Thursday, 31 January 2013

Arthritis-Friendly Recipe: No Chop Thai Green Curry

Sometimes my hands just won't cooperate in the kitchen but I still want to cook. This version of Thai green curry allows me to enjoy putting together a delicious healthy dinner without any hand/wrist arthritis aggravation. I'm on a bit of a Thai food kick at the moment. Something about the bright, punchy flavours just fits what I'm after. If arthritis has left you feeling a bit drained, or you just have January blues, then Thai food is the perfect antidote. Full of fresh vegetables and spices, it livens up things even when you feel completely 'blah'.

Use whatever vegetables you prefer, but if you are looking not to chop, go for ones small enough to cook whole. Fine french beans are lovely and you don't really need to top and tail them. Similary tenderstem brocolli cooks fairly fast. If you want to add meat to this, throw in some ready diced chicken breast at the start and allow the outside to turn white before you add the vegetables. The yoghurt is a little unusual an addition but gives a gentle tang to the sauce. Serve this with Thai fragrant or basmati rice.

Ingredients:
300g vegetables like tenderstem broccolli, green beans, baby sweetcorn etc
1/2 mug full of frozen peas or soy beans
200ml of coconut milk (1/2 can)
1 heaped teaspoon Thai green curry paste
1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce
1 tablespoon natural yoghurt (optional)
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon of sunflower oil

Serves 2 (but easily doubled to serve 4)

Heat the oil and add the curry paste on a medium heat in a wok or large saucepan. Toss in the vegetables and stir to coat. Add the coconut milk and bring to a low simmer. Cook for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are just tender and the coconut milk has thickened a little. Stir in the sweet chilli and soy sauces and add the yoghurt, if using.

Arthritis diet notes:
There is some evidence to suggest that cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale and greens can be protective against rheumatoid arthritis. Cruciferous vegetables have also been shown to contain anti-cancer compounds and are a rich source of vitamin C and fibre. Try to cook them lightly to preserve as much of their nutrients as possible.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Arthur investigates...Can almonds help arthritis?

Can a handful of almonds keep your arthritis in check? Almonds are a good source of magnesium, calcium and phosphorous - all of which are important for healthy bones. They are full of healthy monosaturated fats and a reasonable source of arthritis-friendly omega 3 fatty acids (although this high fat content makes them high in calories). Almonds are also an extremely good source of vitamin E. Vitamin E is an important antioxidant and helps support a healthy immune system.

People with inflammatory arthritis have been shown to consume less vitamin E than healthy subjects but there is no evidence that eating less vitamin E causes or exacerbates arthritis. One small study suggested that giving patients with rheumatoid arthritis additional vitamin E could help reduce the number of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory painkillers they needed to take due to reducing joint symptoms but the authors concluded that more evidence was needed. Researchers have also looked at whether vitamin E can help slow the rate of cartilage degeneration in osteoarthritis but most have concluded that it has little effect.

So almonds won't cure creaky joints but they can make a good alternative to crisps or chocolate - just make sure they are plain and not salted or honey-roasted! They are a great snack to have along side something like fruit as the healthy fats and fibre in them help slow the rate at which your body processes down the fruit sugars and so helps keep you feeling satisfied for longer; try 6 or 7 with an apple.You can also try them on top of porridge, flaked on top of curries or as a healthier replacement to butter in cakes.



Friday, 18 January 2013

Arthritis-Friendly Recipe: Banana Bars

I really don't like raw banana but weirdly I love almost any baked good containing banana and these are no exception. I know there are quite a few flapjack and granola bar recipes on this site but it's truthfully because they are such a wonderfully easy thing to bake, even when you have arthritis, and so reassuring to have in the cupboard. This is the healthiest of those recipes, it's less sweet and lower in fat, which makes it a great everyday snack or breakfast on the go.


Ingredients:
2 ripe bananas
230g rolled oats
3 tablespoons rapeseed or sunflower oil
3 tablespoons honey or golden syrup
1/4 tsp salt
50g dried cranberries
50g pistachios 

Grease an 8 inch x 8 inch square baking tin and heat the oven to 180C (375F).

Mash together the bananas, oil and honey. You can use a hand blender if it helps. Stir in the oats, fruit, nuts and pinch of salt.

Spoon into the greased tin and press down. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow to cool and then cut into 8 large or 16 small bars.

Variations:
Fibre-full - use 175g oats and 50g All Bran. Replace the nuts with 50 grams mixed seeds and use any dried fruit of your choice.
Anti-inflammatory - use 30g almonds and 30g chopped walnuts in place of the pistachios. Add 1tsp ground ginger and 1tsp cinnamon. 
Oatmeal and raisin - use 50g of pecans, replace 1tablespoon of the honey with maple syrup, add 1tsp ground cinnamon and swap the cranberries for raisins.
Choctastic - replace the cranberries with 50g dark chocolate chips, leave out the cranberries and add 1tsp vanilla extract.

Arthritis diet notes:
People with inflammatory arthritis can be at increased risk of heart disease so swap crisps or chocolate biscuits for a healthier snack like these bars. You are probably bored of me going on about amazing oats but they really are a fantastic food. Packed full of soluble fibre, they keep you going and can help lower levels of unhealthy cholesterol which is an important step in looking after your heart health. The bananas also add more fibre and blood-pressure lowering potassium  Throw in some healthy omega-3  fats from the nuts and rapeseed oil and you have a super, arthritis-friendly snack.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Arthritis Friendly Recipe: Lentil Curry

This is a recipe that comes via my Grandmother who lived in India for a while. It's one of my favourite comfort food recipes and is full of amazingly healthy, arthritis friendly ingredients. I've recently returned back to the kitchen as my arms get a little better and this was the first thing I made because it is so easy. There is no need to do any chopping and hardly any stirring, so if your arthritis effects your arms or hands, this is a very useful recipe. It also fits the bill as a nice, aromatic change from all the Christmas-fare. If you have never tried lentil curry (dahl) or think it sounds a bit worthy, do give it a chance - you will be surprised how delicious it is. You can also feel smug that it will deliver on all your arthritis healthy eating resolutions.

If you want to turn this into a more substantial vegetarian curry, simply add some chopped vegetables (frozen are fine) for 20 minutes before serving or stir in some fresh spinach. You can also turn it into a soup by adding more stock and serving with a dollop of yoghurt. So one recipe - many meals!

Ingredients:
160g red lentils
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock (try adding a little coconut milk for a richer curry)
2 cloves garlic crushed
1 onion chopped (optional - you can leave it out for a no-chop meal)
1 tsp ground ginger
2tsp turmeric
2tsp garam masala or mild curry powder
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil (or other flavourless oil)

Serves 4

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and garlic and gently fry until softened. Stir in the ground spices and cook for another minute. 

Tip the lentils into the pan and then cover with the stock. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes. The lentils should be broken down and you should have a thick curry.

Serve with rice, spinach and plenty of yoghurt.

Arthritis diet notes:
Indian food is fantastic for arthritis. It is full of anti-inflammatory turmeric and ginger. This lentil curry is also low fat, high fibre and a good source of protein. It makes a filling and satisfying meal. You can read more about how ginger and turmeric may help arthritis here.

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