Anyone eat these? I just learned of them. Very high iron and Vitamin A. Supposedly enhance immune system. Have one of the highest protein contents, in fruit, that i have seen (about 14% of calories are protein; that is almost on par with many grains.)
I bought some dried ones at Whole Foods. Taste like a bland rasin.
Wolfberries are nutritionally rich, containing beta-carotene, Vitamins C, B1, B2 and other vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and amino acids. Companies marketing the berries also claim the berries contain such nutrients as isoleucine and tryptophan (both amino acids), as well as zinc, iron, copper, calcium, germanium, selenium, phosphorus, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), and vitamin E.
Two recent book publications describe exceptional nutritional qualities of wolfberries, advancing a working proposal that wolfberry is one of the most nutrient-rich plant foods on Earth (References: Young et al., 2005; Gross et al., 2006).
Wolfberry contains significant percentages of a day's macronutrient needs – carbohydrates, protein, fat and dietary fiber. 68% of the mass of a wolfberry exists as carbohydrate, 12% as protein, and 10% each as fiber and fat, giving a total caloric value of 370 for a 100 gram serving.
Soybean, another ancient Chinese plant among the world's most complete foods, is comparable across macronutrients. Although wolfberries and soybeans are similar as regards their macronutrient content, wolfberries provide a significantly higher source of calories as energy from carbohydrates (soybeans = 173 calories). Blueberries, by contrast, do not have as much macronutrient or caloric value.
Seeds contain the wolfberry's polyunsaturated fats such as linoleic (omega-6) and linolenic (omega-3) acids.
Wolfberry's diversity and high concentration of micronutrients brand it as an exceptional health food. 11 essential minerals, 22 trace minerals, 7 vitamins and 18 amino acids profile extraordinary micronutrient richness, with examples below:
Calcium. The primary constituent of teeth and bones, calcium has a diverse role also in soft tissues where it is involved in cardiac, neuromuscular, enzymatic, hormonal, and transport mechanisms across cell membranes. Wolfberries and soybeans contain 112 mg and 102 mg per 100 gram serving, respectively, providing about 8-10% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI).
Potassium. An essential electrolyte and enzyme cofactor, dietary potassium can lower high blood pressure. Giving about 24% of the RDI (1132 mg/100 gram), wolfberries are an excellent source, providing more than twice the amount of soybeans.
Iron. An oxygen carrier on hemoglobin, iron also is a cofactor for enzymes involved in numerous metabolic reactions. When intake is deficient, low iron levels cause iron deficiency anemia affecting millions of children worldwide. Wolfberry’s exceptional iron content, 100% DRI at 9 mg/100 grams, is twice that provided by soybeans, often regarded as the best plant source 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, repair and growth, especially in infants. Zinc in wolfberries (2 mg/100 grams) has a high content (double the amount of soybeans), meeting 20% of RDI.
Selenium. Sometimes called the “antioxidant mineral”, selenium is often included in supplements. Selenium has unusually high concentration in wolfberries (50 micrograms/100 grams), nearly 100% of the RDI whereas blueberries and soybeans are not important sources (8 micrograms or less).
Riboflavin (vitamin B2). An essential vitamin supporting energy metabolism, riboflavin is needed for synthesizing other vitamins and enzymes. A daily wolfberry serving (1.3 micrograms) provides the complete RDI whereas soybeans and blueberries have only trace levels of this important vitamin.
Vitamin C. A universal antioxidant vitamin protecting other antioxidant molecules from free radical damage, vitamin C content in dried wolfberries has a range (from different sources) of 29 mg/100 grams to as high as 148 mg/100 grams. Even the lower estimate is a multiple of equal weights of blueberries or soybeans, providing about 35% of the RDI. Reports on vitamin C content from other wolfberry preparations, such as juice concentrate or juice powder, have been significantly higher. The note below offers possible explanation for these discrepancies.
[Note on micronutrient contents: differences in the degree of berry maturation at the time of picking, geographic region where the berries were grown, post-harvest handling and processing, duration of storage, residual water content and assay preparation can significantly affect individual nutrient contents, especially those for vitamins and phytochemicals. These factors make data comparisons between different assays or sources difficult to reconcile].
Wolfberries contain dozens of phytochemicals whose properties are under scientific study. Four of these are of particular interest:
Beta-carotene. A carotenoid pigment in orange-red foods like wolfberries, 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. Wolfberry's beta-carotene content per unit weight (7 mg/100 grams) is among the highest for edible plants.
Zeaxanthin. Wolfberries are an extraordinary source for this carotenoid important as a retinal antioxidant and pigment filter of ultraviolet light. Wolfberries contain 162 mg/100 grams.
Polysaccharides. Long-chain sugar molecules characteristic of many herbal medicines like mushrooms and roots, polysaccharides are a signature constituent of wolfberries, making up 31% of pulp weight in premium quality wolfberries. 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 1) are valuable for health of the colonic mucosal lining, 2) enhance mineral uptake, 3) stabilize blood glucose levels, 4) lower pH and reduce colon cancer risk and 5) 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 wolfberry (photo top right). Phenolic pigments have the metabolic property of high antioxidant capability transferable to animals by eating the plant. New assays have revealed the presence in wolfberries of phenolics such as ellagic acid (86 mg/100 grams) and p-coumaric acid (likely, future research will reveal many more), with a total phenolics content of 1,309 mg/100 grams -- one of the highest values for any plant food yet tested (Young et al., 2005; Brunswick Laboratories).
Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity
Wolfberry's richness in carotenoids, phenolics and vitamin C creates potential for an extraordinary synergy of antioxidant strength, a measure determined by test tube assays of oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC).
In 2004, scientists with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (References, Wu et al.) published an extensive list of ORAC values for over 100 common foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, spices, grains, etc.). Values were reported as micromoles (μmol) of Trolox equivalents (TE, vitamin E derivative) per gram both for lipid-soluble ("lipophilic" as for carotenoids) and water-soluble ("hydrophilic" as for phenolics) antioxidant chemicals in foods, thus were a sum of lipophilic and hydrophilic values or total ORAC. The data of Wu et al. showed that all plants have variable amounts of both lipophilic and hydrophilic phytochemicals with antioxidant properties contributing to total ORAC.
Spices (clove, cinnamon) showed the highest ORAC values (>250,000, converted to μmol TE per 100 grams) whereas, among commonly eaten foods, dark berries (known to be rich in phenolics), such as cranberry and lowbush blueberry, were highest (around 9,300 μmol TE per 100 grams). By comparison, different species of apples had ORAC values of 4,275 μmol TE per 100 grams or less, white potato was under 1,100, peanut was 3,166 and tomato about 400.
In their 2005 book (References), Young et al. report ORAC for dried wolfberries as 30,300 μmol TE per 100 grams, indicating exceptional antioxidant strength likely resulting from the synergy mentioned above for wolfberry's diversity of antioxidant phytochemicals.
Among high-antioxidant berries and fruits whose ORAC values have been reported as marketing information (unconfirmed by scientific peer-review) are açaí at 34,000 (freeze dried powder, Sambazon) and pomegranate at 10,500 (References, Brunswick Laboratories).