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

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

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”

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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”

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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”

Food

3 Steps to Carb Backloading

PumpkinProteinMuffins

I often preach about the dangers of cutting carbohydrates for long periods of time. It’s true, you don’t want to be cutting carbs from your diet on a regular basis as this can lead to muscle loss, hormone disruption, weakness, fatigue, moodiness, bad skin and a plethora of other issues. With that said, I also understand that too much carbs can bring on a look of fluffiness and get stored as excess fat, covering those hard earned muscles. But I hate diets and I also hate calorie restriction, so what’s a person wanting to lean out to do?

The solution is something called carb cycling or carb backloading. Instead of weeks of food deprivation, the focus is on timing your macro nutrients and consuming carbs only after you’ve finished weight training. Consuming large amounts of carbs (particularly the sugary and starchy kind) raises your blood sugar which triggers the release of the hormone insulin to bring your blood sugar levels back down. If you’ve just finished weight training, that’s good, because insulin will take the carbs you’re consuming straight to the muscle cells for rebuilding. At any other time of day, however, insulin will store those carbs as fat.

Manipulating this effect is the key to getting the perfectly lean, muscular, and strong body. I’ll now explain how it works and how I use it in my weight training.
Continue reading “3 Steps to Carb Backloading”

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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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The Fit List: 10 Ways to Live Healthy

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor the longest time, I thought that being fit meant that I had to be super skinny and look like a runway model to be healthy. I was constantly battling a war against myself and confusing my curves, my strong legs and any muscle gain as fat.  It’s taken a long time to get here, to a place where I feel positive about myself, where I feel strong and know that I am healthy even though I don’t look like the typical girls in magazines.

I have realized that I need to fuel my body, that body fat is necessary for me to be healthy, and that exercising should not be about 2+ hours of cardio at the gym everyday.

Here is a list of habits that I have had to develop to pave the way for living positively, healthy and strong:

1. Drink more water. Everyone says this, but it is hard to do. I had to make myself wear 10 elastic bands on my right wrist for every glass I drank, I would transfer a band over to my left wrist every time I drank a glass… until it became a habit to drink 10 glasses a day.

2. Get fat back into my diet (I always thought fats were evil, everywhere I turned, the media told me fat was bad!). I did this by cooking with olive oil and coconut oil and taking a fish oil capsule every day. Getting healthy fats in my diet was a necessity to helping clear my skin (it balances your hormones), it made me more regular and I could concentrate on my work better. It was also instrumental in helping me build muscle.

3. Eat carbs!  Cutting carb intake might be okay for two weeks max, let’s say if I want to cut some fluffiness before bikini season, but it is never okay to go on a low carb diet for long periods of time, especially not when you are working out and strength training.  Believe me, you will be a happier, more positive person with carbs in your diet.

4. Calculate the exact macro-nutrients needed for my body. I did this after learning how to calculate my daily macros using the “If it fits your macros website”.  Then I was able to plan healthy meals that included lasagne and cookies in my daily meal plans.

5. Lift weights, and lift heavy. Majority of women do not get all Schwarzenegger with weight lifting, instead they start looking lean and curvy. No manliness and more fat burn at rest, I promise.

Continue reading “The Fit List: 10 Ways to Live Healthy”