What's the Difference Between Goji and Acai Berries?
If you've walked into a smoothie shop or a juice bar anytime in the last couple of years, there's a good chance you've seen both goji berries and acai berries on the menu. They've become increasingly common ingredients for the wellness-minded set, especially for breakfast—but what, exactly, is the difference between goji and acai berries? Sure, both acai berries and goji berries are considered to be superfoods, but, to put it in the simplest terms, goji berries and acai berries are not the same fruit. For starters, they come from entirely different geographic regions. Acai berries come from a tropical palm tree that, according to the Rainforest Alliance, is native to South and Central America. Goji berries are also known as wolfberries, and according to WebMD, they are grown on a shrub that's native to China and is found across Tibet and the Himalayas.
That geographic distance is why it's rare to find fresh goji berries in the United States, writes Christina Chaey for Bon Appetit, noting "Here, you'll most commonly find dried goji berries and goji berry powder, both of which you can buy at health food stores and, increasingly, at well-stocked supermarkets." She describes the taste of dried goji berries as "reminiscent of a cranberry or a sour cherry," even a little like a tomato.
Though you'll sometimes see acai berries served up in a dry powder like goji berries, you can find pureed acai berries in the frozen foods aisle at major grocery stores like Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, even Target. (It is, admittedly, almost impossible to find frozen, whole acai berries.) Acai berries are described as having a sweet, almost blackberry-like taste. Some even say that it tastes chocolatey (though, as someone who's eaten a fair amount of acai bowls in her day, I think that's a bit of a stretch. After all, acai is still a fruit).
Really, acai and goji berries couldn't be more different when it comes to taste, texture, and even preparation. (You can't blend up dried goji berries into a pureed smoothie bowl, but those little red fruits look—and taste—great on top of a blended acai bowl.) The confusion comes in because both acai and goji berries are packed with similar nutrients, and they're so often lumped together on menus and in write-ups of superfoods that it's easy to get them mixed up.
Both goji berries and acai berries are packed with antioxidants, which, according to the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, "may prevent or delay some types of cell damage." But ultimately, these so-called superfoods aren't a silver bullet to fight cardiovascular disease or prevent cancer, even if these berries both make for a relatively healthy breakfast.