Elderberries: Becoming Increasingly Popular, and For Good Reason!

admin Herbal Medicine, Immune Boosting, Sierra Guay, Supplementation Leave a comment  




Elderberries: Becoming Increasingly Popular, and For Good Reason!

Sierra Guay, MS, RD, CD

Elderberries are becoming increasingly popular, particularly in the state of Vermont, where they are being cultivated for their culinary and medicinal properties.

The idea of using elderberries to promote good health is not new, as all parts of the elderberry shrub have been used historically for this purpose.  Recently, researchers have been working to discover just what it is that makes these small, beautiful berries so special.

Elderberries, like other berries, are a good source of fiber and vitamins.  It is the extraordinarily high anthocyanin content of elderberries that appears to be responsible for their many health benefits, and is what sets them apart from many other berries, including the well-liked blueberry.  Anthocyanins are a subclass of plant phytochemicals, and are pigments that are responsible for the blue, purple, red, and orange colors of some fruits and vegetables.  In plants, anthocyanins help attract pollinators, promote seed dispersal, and protect from environmental stressors such as ultraviolet radiation.

In humans, anthocyanins are obtained through the diet and are known to influence health in a variety of different ways. Researchers have published literature to suggest that anthocyanins may help decrease oxidative stress in the body, decrease insulin resistance, decrease the initiation and promotion of cancer, and improve bone mineral density.  Several studies have been published that suggest that the anthocyanins in elderberries may help prevent and treat viral infections, such as the flu and the common cold.

Zakay-Rones et al. compared the ability of elderberry juice extract to treat the symptoms of the influenza virus in humans (1).  In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, sixty participants who had been experiencing symptoms of the flu for less than 48 hours were treated with either 15 ml of elderberry syrup or a placebo for five days.  Researchers found that participants who received elderberry extract experienced symptom relief on average four days sooner than those receiving the placebo.  Additionally, participants who received the extract reported reduced intake of nasal spray and pain medications throughout the course of their illnesses (1).

In a study using mice, Kinoshita et al. studied the efficacy of elderberry juice in decreasing the amount of virus present and stimulating the immune response (2).  When compared to Oseltamivir, an antiviral medication commonly used to treat infection by the influenza virus, elderberry juice concentrate given at 1 and 5 mg/day demonstrated less ability to decrease the amount of virus present, but was able to exert an immuno-stimulating effect that was not seen with Oseltamivir (2).  Decreasing the amount of virus present while simultaneously stimulating the immune response is a characteristic not associated with modern medications used to treat infection by the influenza virus.  We can begin to believe, therefore, that consuming elderberries may have benefits beyond that of using modern pharmaceuticals.

Some concern has been expressed regarding the safety of eating raw elderberries.  The concern is that a compound in the berries’ seeds may cause stomach upset if eaten in excess.  Though this concern has not been validated with scientific research, it may be worth heeding the advice to cook the berries before consuming them.

Elderberries have been widely distributed and can be found both in cultivated and wild landscapes in Vermont.  If you find elderberries growing on your property, consider yourself lucky!  Harvesting the berries can be a bit more labor intensive than harvesting blueberries, say, but the reward is a tasty and healthful treat!

In Vermont, we are lucky to have decent access to elderberries.  It is not uncommon to find value-added products that include elderberries, such as infused honey or tea blends.  A few Vermont-based companies have started producing syrups that might be taken to prevent or treat viral illnesses.   located in Charlotte, is one such company.  Another of our favorites is Immune Zoom by our friends at Urban Moonshine.

Christopher Chaisson, the founder of Wild Branch Foods, has been growing elderberries at his farm, Eleven Acre Farm, since 2007.  These berries, which are used to make the elderberry syrups sold by Wild Branch Foods, are treated very well in growth and harvesting.  In fact, Chaisson reports that the berries are allowed to grow for three years before harvesting, in order to allow the berries to mature and to ensure larger harvest yields.

It is important to know that the anthocyanin content of elderberries can be impacted by many factors, including plant access to water, soil quality, harvest time, post-harvest handling, storage, and processing techniques.  When shopping for elderberry-containing products, look for those that have been minimally processed.  Two tips to help ensure that you are purchasing a quality product and getting a good dose of anthocyanins are to (1) purchase products made with local elderberries and (2) purchase products with chunks.  Purchasing products made with local elderberries assures the consumer that the berries have not had to endure long travel times, which would lead to a decrease in anthocyanin content.  The presence of chunks in a product, say a syrup, may indicate that the product contains the skins of the berries, which are a good source of fiber and perhaps the best source of anthocyanins.  Note that juicing the berries does eliminate many of their health benefits.

Chaisson describes his method of processing his elderberries as one that produces “[a] pulpy juice [that is] full of elderberry goodness and is a distinctive part of Wild Branch’s elderberry syrup”.  After being harvested, the berries are pasteurized to ensure that safety standards are met, and are milled instead of juiced, allowing for retention of the berries’ skins.  The resulting products are an excellent example of products made with local berries that will contain chunks, and will therefore have high anthocyanin content.  Chaisson recommends enjoying elderberry syrup by itself, as a nutrition supplement, or as part of a mocktail or cocktail, where it can be blended with spring water, lime, or Vermont maple sap.

The prevalence of illness and chronic disease is on the rise, and subsequently, so are healthcare costs.  The influenza virus impacts hundreds of thousands of people worldwide every year.  Despite the availability of the influenza vaccination, hospitalizations due to symptoms of the flu are on the rise.  Currently, only a few medications have been approved for use in treating the symptoms of those infected with the virus, and those medications are subject to drug resistance.  Additionally, several of these medications may not be appropriate for children, a population that is particularly susceptible to contracting the virus.  It only makes sense to seek natural alternatives to modern medical treatment.  Given the efficacy and low cost of elderberries, they are a potential alternative to modern influenza medications.  Elderberries are a promising source of health benefits.  So, the next time that you get that sinking feeling of an impending illness, do yourself a favor and think about skipping the pharmaceuticals and giving some local elderberries a try!


  1. Kinoshita E, Hayashi K, Katayama H, Hayashi T, Obata A. Anti-influenza virus effects of elderberry juice and its fractions. Biosci Biotech Bioch. 2012;76:1633-8.
  1. Zakay-Rones Z, Thom E, Wollan T, Wadstein J. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. J Int Med Res. 2004 Mar-Apr;32:132-40.

5 Types of Intermittent Fasting (and the 1 a Dietitian Recommends)

admin Leslie Langevin, Weight Loss Leave a comment  


Although there are a variety of methods of intermittent fasting, most involve eating for a certain period of time and then not eating for a certain period of time. Certified dietitian Leslie Langevin, MS, RD, CD, of Whole Health Nutrition says that aside from a number of health benefits including lowering diabetes and other disease risks, improving blood sugar levels, extending life spans, and improving memory, intermittent fasting could be another tool in your belt to help with weight loss or to break through a weight-loss plateau.

She says, “It gets your body out of ‘storage mode’ and mobilizes fat stores for energy.” This means that without having the constant source of food (fuel) you’d get from eating all day, your body will dip into the fat it already has stored. That’s why people find so much success losing weight with intermittent fasting. There are a few different methods described in our recent interview with PopSugar so see which one might be right for you.


This Mantra Will Help You Lose Weight and Keep It Off For Good

admin Leslie Langevin, Weight Loss Leave a comment  


Leslie Langevin MS, RD, CD

Certified dietitian Leslie Langevin, MS, RD, CD, of Whole Health Nutrition says the trick for losing weight and keeping it off is to “think of food as fuel.” If your body is the machine, think about feeding it premium, quality ingredients to allow it to run better.  Read about these and other lifestyle tips from Leslie in PopSugar where Leslie is a regular contributing author.

Bitter Melon Chutney

admin Digestive Health, Recipes, Sides, Vegan Leave a comment  

Bitter Melon Chutney


  • 2 large and ripe Chinese Karela or Chinese Bitter melon, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 to 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • ¼ tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/8 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • ¼ tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • ½ tsp cumin powder
  • red chili paste
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1 tsp tamarind paste
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt (or as per your taste)
  • 1 to 1-1/2 Tbsp. coconut or olive oil



Heat oil in a medium saucepan and sauté onions and garlic for 2 minutes until onions are translucent. Add the spices and chili paste.  Then add the bitter melon and salt, sauté for an additional 5 to 6 minutes or until the bitter melon is cooked. Allow it to cool. In a blender, add the sautéed bitter melon, lemon juice, tamarind and the remaining ingredients and grind to smooth consistency. Adjust the salt as per your taste.

Sweet Potato Macaroons

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Sweet Potato Macaroons


Sweet Potato Macaroons


1 baked sweet potato, baked.

1 cup unsweetened or sweetened, shredded coconut

1 cup walnuts

¼ cup raw cane sugar

pinch of salt

4 Tbsp. rice flour, buckwheat flour or any GF flour

½ cup ground flax seed meal

1 Tbsp. dark molasses

¼ cup water

12 oz. dark chocolate, melted



Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Scoop baked sweet potato out of its skin.  Set aside.

Place the coconut and walnuts in a food processor.  Chop finely.   Set aside.

Add baked sweet potato, water, raw sugar, molasses to food processor and

process until lump free.

Combine walnut/coconut mixture salt, rice flour, sweet potato mixture

and flax seed meal in a bowl.  Mix to incorporate all of the ingredients.

Spoon about 2 Tbsps. of the batter onto baking sheet for each macaroon.

Bake for 20-30 minutes.  These will not spread and should hold their shape in the oven.

Once cool, dip in melted dark chocolate and allow to cool.


Kale Breakfast Bowl

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Kale Breakfast Bowl


  • Kale
  • Mad river grain roll
  • Fage Total Greek yogurt
  • Farro, Buckwheat, Quinoa
  • Almonds
  • Blueberries
  • Roasted pumpkin seeds, flaxseed, hemp hearts, chia seed
  • Lemon Juice
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

ARFID: Is It Picky Eating or Is It Disordered Eating?

admin Eating Disorders, Kim Evans Leave a comment   ,

Picky eating is worrisome to any parent.  After all one of the most awesome responsibilities a parent has is to feed their children well.  For the most part, food jags and picky eating resolves itself over time.  There are some instances, however, where picky eating persists and is more than picky eating.  It is actually a type of disordered eating called ARFID.  ARFID is an acronym for avoidant restrictive feeding intake disorder.  ARFID can be seen as an extreme form of picky eating where strong aversions to textures, smells, tastes, or experiences of food begin to limit food selection and can result in weight loss, nutritional deficiencies, and social relationships.  AFRID typically show up in childhood or adolescence and often persists into adulthood.  There are several theories about how ARFID might first develop, but none with universal acceptance.


Some symptoms to look for include:

  • Lack of interest in food
  • Avoidance of similar types of foods based on sensory characteristics of that food
  • Strong emotional reaction to attempts to ingest certain foods that are typically avoided
  • Weight loss or failure to thrive
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Psychosocial interference


Our work with ARFID centers on helping to heal relationship with food through programmed exposure to challenging foods.  We also work to identify and correct nutritional deficiencies that could lead to delayed development.  Changes to feeding can be lengthy and the goal is to begin with exposure and work up to ingestion.  We commonly work as part of a team which ideally would include the patient and their family, a medical provider, a therapist, and a member of our nutrition team.  At times speech therapy and occupational therapy can also be useful.  This work can take time and patience.  Some tools that our dietitians use include:

  • Food exposure/response
  • Food chaining
  • Creating food webs
  • Identifying food fear hierarchy
  • Exploring and examining foods in a safe environment
  • Planning and supporting food challenges

There is still much to understand about diagnosing and treating ARFID. Duke Center for Eating Disorders offers more intensive programs for families, including a parent weekend workshop and an immersion family program.  Locally, here in Vermont, there is a growing group of providers who are gaining experience in treating patients with this condition.  A team approach to treatment is essential. For more information contact our office at 802-999-9207,

Pomegranate Guacamole

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Pomegranate Guacamole

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • ¼ cup diced red onions
  • 3 TBSP freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ cup finely diced cilantro (mint or parsley can be used for those non-cilantro lovers – cut down to ¼ cup)
  • ½ cup pomegranate seeds


  1. Halve and pit the avocados and scoop out the flesh with a spoon into a bowl.
  2. Add red onion, lime juice, salt, and cilantro to the bowl.
  3. Mash the mixture together with a fork.
  4. Stir in pomegranate seeds and serve with chips or crudité (jicama is very nice here).


Mediterranean Lentil Salad

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Mediterranean Lentil Salad



  • 1 cup French green lentils
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 ounces feta cheese
  • ½ bunch fresh mint, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • Capers and Olives make a nice addition



In a sauce pan, bring lentils and enough water to cover to a boil; reduce heat, cover and let simmer for 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, combine lemon juice and vinegar and slowly add olive oil, stirring constantly to form an emulsion.

Taste and season with salt and pepper (Go easy on the salt – the feta cheese will also help contribute to a salty and rich flavor).

Toss the dressing with the lentils while still warm, adding the cheese and mint.

Adjust seasonings.

Add capers and olives.

Serve Warm, cold, or at room temperature.

Pan Seared Salmon with Wilted Kale

admin Dinner, Fish, Recipes Leave a comment   , ,

Pan Seared Salmon with Wilted Kale


For the Fish:

4 Fillets of Salmon

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper


Pat the salmon dry with a paper towel and season well with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed skillet over high heat.  Make sure your oil is HOT before placing the fillets in the pan.  Place then flesh side down (this is the presentation side) and do not move them or try to release them if they are sticking.  Let them cook until you see a golden brown crust forming at the edges (about 5 minutes).  Flip them and cook just 2 minutes more (longer if you like your salmon cooked all the way through).  Rest for 3-5 minutes before serving.


For the Kale:

1 bunch lacinato kale

2 cloves garlic, sliced

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

2 Tbsp olive oil

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper


Strip the kale from the stems and chop the leaves into small pieces.  Discard the stems.  In a large skillet heat the oil and add the garlic and red pepper to soften.  When the garlic is fragrant add the kale and cook just until it wilts (about 1-2 minutes).  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.

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