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

Healthy Lifestyle Resolutions: It’s Not Too Late to Start Over

weight-loss-transformation

Did the clock strike twelve, fireworks go off and you resolved that it was going to be a “New Year, New You” kind of year? Well, now that we’re midway into February, this is the perfect time to reflect on your progress to see how those resolutions you made are coming along .

Sticking With New Year’s Weight Loss Goals

Sadly, this time of year is about the same time that gyms and fitness clubs start to empty out — as half of all New Year’s resolutioners start to lose sight of their goals and give up.

The Stats

According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute‘s 2017 survey of 1,273 online, 216 phone, and 73 in-person respondents, 41% of Americans usually make New Year’s resolutions.

Of those resolutioners, 32% of the resolutions were weight related.

When asked about how many actually kept with their resolutions after a month into the new year, only 58.4% of respondents felt that they kept up with their resolutions after January.

What’s more, only 9% of respondents felt that they were successful in achieving their resolutions at the end of last year. This means that 91% of the people that made New Year’s resolutions felt that they were not successful in achieving their goals — holy moly, that is a huge percentage of people that probably feel ashamed and guilty for not following through with their goals, me thinks.

The How To

So what does it take to achieve those weight loss goals? A quick google search defines New Year’s resolutions as a tradition in which a person resolves to change an undesired trait or behavior. But what I’ve learned over the years and after taking on countless new clients around this time of year, is that you need more than just resolve to change an undesired trait or behavior.

Setting Healthy Lifestyle Goals: Where to Start

  1. What is your overall objective?
  2. How much time can you invest in achieving your particular goal? (Think hours per day, per week and number of months.)
  3. How much money or resources do you want to put towards your goal?
  4. How much effort are you willing to put in to reach your goal? (Use a 1-10 scale, anything less than a 7 rating usually means your goal is not as important to you as you think.)

Now don’t get me wrong, I too have failed in keeping many a resolutions in the past — But after many years of learning about human behavior, and of course through trial and error,  I know one thing for sure, it takes a few strategic tactics for health and weight loss goals to stick.

Take for example, my client Nadia (pictured above). She was able to achieve her new year’s resolutions of meeting her weight loss goals. But what did it really take? How was she able to find herself in the coveted 9% of resolutioners that met their goals? After all, she was working full time while starting her own business on the side, as she completed her masters degree and embarked on new life experiences. As tall a feat as it may seem, I promise you, you can also meet your weight loss goals the way she did. Read more to learn how to take the 4 questions above and put them into action.

The Healthy Resolution Plan: The Follow Through

First, you really have to want it. Don’t overbook yourself. You can’t want to lose weight, but also want to work more, read more, give more work presentations and spend more time with friends. In theory all of those things sounds great and doable at the same time, but when it comes to your resolutions, you have to make your goals a top priority.

Continue reading “Healthy Lifestyle Resolutions: It’s Not Too Late to Start Over”

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”

Informational

Freedom From The Norm: How An Online Trainer And Coach Works

Online-Fitness-TrainerSome people just don’t like working with a personal trainer. They may like the idea of having someone to consult with, or the added motivation a trainer provides, but they’re just not into making or keeping tight one hour appointments at the gym or having someone yell— “gimme just 1 more rep!” —into their ear.

I don’t blame them. I’m a certified personal trainer, and even I don’t like forcing my clients into a rigid schedule, where they dread coming to see me.

Like my clients, I much prefer a flexible schedule. This is why all of my packages are offered online. Many of my clients are busy professionals, some with kids, some without. Time is precious to them and they don’t always have the luxury of dropping into workout classes at a set time.

How Online Strength & Nutrition Guideance Works

  • I provide you with a series of online questionnaires
  • You fill out the online forms and send back to me
  • I obtain all the necessary information I need (such as your goals, weight, height, fitness level, stress levels, fitness and nutritional likes, dislikes, allergies, injuries, concerns, etc.)
  • I create a customized personal training program and macronutrient focused meal plan for you

Strength and Conditioning

What most people need is a customized plan that gives detailed information on what exercises to do, on what days. Sometimes exercises will include machines or weight resistance, other times it may be body weight exercises or plyometrics. Everything fits together to target your specific goals and keep your body on your toes.

Don’t know how to use the equipment at your gym properly? No problem, I send you videos, photos and descriptions if that’s an issue. All workout plans keep in mind your fitness level, load, intensity, frequency and the various equipment you may or may not have available to you. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to these plans. Everything is tailored to your needs.

Nutritional Counseling

My clients aren’t into fad diets, instead they want to eat real food, with the correct portion sizes for their activity needs and fitness levels, while losing body fat and gaining muscle in all the right places. I calculate your macros, and give you a workable schedule of suggested meals and recipes that fit those macros (that’s the hardest part for most people) and fit your daily life. Continue reading “Freedom From The Norm: How An Online Trainer And Coach Works”

Health

The Joy of Better Health: Preventing Heartburn With 5 Simple Solutions

JumpForJoyAcidRefluxIf you have ever experienced heartburn, you’ll know that it is no joke. It’s not just annoying, but it’s actually quite a dangerous signal of your overall health.

Many years ago, I had heartburn that persisted over a few weeks and when I told my doctor about it she just waved it off and said that it was probably too much acidic foods and that she would prescribe me some medication for Acid Reflux. The medication worked, but as soon as I came off of it, the heart burn came right back. That was quite some time ago, nowadays I know a lot more about Acid Reflux and indigestion, and the types of foods and diets that bring about heartburn.

Most often, it’s not just one meal or food that does it, instead it is a series of meals and bad habits that create an acidic environment in the body by dropping the body’s natural pH balance to below 7.35. Acid forming foods are definitely a culprit, but most people don’t realize that it is not acidic fruits and foods like lemons, tomatoes and sauerkraut that disturb the alkaline balance of the body, but instead it is “acid-forming foods” such as processed foods and packaged goods that cause acidosis in the body and subsequent harm.

A low pH and acidic environment within the body is the perfect growing conditions for a bacteria called the Helico Pylori Bacteria (a.k.a H. Pylori) which inhabits the stomach and the esophagus. H.Pylori stimulates cells in the stomach to produce excessive amounts of gastric or hydrochloric acid which can make their way back and up into the esophogus causing “Heartburn” or Gastro-Esophogeal Reflux Disease (GERD). Doctors usually prescribe a heavy dose of antibiotics for H.Pylori, but since the antibiotics themselves can often do a lot of harm, eating the right foods can re-balance the gut to create an alkaline environment (not allowing the H.Pylori to thrive). I can honestly say that just by switching to whole foods and cooking at home, I have been able to experience better overall health, prevent heartburn and not take any medications whatsoever, which literally has me jumping for joy!

As for Acid Reflux medication, those just mask symptoms and can often have many side effects as well. My doctor should not have waved off my heartburn as if it were no big deal. It’s great that she recognized food could be a source of the problem, but she should have elaborated on what foods were actually “acid-forming” to the body and also advised me to see a nutritionist.

Preventing heartburn can be a way of preventing bigger problems down the road and since there are already lots of lists out there to help alleviate heartburn once you have it, I have instead created a list that will help balance your gut flora and keep you from experiencing heartburn in the first place.

5 ways to clean up your diet and keep heartburn at bay:

Continue reading “The Joy of Better Health: Preventing Heartburn With 5 Simple Solutions”

Uncategorized

Fighting Rising Health Costs

Breaking_Bad_Habits I don’t usually go so long between writing these blog posts and I promise not to make it a habit, it’s just that enrolling in a full-time Master’s program while working full-time might have been a little more than I can neatly chew. Not that it hasn’t been amazing, interesting and full of fun, it really has, and so today I want to give you little taste of what’s been keeping me so busy.

The focus of my research this term is engagement, or better explained, the meaningful involvement of patients in health care. Still not sure what that means exactly? Well, it can mean a lot of things, starting with creating solutions and ways in which to encourage adults to actively take charge of their own diet, exercise, medication, treatment and overall health care while cutting overall health care costs. What is really exciting for me, is that it goes hand in hand with what I hope to achieve with my clients each and everyday. I want my clients to take charge of their own lives, learn new skills and take into account all the different factors and options that affect their health and health care costs, and have the confidence to seek the right care to live happy and healthy lives.

Since people who lack the skills or confidence to manage their own health care cost the system 21% more, it is in everyone’s best interest that we all fight to become better consumers of health care. How does one become a better, more engaged and more informed health consumer? Below are some tips to get you started:

How to be a more informed health care consumer, save money and experience better overall health:

Continue reading “Fighting Rising Health Costs”

Uncategorized

Candida Nightmares: Wait, What is Candida?

FruitsWe’re now a week into the New Year, how exciting! It’s been several weeks of craziness for me, as I just finished a hectic term of grad school with a flurry of lengthy papers, presentations and exhaustion right before the holidays began. I pulled my first all-nighter in seven years… a terrible decision on my part. Not sleeping will do a number on your body, especially if you are used to 7-8 hours of sleep a night like I am. Stress and not sleeping well lowered my usually strong immune system and I ended up getting sick for the first time in three years, talk about not being able to enjoy the fruits of my labor, instead of eating all of my favorite foods and fruits, I spent the whole holiday season trying to figure out what was going on with my body. The lowered immunity caused the candida population in my stomach to increase and I was hit with a bunch of food intolerances and allergies right in the middle of all the holiday dinners and festivities. Dairy, meat, nuts and even fruits and veggies were giving me severe stomach pain and even my skin broke out in acne and hives, all strong signals of inflammation in the body and a push for me to reduce stress and re-balance my life and diet.

The immune system is not just one organ like the liver or the heart, instead it is made up of a collection of different organs and systems that work together to kill pathogens and protect the body. Almost every part of the body contributes something to the immune system, so if one piece starts to function below par, your overall health can be at risk. For me it was clear, not sleeping for 24 hours straight, and getting only 4-5 hours of sleep in the week prior, had caused me adrenal fatigue. Continue reading “Candida Nightmares: Wait, What is Candida?”

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The Secret To Looking Good

FeelingGoodSometimes it’s easy to let other people’s insecurities get to you. They start making comments like “I hate my thighs”, or “I can’t eat that, I need to lose like 5 pounds!” or even worse, “don’t you just hate how we can’t be as skinny as her?” and you start thinking that there must be something wrong with you and that maybe you too should be thinking twice about eating that last morsel.

I know that I don’t have the thin body you see in the media, but there is no reason for anyone to body shame me for not wanting to aspire to someone else’s ideals. I could turn the tables and start talking about how sick and skinny those models look (and probably feel), but what would that achieve? That is negativity that starts weighing down on your soul and I just want to fill my life with light and positivity, besides, ain’t nobody got time for that!

I am constantly reminding myself that my legs helped me squat 200lbs, or that my shoulders helped me hold my handstand in a strong, stable position. My body is strong, I love nourishing it with nutritious foods, and I love feeling happy and healthy from all the vitamins in what I eat and the endorphins that exercise gives me. Other people will always have their opinions, but how they feel about your body has nothing to do with how you actually feel.

So pssst…the secret to looking good is to feel good. If you feel good about the decisions you are making (like making an effort to cook at home and making time for exercise), if you fill your belly with healthy nutritious foods that gives you the proper vitamins and nutrients to fuel your body, and if you surround yourself with positive people, you are bound to feel and look good.

I guess that’s not really a big secret is it? It just gets easier to do with practice, so let’s start with small steps and get to a point where other people’s opinions are just that… their opinions and not ours.

To Being Positively Strong,

 

Sunny

 

Uncategorized

A Healthy Body Image: Strong Mind, Strong Body

Strong not SkinnyAll through my university years, I was competing heavily in Karate. I was weight training 3 times a week, karate training 4 times a week, and running every other day to maintain my 117lbs to compete in the lightweight division. During the off season, I would go easy on maintaining my strict diet and I guess what you call “bulk” a little. I was quite lean, and probably a little under weight for my 5’5 frame, since I have never been able to get down to that weight again while trying to maintain a good amount of muscle.

I remember one Halloween party during the off season, a guy I had met at another party once before, came up to me and said “Wow, you’re looking so great! The last time I saw you, you were looking too skinny and too muscle-y!”

The problem with statements like that, is that this guy knew nothing about me and actually had the audacity to make judgement about my body. Some may think there is nothing wrong with statements like that, but for years it made me think twice about getting any stronger because I was worried about gaining more muscle, or being too big, or being too skinny, or trying to be everything to everybody.

Lucky for me, I had a strong support system of family, friends and coaches that always pushed me to be a better version of myself, and I eventually came to understand that other people’s opinions don’t count when you are making decisions to enhance your own life. After all, no one has to live your life but you, and since then I have learned to trust in my own judgement and experiences to make decisions about who I want to be and what I want to look like.

Now, I simply want to be strong, I want to be healthy and I want to be able to do things that I couldn’t do the day before. Also, I love to eat real food, not diet, lift heavy and keep adding to my PR, so if I had to listen to the opinions of everyone else, I would probably have to stop doing most of the things that I love… sorry, but all of the things that make me happy are non-negotiable.

I look forward to the day when we stop judging each other for being too big, too skinny, too muscular or too much of anything and just want happiness for one another. Let’s just workout to be stronger, to be faster, to be healthy and live long happy lives, and acknowledge that healthy comes in many different shapes and sizes.

To Being Positively Strong,

Sunny

 

Uncategorized

Beat the Cold: Support Your Immune System

Healthy BalanceThe first day of spring has come and gone, and I still can’t seem to get away from my winter coat. Everywhere I go, layers and boots still follow me, and I just can’t seem to shake this cold weather off.

Thankfully though, I have not had a single battle with the dreaded Cold virus all year and I have spent all winter happy and healthy. I strongly believe that your body gives you signals of weakness well before viruses and illnesses have a chance to take over and in this post I would like to discuss how nutrition and exercise help to increase your immunity.

One of the signals that my body sends me to notify me of something being off is heartburn. As soon as I have heartburn I know that my body is inflamed and that it is rising in acidity or toxicity. For others, an increase in body acidity can show itself through fatigue, itchy scalp or skin, sinusitis, stomach/intestinal gas or migraines.

Acidity in the body can drastically reduce your immunity and has even been linked to the formation of cancer cells within the body. To reduce your body’s acidity levels, you must return your body to a balanced state of alkalinity. Most disease states can’t exist when the body’s pH is alkaline. Bacteria, viruses and fungi can’t reproduce. So what’s a body full of fast foods, drugs, GMOs, and non-organic food to do?

  • Choose only organic foods that are GMO-free to avoid pesticides, chemicals and other contaminants.
  • Eat alkaline foods like leafy greens, vegetables and some fruit. They sustain the body’s pH on a daily basis.
  • Reduce all kinds of processed foods, refined sugars and flours for a few days. Remember, even Whey protein and other exercise supplements are processed, so until you feel your body going back to a non-acidic state, lay off of them for a while.
  • Consume foods high in potassium like lemons, bananas and honey. Most people think that Lemons are an acidic fruit, but once ingested, lemons alkaline the body.
  • Cut caffeine consumption for a few days until the body returns to a normal state. Carbonated drinks should also be avoided. Herbal tea is my best friend when I am feeling unbalanced.
  • Lemonade or lemon water helps to clear the body of excess acids and create an alkaline-forming state. Mix the juice of half an organic lemon with two teaspoons of raw honey and eight ounces of warm water. Drink a glass first thing in the morning and more through out the day to flush the system. Be sure to warm the water in a kettle and not in the microwave.
  • Drink lots of water daily to flush the system of waste. Remember, about 8 cups a day is a good start.

I have a simple philosophy;Foods that come from trees or come from the ground, or meats that look like the actual animal they came from and foods that have not been altered by chemical processes should make up 90% of the food we eat to rev up the immune system and keep us healthy and strong. Add a healthy diet to exercise and you have the ultimate winning combo. Continue reading “Beat the Cold: Support Your Immune System”