Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Share Your Arthritis Recipes and Tips

I've been writing this blog for a while now and whenever I talk to other people about it, whether they are cooking with arthritis or not, they always share with me their favourite recipe or tip. Sometimes it's a really great easy recipe, passed down through the family, like this soda bread recipe.  Other times it's a brilliant tip to make cooking easier, such as microwaving butternut squash whole to make it easier to chop.

I want this site to be a really useful resource for anyone cooking with arthritis or any other condition or disability and I need your help, expertise and ideas to do that. So from today there is a new page on the blog  for your tips, recipes and suggestions. Please do visit it and post whatever you feel like sharing. Together we can help each other get cooking with arthritis.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Arthritis-Friendly Recipe: Singapore Noodles

Apparently Singapore Noodles aren't really from Singapore at all. Confusingly the name is something of a misnomer. Luckily, awkward name aside,  it's a very straightforward recipe. You can use pre-cooked noodles, a pre-chopped stir fry mix and throw in leftover meat, prawns, an egg or even tofu making it pretty much no-chop. What's more it's packed full of arthritis-busting spices, like turmeric, so it is a tasty way to give an anti-inflammatory boost to your diet. Maybe I should rename it Arthur's Aromatic Noodles?! Whatever you call this heap of spicy, aromatic noodles, it's a good recipe for anyone cooking with arthritis.

Ingredients:
300g pre-cooked noodles (rice vermicelli are the most authentic)
300g stir-fry vegetables (whatever you like)
2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp fresh grated ginger (you can buy it ready grated in jars or as a paste)
1 clove garlic crushed
1tsp mild curry powder
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
2 tablespoon dark soy sauce
2tsp sesame oil
A couple of handfuls of chopped cooked chicken, prawns or tofu
Lime wedges to serve (optional)

Serves 2

Heat the rapeseed oil in a large wok over a medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger and spices and stir-fry for a minute. Throw in the vegetables and cook until they begin to soften (about 3 minutes). Add the noodles and chicken/prawns/tofu to heat them through. Sprinkle with the soy sauce. Finally, drizzle with sesame oil and serve.

Arthritis diet notes
If you are interested in the anti-inflammatory effects of spices and whether adding them to your diet really can help arthritis, have a read of these 'Arthur Investigates' posts on garlic, ginger and turmeric.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Arthritis Friendly Recipe: 'Great British' Orange Drizzle Cake

The UK is about to go baking mad with the start of a new season of the BBC's tremendously popular 'The Great British Bake-Off'. For those of you unlucky enough to have never seen the programme, it's essentially a cake-baking competition with keen apron wearing contestants whipping up increasingly extravagant baked good in a Cath Kidston-style marquee. It's somewhere between cooking show, pastiche of Britishness and soap-opera - in short it is brilliant. 

I love to watch it but it is one of those shows that slightly frustrates me as someone with arthritis. I watch the contestants kneading, rolling and chopping and wince at the thought of trying it myself. I see them brandish piping bags and feel a little like I'm missing out. So I've been doing my own baking, my own way. This is a recipe I came up with to support another Great British themed event; this time Arthritis Research UK's 'Great British Garden Party'. It's a twist on the traditional lemon drizzle cake. There is no juicing of lemons or cracking of eggs involved so it is by far the easiest cake recipe I know for those with sore hands or wrists. Better still, it's delicious. So delicious that maybe next year I'll enter myself to the Great British Bake Off and show them how it's done!


Ingredients:
Cake
230g plain flour
200g caster sugar
25g ground almonds (optional - replace with same amount of flour or polenta)
2 ½ tsps baking powder
50ml (three large tablespoons) rapeseed or sunflower oil
200ml orange juice
1 tsp vanilla extract

Drizzle (optional)
50ml orange juice
35g caster sugar

Makes 12 large slices

Grease a large loaf tin (or use a silicone one) and pre-heat oven to 180C.

Put all of the dry ingredients in a bowl and lightly stir together. Add the juice, oil and vanilla extract and either blend together with an electric whisk or a few stirs.

Pour the cake mixture into the tin and cover lightly with foil. Bake for about 35-40mins or until the cake is well risen and a skewer inserted comes out clean.If using the drizzle, mix together the orange juice and sugar in a small bowl. Keep the cake in its tin and poke a few holes in it with the skewer, then pour the drizzle over it.

Allow the cake to cool for 30 minutes before removing from tin. 

Arthritis diet notes:
Compared to most cakes this cake has a better nutritional profile whilst tasting every bit as good. The rapeseed oil makes it a good source of omega 3 fatty acids - plant derived omega 3s aren't as well utilised by the body as fish derived ones but they still can help reduce inflammation in arthritis. The cake is still high in sugar so it should be treated as a treat.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Diet, Arthritis and Medications - How They Effect Your Nutritional Health

I had an interesting conversation the other day with a specialist nurse about how drugs can impact on the nutritional status of people with arthritis. Now we're both biased, but we both agreed that it is something not often discussed in the rheumatologist's office. However, the arthritis medications can have a big impact on your nutrient intake, metabolism and absorption.

Side-effects - arthritis medications can sometimes make it hard to eat a balanced diet. For example, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen can cause heartburn, stomach pain and nausea putting you off your food. Methotrexate is renowned for making people feel sick and can also cause ulcers or a sore mouth which may make eating 'normal' food difficult. Some drugs also alter the way things taste or leave a funny taste in the mouth. Finally, the tiredness the drugs cause may make it hard to face shopping or cooking

These side-effects are part of the reason that people with arthritis, especially those with inflammatory or auto-immune arthritis (rheumatoid, psoriatic, enteropathic, ankylosing spondylitis etc) are often found to  have nutritional deficiencies. The most common ones found in studies are low levels of selenium, vitamin C, iron, folic acid, calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12 (follow the links to read about why these are important for people with arthritis). We're also more likely to eat more fat and sugar than those without arthritis, possibly because we rely on prepared or convenience foods.

Drug-nutrient interactions - some drugs either lower absorption or deplete micro-nutrients in the body. Methotrexate blocks the metabolism of folic acid so patients are usually given supplements and these help reduce the drug's side effects (although these are normally taken on a different day to the methotrexate to ensure the don't reduce the drugs effectiveness). Sulfasalazine also depletes folic acid although slightly differently, by reducing absorption so again, supplements are important.  Steroids reduced calcium absorption in the intestine which can damage bone strength. Making sure you get extra calcium whilst on long term steroids is important and sometimes a supplement (with vitamin D) is necessary.

 However, it is worth remembering that arthritis itself can cause  deficiencies and malnutrition and the medications help combat the risk in different ways. For example, inflammation can cause a loss of lean body mass known as 'cachexia' which is a serious condition and far harder to treat than folic acid deficiency. Medications like methotrexate can help prevent this as well as treating the underlying arthritis.

Ultimately, watching out for side-effects and knowing about drug-nutrient interactions can help protect you from any deficiencies. Talk to your doctor, nurse or dietician if you are on medications and suffering from side-effects. They will be able to check out any possible deficiencies and help you manage the side-effects or nutrient interactions. All the recipes on this site are also designed to help get people with arthritis get enough of the nutrients they need whilst being easy to cook with arthritis and delicious, so do have a browse.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Arthritis Friendly Recipe: Super Healthy Bean Salad

I was going to post a lovely sushi salmon salad recipe today. Sounds good right? Well,  I had a mishap - I left the fridge door slightly ajar last night on the hottest day of the year so far. Along with rendering 3 doses of my arthritis medication, Humira, unusable, the mishap has rendered the sushi salad unfit for human consumption, and more importantly for the blog's sake, unfit to be photographed.

So ingenious cook that I am, instead there is a recipe for a no-chop salad using the rescued peas and beans. It's very easy to make if you have arthritis as there is absolutely no-chopping or slicing involved. It takes about 5 minutes to assemble and is a lovely side dish. It would go particularly well with salmon if you haven't left your fridge door ajar...


Ingredients:
150g frozen peas 
150g frozen soybeans (or if you prefer it's also nice with canellini beans or chickpeas)
Handful of rocket leaves

Dressing:
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce
Splash of soy sauce (to taste)

Put the peas and beans in a dish and leave to thaw for 2 hours or just give a quick blast in the microwave (not required if you leave your fridge freezer door open!).Stir in the oil and sauces. If you have time, pop the whole lot in the fridge for a few hours to let the flavours develop and then serve.

Dressing variations:
Pesto - 1 tablesoon of pesto, 1/2 olive oil and a handful of basil leaves
French - 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 tablespoon dijon mustard and 1/2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Spicy - 1 tablespoon olive or rapeseed oil, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp cumin, 2 chopped spring onions and juice of half a lime

Arthritis diet notes:
This is jam-packed with healthy, arthritis friendly ingredients. The peas and beans are rich in folate which people with inflammatory arthritis can often be deficient in, particularly if they take arthritis medications like methotrexate or sulfasalazine. Edamame or soy beans are rich in phytoestrogens. I wrote a post about their role in arthritis here.


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