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

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”

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Living Healthy: Balance It Out

Deep Lunge living a healthy balanced life

Let’s face it, life can get pretty hectic at any given moment. Just when you seem to think that all is well, something pops out of the blue to hit you smack dab in the middle of the throat. Yup, life can be a pain in the neck sometimes, but it’s these ups and downs, swerves and curves that help us appreciate all of the beauty in life. We should all be seizing the day, but it can be a little hard to do when most people put themselves at the bottom of the priority list.

As I plan a major move to a new city in three weeks, I find myself being torn in what feels like a million different directions. I have to pack up our jam packed bungalow, find a new dwelling in Chicago, continue with my clients and the work that I do here, search for new work opportunities in my new home town, over-think the unknown, spend time with family and friends before I go, plan my sister’s baby shower, prepare for my April trip to Europe, keep my standing appointments at the gym, continue eating well, take the time to shop organic, keep cooking healthy meals, read up on all of my fave blogs and of course also find the time to research and write on this lovely blog. Whew, it’s exhausting just to think about it all, but at the end of the day I’m be happy to know I tried my best to keep the balance in my life by not compromising on the things that are really important to me.

To me, finding balance means that you have a handle on the the various elements in your life and don’t feel that your heart or mind are being pulled too hard in any one direction. More often than not, you feel calm, grounded, clear-headed, and motivated when you are able to find the balance between all the elements of your life. Finding that balance can be a key to minimizing anxiety, sadness, body image concerns, work difficulties & relationship issues to feel balanced, peaceful & empowered.

How do I find my balance?

Continue reading “Living Healthy: Balance It Out”

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Using The F Word Helps Build Muscle

GoodFatsI want to build muscle. Why? Because muscle holds its shape so much better than fat does, helping me look more toned while burning calories even at rest… meaning that I can look strong, be strong and eat strong! And boy, do I ever love to eat.

To build muscle, I know that I need a few things in my arsenal. One, I need to lift weights, preferably heavy weights at that. Two, I need to meet the correct Protein, Carbohydrate and Fat amounts for my body type and exercise level. Three, I need motivation and patience to get up and keep going. Unfortunately for most people, they don’t realize that this muscle building formula requires that you follow all three steps to a tee. They try to skip over some of the steps, and that just isn’t going to work.

Most people assume that getting lean means eating a ton of protein and cutting all fats from their diet.  This is such a huge mistake to make and can actually set you back a bunch. Believe me, it took me years to understand this concept and I hurt my progress by not getting enough fats in my diet. If you don’t eat enough healthy fats, your body will use your protein intake as your main energy source. This is a huge problem for someone trying to add lean muscle mass as you want the protein you eat to go towards building and repairing the muscle tissue you worked so hard to workout. If your body is using protein as its main energy source, you may not reach your anabolic potential.

What is the proper amount of healthy fats to build muscle you ask? Continue reading “Using The F Word Helps Build Muscle”

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Motivation Monday: Fitness For Survival

HandstandsWhat would you do if you knew you were going to have to outrun a vicious dog on the way home from work tomorrow? Could you sprint away or climb a tree to get a way from it? Now what if you also had to carry your grandmother on your back as you ran away?

The other day, I was at the gym practicing handstands. It was the 87th time that I had attempted to do a free standing handstand after my workout, and I was excited to hold the stance in the air for the three seconds that I did. As I tumbled down, a gym regular asked me why I wanted to learn to handstand in the first place.

I just responded “why not?” but it really got me thinking, why do I want to do a handstand so bad? Sure it makes a great party trick, but I’m too old to join the circus and no one is going to offer me a fitness training job solely based on my handstanding ability. For me, I think it’s because I love knowing that I have conditioned my body to do things it couldn’t do before. I like knowing that my core muscles are strong, that my shoulders are getting stronger, and that I can build trust in my body not to let me down. The same goes for why I want to squat and deadlift 315lbs, and why I am pushing myself to do unassisted chin ups and pull ups… I am motivated by being a stronger version of myself. I like to know that I can take care of myself, that I can carry my grandmother as I run from a pissed off stray dog or that I can possibly save myself from ailments and disease if I work on being physically strong.

Of course, not everyone is motivated by the same things. Many can’t imagine a dog running after them, or ever being in a situation where their life is in danger and the only way to save themselves is to jump, kick or pull themselves up. Many also think that diseases won’t actually happen to them, assuming that tragedy only strikes others. Unfortunately, I bet you know at least one person hit by ailments like high blood pressure, knee and joint pain, diabetes, gout or hormonal imbalances and so on… all easily controllable or even preventable with diet and exercise.

For many, the physical aesthetic positives are simply not enough incentive and if being strong doesn’t motivate you, what about just being able to simply keep up with your kids? What about going up a flight of stairs without feeling out of breath? What about living a long life without aches and pains? Continue reading “Motivation Monday: Fitness For Survival”