overall eye health and prevent vision loss.
Improved mood and sleep, decreased anxiety
One study found that after consuming goji berry juice for 14 days, participants reported improved mood, energy, and mental acuity. In addition to reported feelings of calmness at day 15, they also showed improved quality of sleep.
With the vast nutrient profile and number of benefits, you might be wondering, could there be any big risk of consuming goji berries?
Risks of Goji Berries
As with most foods and supplements, it is not advised to consume goji berries in excess. However, consumption of goji berries in moderation appears to be safe.
For those who are allergic to lipid transfer proteins should stay away from goji berries because of a potential allergic reaction. Research has shown that this allergic reaction can be from goji berries themselves, or foods that contain nonspecific lipid transfer proteins like peaches, tomatoes, apples, almonds, and more.
Outside of those who may have a potential allergy to goji berries, while enjoying goji berries, make sure you are taking in a variety of foods with an assortment of vitamins and minerals.
Now, that you know the general benefits and risks of goji berries, let’s dive deep into goji berries and pregnancy!
Are Goji Berries Safe to Eat During Pregnancy?
Many sources claim that goji berries are safe to eat during pregnancy, while others say the complete opposite and advise even those who are planning to get pregnant to completely avoid them. Some sources say that it is safe to eat goji berries, but only in moderation. So can you eat goji berries while pregnant?
I am here to lightly clear the air by telling you there has not been any human trials on pregnant women and the consumption of goji berries to let us know if one piece of advice is true or not.
There have been studies done on rabbits that have found a higher litter weight in rabbits when supplemented 1% of goji berries and improved the reproductive and productive traits of the rabbits as well. Other studies found that a 3% dose of goji berry supplementation in rabbits reduced the maximum glucose concentration, suggesting improvement in insulin response.
Both studies offered further research to be done, and since they were not performed on humans it cannot be assumed that there will be similar beneficial effects.
Therefore, with the lack of research on goji berries and pregnancy it would be safe to avoid eating goji berries while pregnant. However, you could get to know the chemical composition of the goji berries more and talk to your doctors to ultimately decide whether to completely avoid them or not.
Understanding Betaine in Goji Berries
There are many ingredients found in food that are deemed bad or even toxic by some people. Several claims may be true; however, it is important to understand why they are making these claims, and try to see where they are getting the information from so we can recognize whether this information is reputable or not.
Betaine is a mineral found in goji berries that has been put into a negative light. So, we are going to take this information and find out why.
What is Betaine?
Though found in goji berries, betaine is a substance that is also naturally made within the body. It is produced from the substance choline, which is an essential nutrient for the body. Betaine’s functions include helping with liver function, cellular reproduction, and metabolizing homocysteine. It can be found in foods, including: goji berries, broccoli, shellfish, beets, and more.
Benefits of Betaine
Research has shown that some benefits of betaine include lowering homocysteine levels (thus aiding in lowering risk of heart disease), as well as relief with dry mouth. Other studies have shown that betaine supports in preventing alcohol-induced or genetic liver diseases.
Risks of Betaine
Sources note that some side effects of betaine include diarrhea, upset stomach, and nausea. The same source notes that betaine can help increase cholesterol levels; therefore, those who are overweight, have heart disease or are at risk of heart disease should not consume betaine without consulting their doctor. Those who have kidney disease should not take betaine at all.
Betaine and Pregnancy
Few studies examine betaine during pregnancy and/or the effects it has on the fetus. Therefore, it is important to note the general benefits and risks of betaine and consult your doctor on whether or not it is safe to consume for your body.
Benefits of Goji Berries in Pregnancy
The nutrient profile of goji berries as previously stated above is something that is highly ideal for a pregnant woman. High in iron and calcium, two minerals that are needed in higher doses when pregnant, goji berries have the potential to provide benefits during pregnancy. The antioxidant properties found in goji berries are also something that can be beneficial to a pregnant woman, the same way it is to a non-pregnant woman. Benefits like these do not differ, but it is important to remember anything in excess could lead to harmful effects on the body.
Beneficial Effects of Goji Berries During Pregnancy
Along with the benefits of the berry, there are some other effects that goji berries have on the body while pregnant, including:
- Reducing morning sickness
- Boosting immune system
- Reducing cholesterol levels
- Supporting the fetus
It should be noted that these are general claims made based on the nutrient profile of goji berries. Goji berries contain a wide variety of vitamins and minerals that support growing a fetus, contain a high amount of Vitamin C and Zinc that help boost the immune system, and it is naturally low in cholesterol making it a more ideal snack than others.
More scientific research needs to be done in order to validate all of these claims. In the meantime if you are going through morning sickness or preparing for it in the future, check out our ultimate morning sickness smoothie or one of these smoothies to help with nausea throughout your pregnancy.
Key Takeaways: Goji Berries in Pregnancy (picture)
Overall, here are four key takeaways on eating goji berries during your pregnancy:
- Nutrient-packed and full of antioxidants, Goji Berries have many positive benefits on the body during pregnancy.
- To date, there is no research on pregnant women and the effect goji berry consumption has on the body and/or fetus.
- There are risks to many ingredients in foods, but you must do your best to understand the scientific research done behind them in order to believe the claim.
- If you are unsure if you should be consuming goji berries during your pregnancy, consult with your healthcare provider.
Interested in learning more about nutrition during pregnancy? Check out our eBook – The Ultimate Guide to Prenatal Nutrition + Nourishing Recipes for Every Trimester!