Food, Health, Informational

Ancient Superfood: 7 Health Benefits of Barberry

If you’ve never heard of the barberry, it’s probably because you haven’t had the chance to try the popular zereshk polo or tahchin of Persian cuisine.

In zereshk polo, tiny red berries (the barberry) dance on a bed of aromatic basmati rice and turmeric saffron chicken. Tahchin on the other hand is a savory rice cake where plain yogurt and chunks of succulent meat have been folded into saffron basmati rice, then baked to golden perfection.

But I digress. The purpose of this particular article isn’t to share a recipe or to make your mouth water, it is more to tell you about the health benefits of the Berbers vulgaris — or the Barberry.

The Barberry

Barberry shrubs grow in abundance in the mountainous north-east region of Iran. The small ruby-like berries contain the alkaloids berberine and oxycontin (alkaloids are nitrogenous organic compounds with pronounced physiological effects on the human body, i.e. many drugs contain alkaloids such as morphine and quinine.)

The Health Benefits of Eating Barberry

In recent history, the medicinal properties of Berberine has been studied at length. However, the use of barberries in Eastern and Western medical traditions goes back to at least 3000 years.

Recent research has found that berberine can:

  1. Increase immunity and fight infection
  2. Ease inflammation
  3. Improve digestion, reduce gastrointestinal pain and treat diarrhea
  4. Control blood sugar to aid in preventing and treating diabetes
  5. Improve hypertension and heart health
  6. Reduce oxidative stress
  7. Effectively cleanse the liver and act as a gallbladder flush agent

In traditional Eastern medicine, the barberry has a cold and dry nature. Historically, barberries in large quantities were used as a sedative by Iranian physicians, while in India they were used to treat diarrhea. Ancient Egyptians used barberry and fennel seed to cure fever and in northern Europe, the barberry is still used to treat disorders of the bladder, liver, and gallbladder.

How it’s Done

There are a few different ways you can incorporate the barberry into your diet.

A consistently balanced and healthy diet of varied fruits and vegetables, including the fruit of the barberry shrub is always going to be your best bet. My number one recommended method is to use it in real foods, like in the dishes I mentioned in the beginning of this article. As I’m not a seasoned recipe creator and do not want to copy and paste someone else’s hard work, I will refer you to someone who really knows their stuff… Try this delicious chicken, barberry and saffron frittata as shown by lovely chef/blogger Maryam Sinaiee, on her website The Persian Fusion. She has many other recipes for using barberries, some are very traditional, some are more fusion types. All seem delicious!

I am also partial to soaking dried barberries in boiling water, adding honey, then drinking as a kind of hot tea.

Where to Find Barberries

You can find Barberries at most Persian grocers, or you can also order online. Click the affiliate image below for my fave brand of barberries. Be warned that once in a while, small stones and stems are normal, and they should be thoroughly picked through and rinsed before use.

Dried-Barberries

Of course, it can be easier for some to take a high dose of barberry compounds in capsule form. So another way is to take berberine supplements. If I’m at the point where I HAVE to use supplementation, Thorne Research products are in my top 5. I’ve also included a link to the Thorne Research capsules in the affiliate image below.

Berberine

Let me know if you decide to make any Barberry recipes you find that I should know about. I make zereshk polo at least once a month, if not more, so I’m always looking for new ways of using Barberries as a part of my healthy diet.

To a berry positively strong week,

 

Sunny

Informational

Weight Loss: Exercise vs. A Healthy Diet

Are you trying to lose weight with just exercise alone? Do you have a soda addiction but figure it’s not as bad as smoking or other vices since you can just exercise the ‘bad’ calories away? Unfortunately new research looking at the weight management approach of calories in versus calories out tells us that this is really not the case — you really can’t outrun a bad diet.

Diet Trumps Exercise for Weight Loss

The 2015 study published in the journal Current Biology suggests that too little physical activity can make you unhealthy but too much of it drives your body to make big adjustments to adapt, leading to weight loss plateaus. The authors  of the study point to the need to focus on diet, especially when it comes to weight loss and weight management.

Below is a great video that pretty much sums up exactly what the research says:

How to Make a Healthy Diet Fit Your Life

I’m all about eating yummy desserts and not restraining myself when it comes to birthday parties or get togethers — so what do I do when I want to indulge and still maintain my healthy weight? That’s easy, I create myself a meal plan that includes all the food groups, I stick to whole, plant based nutrition as the base, and allot 20% of what I eat to other foods (mostly homemade) that curb my cravings.

In fact I do this for my clients as well. I create meal plans that fit with clients’ tastes, allergies or intolerances and daily life. I just ask that clients exercise 2-3 days a week as a bare minimum, and that they take the time to prepare the majority of their meals at home (I’m not a fan of processed, pre-packaged foods.)

Nutrition Matters: Macros

I also work with my clients to start understanding their macronutrient intake. By macronutrient I mean the fats, carbs and proteins they eat on a day to day basis. Counting calories doesn’t tell you much, as this March 2015 study published in the journal of Public Health Nutrition tells us, instead, knowing exactly how each food helps to fuel your metabolism and your day is what you need to know.

Continue reading “Weight Loss: Exercise vs. A Healthy Diet”

Health, Uncategorized

Positively Happy Holiday Greetings!

Positively_strong_health_solutions_coupon_offer_for_diet_weightloss_nutrition_fitness_plan

My heart is happy,

My belly is full,

I thank God that my clients

Are so jolly and cool!

Basically, since I like to take the Christmas holidays to reflect on all of the blessings in my life, this past year has been an amazing one.

I’m really thankful for a year of learning, expansion and being able to work with awesome clients and people who are so into fitness and nutrition.

Thanks for making my job so enjoyable. I love being a champion for healthy living and a coach where I get to see others work hard, succeed and fulfill their own dreams, wishes and resolutions.

To Positively Strong Holidays,

Sunny

 

 

Food

Reputation Re-haul: 5 Fattening Foods That Are Actually Good For You

Good-For-You-Foods-With-A-Bad-RepEveryday, there is someone out there that is unnecessarily avoiding certain foods. They don’t have an allergy and they don’t dislike the food, but in the name of weight loss or health, they are choosing to discriminate against them.

Blogs, news outlets and media figures like Dr. Oz are busy using scare tactics about perfectly-good-for-you foods, and with far fetched promises of shedding 20 pounds in a week. Some processed foods are marketed as “healthy” but they are far from it (see one of my previous posts) while other foods are given a bad reputation, sometimes based on studies that are simply taken out of context. Well I’m here to tell you that unless you have a real food allergy or intolerance, you shouldn’t be avoiding these whole foods based on what the uninformed word is on the street.

Below is a list of 5 foods that you may be avoiding unnecessarily, when in fact they are super good for you!

Continue reading “Reputation Re-haul: 5 Fattening Foods That Are Actually Good For You”

Food

Living Sugar Free – Part 2

Sugar-Free-Protein-MuffinssAs you may remember, my last blog post was all about taking the plunge and kicking the sugar habit; as promised, here is part two on the matter. Last time, I spoke about all the many reasons to quit sugar and how to go about getting past the addiction, but in this article, I would like to discuss little tricks that will help you keep up with a sugar-free diet in the long run. I have also included my own recipe for an all natural, sugar-free, protein muffin that I make in lieu of post workout protein shakes or bars that claim to be “sugar-free”.

1st Step: Don’t replace real sugar with artificial sugar

Artificial sweeteners were created by manufacturers to provide us with the sweetness that we carve without all the calories that come with them. Unfortunately, a 2013 study in the Diabetes Care journal found that artificial sweeteners can actually alter the way your body metabolizes sugar. Sweeteners can actually affect the glycemic and insulin responses in our bodies (insulin is also the hormone involved in nutrient breakdown and fat storage in the body). Studies show that replacing regular sugar with artificial sweeteners is almost like switching from cigarettes to cigars. You still get the sweetness you’ve been craving, so you never get your taste-buds and body used to living without the sweet taste and insulin spikes. This means that you will either go back to the real stuff, or will just keep substituting with sweeteners (which are just as bad for you). After three months on a true, no-sugar, no-sweetener plan, your taste-buds and cravings do actually change and you will start craving more nutrient dense foods when you are off sugar and sweeteners. That means that it is actually possible to crave salmon over Skittles, as crazy as that may seem.

2nd Step- Create a sugar-free meal plan

Following a low-sugar meal plan that is hearty and allows you to eat foods you like will help you adhere to a long term, no-sugar lifestyle. Swap breakfast cereal for an omlette and substitute your midday sweet cravings of brownies and cupcakes for almonds, berries and yogurt. Eating often through out the day will help curb those sugar cravings, this means at least three meals and two snacks. If you have trouble figuring out what to eat, just check out my online packages for nutritional meal planning, catered to suit your personal tastes and weight loss needs.

3rd Step- Keep healthy snacks close by
Continue reading “Living Sugar Free – Part 2”

Food

Travel Tip: Eating Healthy While On The Road

What_to_eat_on_the_road_healthyThe picture I’ve posted here is of recent meals I had while on vacation in the Algarve region of Portugal. Looks simple, healthy and a bit fancy right? Well, actually the large photo was of a meal I had in a British Style Pub right on the harbor and it wasn’t a fancy place at all. When I go to the Pub here in Chicago, the only food I can find is greasy onion rings and ketchup.

Everywhere I went in Europe, I was able to find delicious and healthy meal options right on the menu. I didn’t have to ask them to hold the fries, or to go easy on the sauce, or to substitute the double battered onion rings for a salad, in Europe it always came perfectly paired with veggies or a side of salad.

I find that in North America, we are quick to settle for what is offered by restaurants. In Europe, a restaurant would go out of business if the food wasn’t made with farm fresh ingredients or simply made from scratch. In North America, the restaurants that do offer the fresh, organic and made-from-scratch options are considered fancy and usually come with a hefty price tag. Don’t get me wrong, I know there is so much that we do better here on our side of the pond, but when it comes to food, the Europeans know where it’s at.

Now what to do when traveling around the US and Canada and you can’t find a single thing on the menu that you deem healthy? Here are a few tips based on what I choose to eat when I’m on the road: Continue reading “Travel Tip: Eating Healthy While On The Road”

Food

Back from Vacation: Fun & Food

OrangeHappyI just spent the last ten days eating my way through Portugal and Southern Spain. I was blown away by the quality of the food, the abundance of fresh fish and fruit and the wide array of spices and flavors found in all things edible. So much so that I will probably make several different posts with all the different photos I took there (just thought I’d warn you ahead of time).

What I love about a vacation is that it’s a great opportunity for your system to recharge. My mind is fresh and full with new ideas, while my body had a chance to rest from all the protein powders, intense HIIT sessions and heavy weight lifting sessions that I usually subject it to. When I get back into the gym later today, I will probably make a bigger impact as I’ll wake my body back up and give it another much needed change.

I was in no way inactive while I was on vacation. I was walking for 10-12 hours a day, up many hills and uneven surfaces to see all kinds of forts and castles (whew, talk about cobble stones being great for balance training) and I also made it a point to do these exercises in my hotel room every few days. At the same time I didn’t stress about work, blogging, missing a workout or having to cook healthy meals or making sure I met my macro requirements at any time. I just took in the sites, learned about history, ate a lot of freshly picked fruit and chose to eat at restaurants that served good, wholesome foods.

20140514_222858I also had a chance to sit in the sun, catch up on my favorite blogs, and reconnect with my sweet husband. Now that we’re back, I can’t wait to put all of my new ideas to paper, but to also plan our next vacation for next year (I know, I know, I just got back, but looking forward to a new trip let’s me get through long work days 🙂 ). Let me know if you have any upcoming vacations planned or if you have any suggestions for places I should visit that offer really good local food.

To Positively Strong Vacations,

Sunny

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Food

Power Eats: Protein French Toast

ProteinFrenchToastIf you are using whole eggs to make your French toast, then there is already a bunch of Protein in your french toast to begin with, but I am trying to build muscle, and so after a heavy weights workout I am looking for a lot more protein to repair muscle tissue. This is where my super protein whole wheat french toast recipe enters. It’s über simple to make and jam packed with protein and complex carbohydrates, I usually eat these once a week in the afternoon, after a workout, instead of the usual protein shake.

Here are all the ingredients that you will need:

  • 1 Whole Egg
  • 1 Egg Whites
  • 1/2 Scoop of your favorite Vanilla Protein Powder (as I’ve said in this blog, I prefer Dymatize)
  • 1 Tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 TBS of Unsweetend Almond Milk
  • 2 Slices of Whole Wheat Bread (you can use any type really. Ezekiel, sprouted, multi-grain…)
  • 1 Tsp of Organic Coconut Oil
  • Organic Maple Syrup
  • 1/2 Medium Banana (sliced as garnish)

Continue reading “Power Eats: Protein French Toast”