Friday, 28 September 2012

Diet, Arthritis and Heart Health

I've ummed and ahh-ed a little about posting this as it's a tricky topic and I don't really want to worry anyone. However, heart health often gets overlooked in arthritis. 

Those of us with inflammatory arthritis are at a potentially increased risk of cardiovascular disease because of the systemic inflammation in our bodies. Luckily, the same medications that reduce our joint inflammation can help reduce our heart risk. For those with osteoarthritis, the risk is more to do with difficulties taking exercise or managing weight. For both types of arthritis, the best prevention is keeping your weight healthy, eating well, taking gentle exercise and getting your GP to keep an eye on your blood pressure, waist circumference and cholesterol levels. 

There are also lots of ways your diet can help keep your heart healthy:

1. Eat plenty of omega 3 -  from oily fish, linseeds (or flax), almonds and walnuts with the added bonus that it's great for your joints and brain too
2. Avoid saturated fat - in meat, butter and dairy. Instead choose lower fat options, lean cuts of meat and limit your serving size
3. Enjoy healthy fats - try olive oil and rapeseed oil for cooking and dressings
4. Fill up on fibre - eat pulses, beans, whole grains and plenty of fruit and vegetables
5. Avoid empty calories - cut back on sugary foods and alcohol
6. Watch your salt intake - try seasoning food with herbs, spices, lemons, limes and vinegars instead

All of the recipes on this site (other than the treats) are based on these principles. Generally, what is healthy for arthritis is also healthy for your heart so you can enjoy the arthritis-friendly recipes knowing they are good for all of you, not just your joints.

For more information, visit  the Arthritis FoundationWebMD (for RA and heart disease info), Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Association and the British Heart Foundation. Lene Andersen (who writes the great blog The Seated View) also produced a helpful article on Health Central about the  issue here.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Arthritis-Friendly Recipe: Making Cake Mix Healthier

Another baking recipe! This came out of a conversation I had with a friend who said that she liked to use mixes as they made baking with arthritis easier for her, mainly because there was less lugging about of heavy flour and sugar jars and no egg cracking. However she wanted to make them a bit healthier and a little tastier. This is what I came up with - it's more of a blueprint than a recipe as you can adapt it depending on what flavours you fancy or what you have in the fridge/cupboard. You need to make sure you are using a cake mix that only requires adding water, butter or oil. If it needs an egg this method won't work. I recommend using a good light plastic bowl, a hand blender and some silicone bakeware for these muffins. A spatula makes light work of scooping it out of the bowl too but the downside is there is nothing left to lick clean.

400g of cake mix ( I used Wright's)
2 really ripe bananas (or use 150g pumpkin puree from a can or applesauce)
150g low fat natural yoghurt (one small pot)
75g All-Bran
50ml milk (leave out if using pumpkin puree or applesauce)

Makes 12

Put the bananas in a large plastic bowl with the yoghurt and milk. Either mash them together by hand or do it with a hand blender or whisk (if they are really ripe).

Add in the cake mix and blend until just combined (don't worry about lumps too much). 

Spoon the mixture into 12 muffin cases so they are each 2/3 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a skewer poked in the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool and then scoff!

Arthritis diet notes
Adding fruit and yoghurt helps keep these moist without having to add extra fat. The All-Bran and fruit also adds some extra fibre to make them more sustaining and slow the release of the sugar. Throw in some nuts, seeds or dried fruit if you want to make more of a breakfast muffin.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

'Cooking with Arthur' is in the News: Mail on Sunday Article

I'm incredibly excited to have been featured in the Mail on Sunday  this weekend. I've been interviewed about why I'm so passionate about cooking with arthritis (or Arthur as I call it) and asked to share some of my top tips.  
For anyone new to the site, here's a quick run down of what you can find on here:

- All about diet and arthritis, and some tips on eating healthily when you are flaring
- Handy kitchen hints and gadget reviews
- In depth posts on foods and supplements that can help (and some that don't) based on the science, not the myth
- Healthy arthritis-friendly recipes, that are easy to make for the whole family, even when your joints hurt.

I regularly post new recipes and tips, so please check back here or bookmark the site as a favourite.

The Mail article has been a wonderful opportunity for me to share Cooking with Arthur with a wider audience. I really want this site to be a resource for everyone with arthritis or anyone interested in cooking with a medical condition so please share your top tips and tell me what you'd like to see more of. I'm always open to suggestions; leave a comment if there is a particular recipe, diet or cooking problem you would like me to tackle in a future post. Sharing our experiences is the best way we can all keep on cooking with arthritis.

Finally, I was put in touch with the Mail by the lovely people at Arthritis Research UK  as part of their Great British Garden Party campaign. Have a look at their website and think about holding one (you can make my special Orange Drizzle Cake for it). It is a brilliant way to get people together and raise the profile of arthritis. Arthritis Research UK do amazing work providing patients with information and support but they also fund ground-breaking projects into new treatments. I was lucky enough to be treated by one of the clinical trials units they help fund and the difference their works makes is truly life changing. Also look out for National Arthritis Week from the 8th-14th October - another good opportunity to get cooking with arthritis !

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Arthritis Friendly Recipe: Spicy Tomato Soup

This is a no-chop healthy soup recipe that will really cheer you up on an Autumn day. You can make it all in one pan and there is no messing about with boiling water. I do recommend using a stick/hand blender as it avoids any need to lift the pan whilst it is hot and full of heavy liquid. If you find opening cans tricky, there are some great ring-pull gadgets available now or at my local supermarket you can buy both beans and tomatoes in cardboard cartons.

Try serving this soup with a sprinkle of coriander, a dollop of yoghurt and flatbread or tortilla chips. It will keep for up to 3 days in the fridge.

1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can cannelini or butter beans
1 low salt chicken or vegetable stock cube
1 clove of garlic (optional)
250ml water (or use half milk/half water for a richer soup)
1 tsp smoked paprika
1tsp cumin
1/2tsp turmeric

Serves 4

Put a medium sized pan on the hob. Pour in the tomatoes, beans and water. Toss in the stock cube, spices and peeled clove of garlic (if using). Cover and set on a medium heat until it comes to the boil. Then remove the lid and gently simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Turn off the heat and blend until smooth (I use a hand blender so I can just stick it in the pan. If you need to pour it into a food processor or jug blender, let it cool for a bit first). Serve.

Arthritis diet notes
Soup makes a great lunch or light dinner.Whilst all soups are good at keeping you going, this one is particularly filling as it has additional protein and fibre from the beans. They also provide folate which many people with inflammatory arthritis need a little extra of. The spices give the soup an anti-inflammatory boost whilst adding flavour.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Arthritis Friendly Recipe: Best Ever Brownies

I'm still watching the Great British Bake Off and consequently I'm still baking alot. It's just my baking is arthritis-friendly and hasn't yet involved creaming, custards or crying. This amazing brownie recipe is a variation on my all-time favourite brownie recipe and I can promise you that these are so easy I managed to make them on one leg, half-drug addled, only two days after a major hip operation (probably qualifies as extreme cooking with arthritis). Feel free to replace the gluten-free flour with ordinary all-purpose flour and add in chocolate chips or nuts.

100g dark dairy free chocolate
75ml rapeseed oil
200g soft brown sugar
2 eggs
4 tbsp cocoa (dutch method for US)
1tsp vanilla extract
1/2tsp salt
85g flour (can be gluten-free)
3tbsp brewed coffee (boosts the chocolate taste but you can use water instead)

Makes 16

Heat the oven to 180c. Grease and 8in x 8in brownie pan.

Place the chocolate in a microwavable bowl and melt by heating at HIGH for 30 second intervals and stirring until runny. Remove from the microwave and add the rapeseed oil and sugar. Stir to combine. Add in the coffee, vanilla extract and salt and mix again.

Tip in the flour and cocoa and give another stir. Finally add the eggs and mix until smooth. You should have a thick batter that falls in a thick ribbon off a spoon. 

Pour the brownie batter into the pan and bake for 25-30mins or until the tops are shiny and cracked but the batter still gooey in the middle. Allow to cool then cut into 16 pieces.

Arthritis diet notes
Um, they are brownies so it's not really going to be good nutritional news. Rapeseed oil is a good source of omega 3 and chocolate is good for the soul but other than that they won't be winning any arthritis joint pain busting prizes. Sorry!


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