How To Eat These 3 Chinese Fruits To Combat Chronic Disease

Dec
07

How To Eat These 3 Chinese Fruits To Combat Chronic Disease

We know that eating an apple a day is not a determinant factor of good health, despite the popular saying. However, fruit may not be a bad place to start. Generally speaking, fruit is a good source of fiber and antioxidants, and Chinese fruits are no exception. Certain varieties have been heavily studied for their use in both Chinese and traditional modern medicine. 

With hundreds of native Chinese fruits to choose from, it would take a novel to fit all their benefits into one list. So for now, we will focus on the following three: goji berries, mulberries, and jujubes (not the candy). 

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Goji Berries

Goji berries, also known as wolfberries, are a native Chinese fruit and are typically only available dried, powdered, or in juice. Fresh goji berries perish quickly and therefore are not as popular. 

Of the three fruits, goji berries are the most well-known in the US. In the early 2000s, steep health claims were made of the fruit’s anti-cancer properties. While research shows goji berries as a potential anti-cancer agent, it’s a good reminder to be wary of such strong claims. 

What we do know for a fact is that Goji berries have a high amount of vitamins, minerals, and fiber in a very small serving including Vitamins A & C and iron. 

Nutrition

Per ~40g serving, dried (about ¼ cup)*

CaloriesProteinCarbohydrateFatFiberPotassiumPhosphorusSodium
1506g35g0g5g440mg148mg180mg

*nutrition information taken between 3 different brands under USDA Food Central Database

Goji Berries & Diabetes

If you have diabetes, goji berries can make a great snack to substitute for other dried fruits such as raisins and cranberries that are higher in sugar and lower in fiber and thus more likely to spike your blood sugar. 

Goji Berries & CKD

Due to its naturally higher potassium and phosphorus content in such a small serving, you may want to limit the amount of this Chinese fruit in your diet if you are on a potassium or phosphorus restriction. 

Goji Berries & Heart Disease

Like many fruits, goji berries are low in sodium, making them a great choice if you are living with heart disease, specifically high blood pressure. The high fiber content may help in reducing cholesterol levels, too!

Where to Find

Goji berries are probably the most popular Chinese fruit in the US. Since they are shelf stable, they are also much easier for stores to carry than perishable fruits. You can typically find them in the Asian foods, supplement, or natural foods section of larger specialty chain stores such as Sprouts or Whole Foods. However, they can also easily be ordered on Amazon*!

How to Eat

  • Enjoy on their own as a quick snack
  • Add into homemade, salt-free trail mix
  • Add to oatmeal, smoothies, and salads
  • Add to herbal tea when steeping
  • Use in soups

Mulberries

Mulberries have been noted in the use of Traditional Chinese Medicine for its use in liver protection, blood pressure reduction and prevention of cardiovascular disease. 

Unlike goji berries, which are mostly grown in China, mulberries are widely cultivated and certain varieties even grow here in the US. 

The specific Chinese variety is the Red Chinese Mulberry and looks less like a blackberry, and more like a cross between a lychee and a raspberry. 

Nutrition

Per 3.5oz serving, fresh

CaloriesProteinCarbohydrateFatFiberPotassiumPhosphorusSodium
1801.4g10g<1g1.7g194mg38mg10mg

Based on information from USDA Food Central Database

Mulberries & Diabetes

Mulberries carb levels are comparable to those of strawberries and raspberries, however, they are slightly lower in fiber. This just means that you may want to consider pairing them with a protein or healthy fat as part of a snack, such as cheese or nuts. 

Mulberries & CKD

Mulberries are a great low-phosphorus option for those who need to restrict their intake. They also have a low-moderate potassium content, right on the borderline of less than 200mg to be considered a “lower potassium food”. Overall, this is a great food for anyone in most stages of CKD to enjoy and add to their diet!

Mulberries & Heart Disease

Black & red mulberries are rich in anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant known for playing a role in reducing risk of cardiovascular disease. It is a great addition to the diet of those living with heart disease!

Where to Find

Fresh mulberries are not often found in typical US grocery stores, but may be found at farmers markets in regions where they grow in much of the central US. 

You may be able to find dried mulberries in stores, but be mindful that dried fruit is often easier to over consume due to its smaller size. A handful of dried berries were likely 2-3x the size when they were ripe and plump! The nutrition information provided above is for fresh mulberries. 

How to Eat

  • Enjoy on its own as a snack
  • Blend or smash for an added sugar-free spread
  • Add to unsweetened iced tea

Jujubes

Not to be confused with the colorful gummy candies, jujubes are also known as Chinese dates. They are widely enjoyed in many Asian countries including Vietnam, Taiwan, and Korea. It can be eaten raw, but is most often enjoyed dried. 

Nutrition

Per 3.5oz serving, dried

CaloriesProteinCarbohydrateFatFiberPotassiumPhosphorusSodium
2814.7g73g<1g6g217mg68mg5mg

Based on information from USDA Food Central Database

Jujubes & Diabetes

Even without any additives, naturally dried jujubes are very high in carbohydrates and have the potential to raise your blood sugar very quickly. The same goes for many other dried fruits. While they also contain a good amount of fiber to help balance this blood sugar spike, my recommendation is to enjoy them in moderation as part of a snack or in tea or soup. 

Jujubes & CKD

Dried jujubes are a great Chinese fruit to enjoy when living with CKD! They are low in both phosphorus and sodium, with a moderate amount of potassium. 

Jujubes & Heart Disease

The high fiber content of jujubes makes them a great addition to the diet to help lower cholesterol levels and can make you feel fuller for longer, which may aid in weight loss.

Where to Find

Jujubes may be the more difficult of the three Chinese fruits to find in the US. Checking your local Asian grocer or ordering online on Amazon are likely your best options. 

How to Eat

  • Make jujube ginger tea
  • Eat it fresh by itself or stuff with nut butter and coconut flakes for a higher fiber candy alternative
  • Make jujube paste to naturally sweeten baked goods
  • Use the dried version in baked goods in place of raisins or other dried fruit
  • Steep in a tea
  • Use in soups for an added flavor and antioxidant boost

Jujubes can be enjoyed in different stages of ripening. They are most often enjoyed either dried or dark red and wrinkly when they are at their sweetest. If you are able to find fresh jujubes, try a green one if you’re looking for an apple-like crunch and a slightly tart flavor. Depending on when you eat it, it may feel like two completely different types of Chinese fruits!

Summary

There are many ways to enjoy Chinese fruits and include them in your diet. Goji berries, mulberries and jujubes have great health benefits for those living with chronic diseases. Goji berries have a high amount of potassium and may need to be watched by those with CKD. Mulberries contain anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant that can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Jujubes are high in carbohydrates and fiber, though should be enjoyed moderately by those with diabetes. 

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