Thursday, 14 July 2011

Anti-Inflammatory Foods for Arthritis:Turmeric

First and foremost, food should be tasty. But, some ingredients go beyond tasty and have chemical components that may help your arthritis. Certain vegetables, herbs and spices are packed with phytochemicals (plant chemicals) that can help reduce arthritis inflammation. Some are well-established and others are just beginning to be studies. I sort the fact from the fiction for some of the key ones touted to help arthritis in the 'Arthur Investigates' series of posts and let you know how they can help and how to incorporate them into your diet through cooking tips and recipes.
Turmeric – Today 'Arthur' is investigating turmeric.Traditionally used in Aruyvedic medicine to treat arthritis, this bright yellow spice has shown some success in easing inflammation in both inflammatory arthritis (rheumatoid, psoriatic and ankylosing spondylitis and osteoarthrtitis) mainly thanks to a chemical in it called curcumin. 

In animal and laboratory studies of rheumatoid arthritis, turmeric extract has been shown to reduce inflammatory chemicals and slow joint destruction. Similarly there have been some studies showing it could also help reduce the inflammatory response in osteoarthritis. However, there have been very few trials on whether supplements help patients with arthritis and there isn't enough evidence at the moment to recommend taking turmeric supplements.

As a spice, turmeric is safe to eat and worth adding to your food for the taste alone as well as it's potential anti-inflammatory properties.Try adding a teaspoon to your rice to turn it bright yellow and accompany a curry. It's good in root vegetable soups to add a subtle, smoky spiciness. Turmeric is also fantastic in stir-fries, particularly singapore noodles or sweet and sour chicken dishes. You can find all my recipes using turmeric here
(A word of warning, turmeric turns anything and everything neon yellow! If you spill it on your work top or yourself, wipe it off with a good cleaning product immediately - you have been warned!).

For further information on turmeric, I recommend the excellent Medline resource here.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Baked Sweet Potato

My hands and wrists are playing up this week so I though it was timely to share a few of my favourite quick meal ideas for when chopping, stirring or mashing is not possible. A baked sweet potato makes a great lunch or side dish. Top with something that just needs to be spooned from a tub and you have an almost 'no hands' dish.

2 medium sweet potatoes (about 240g each)

Serves 2
Heat oven to 180c. Prick the potatoes a couple of times. Put in oven and cook for about 40 minutes or until potato has sagged slightly and is soft to touch.

Serve with choice of toppings. Try the following:
Hummus and pine kernels
Low fat herb and garlic soft cheese
Tahini (sesame paste) and cinnamon
Yoghurt and sprinkle of curry powder

Arthritis diet notes:
Sweet potatoes are a fantastic food. They are rich in soluble fibre and beta-carotene (which the body turns into vitamin A). We all need vitamin A for healthy eyes, immune systems and skin. There is some good evidence that beta-carotene can help prevent osteoarthritis from getting worse - but it can't prevent it. It's best to get through food sources, like sweet potatoes. Adding some fat from  oil, nuts or yoghurt will help your body absorb the beta-carotene.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Easy Pad Thai

We eat this a lot as it is so easy, involves little chopping and is really fresh and zingy. I'm sure it isn't particularly authentic but it certainly tastes similar to what we get at our favourite local Thai restaurant. Use whatever stir fry vegetable mix you like best – if you buy the ones with onion in you can omit the spring onions which will save you some chopping. If you want the recipe to stretch to 4, I recommend adding some chicken or prawns.


150g rice noodles (cooked as per instructions on packet or 300g straight to wok noodles)
2 eggs

Large bag of stir fry vegetables (about 300g)
4 spring onions chopped
1 clove garlic crushed
1tsp fresh grated ginger (or minced from a jar)
2tbsp sweet chilli sauce
2tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sunflower or groundnut oil

To serve:Lime wedges
Peanuts or cashews
Handful of mint

Serves 2-3

Beat the eggs together with one tablespoon of the soy sauce and set to one side.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Tip in the garlic, ginger and spring onions and fry for a minute or so until slightly softened and aromatic. Add the vegetables and stir fry until they just begin to soften slightly. Toss in the noodles and mix everything together.

Push the mixture to one side of the pan until you have a space to pour the eggs into. Add the eggs and allow to cook for a moment. Once the eggs look slightly set start stirring it to break it up and mix in into the rest of the stir fry.
Add the sweet chilli sauce and remaining soy sauce. Serve with a lime wedge for squeezing over, a sprinkle of nuts and mint.

Arthritis diet notes:
Homemade Pad Thai is much lower in fat and salt than the takeaway kind. There are loads of vegetables in this so it will also help you reach your five-a-day. The chilli, ginger and garlic all have good anti-inflammatory properties so may help with joint pain, but best of all they taste great.


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