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

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Just Because It Says Organic Doesn’t Mean It’s Good For You

organic-eating-and-headstandsI always choose organic produce over the conventionally grown variety. Fresh vegetables and fruits are better for you when they are not genetically modified or sprayed with pesticides. The fruit or veggie will have more nutrients and will have played its part in the eco-system, where bees and other insects have a chance to feed and pollinate the way they are supposed to do.

With that said, it has now become very popular for processed foods to carry an “organic” label, where sugar laden fruit bars, cereals and juices advertise that they were made with 100% organic ingredients.  Unfortunately this leads lots of people to think that Organic = Healthy and then they are surprised when they over-indulge in these organic products and see weight gain. These processed foods may be organic, but they still contain a crazy amount of sugar, sodium and other preservatives.

It’s great that people are thinking about where their food is coming from, but to take it a step further, we should all be thinking about taking the extra time to prepare our meals and eat whole foods as much as possible. Think about eating the way people did a hundred years ago… not an easy task I know.  A hundred years ago there was a designated person in the family (usually the mother) whose only role consisted of spending hours to prepare daily meals. That is definitely not the case now. Now women are busy juggling work, families, long commutes, training and fitness, traveling to exotic places, rent and mortgage payments, debt, taking care of aging parents, social lives and the list just goes on. There’s just no time to prepare meals from scratch and eat healthy 100% of the time.

Well, we cant’ aim for 100% all of the time. We have to take small steps and start off small. Just like when I started doing headstands, at first I couldn’t do them at all, but then little by little I started getting better at them. Now I can hold a headstand for upwards of 3 minutes and I am attempting to press into a handstand from the headstand position. Fitting in the time to cook is the same as attempting headstands for the first time, it has to happen slowly. Try scheduling the time to prepare one meal a week for a month and see how that goes. Then try for two meals a week. Slowly switch processed snacks (even those that say organic) to whole foods.

If you are confused about what I mean by “whole foods”, I’m talking about foods that are as close to their natural form as possible. A friend of mine said something super funny a while back and I think it fits really well here. He said, “If it comes from a Plant, eat it. If it’s made in a Plant, don’t”.  This couldn’t be more true and the next time you are out grocery shopping think about filling your cart with only whole foods and switching out some of your usual foods for these: Continue reading “Just Because It Says Organic Doesn’t Mean It’s Good For You”