Nutrition and Arthritis

“When Rebecca Soni won a gold medal in swimming, a reporter asked her what made a difference for her in this race. Her reply? She didn’t look at swimmers in other lanes. She focused on what she had to do. You have a race to complete too–it’s called your life. And you don’t have to be like anyone else. No one can do what you can do or change the world the way you can.”    Holley Gerth @ holleygerth.com

Along those lines, I have a voice. I’m not quite sure what it’s going to say here as I re-start this blog, but I guess time will tell!

~*~*~*~*~*~

I celebrated my 56th birthday this week. When my husband asked what I wanted to do that day (after work), I said, “Let’s go for a bike ride!” We did and had a blast.

Still celebrating my birthday on Saturday, we went to the Poconos area and hiked Mt. Tammany. We not only made it to the lookout and saw this beautiful view, we made it back down without incident!

This may not seem like such a feat, but my knees have been sensitive since I was in my 20s and banged them up roller skating. As I’ve gotten older, they’ve only gotten worse. X-rays and MRIs have shown, well, really messed up knees. Sometimes I would even say, “Ow! Ow! Ow!” as I merely went down steps, let alone this rocky trail.

But this birthday, I felt good! Strong! Pain-free!

Why?

I want to share about this in case it might help anyone else.

Yes, I exercise. I try to do 1/2 hour on my stationary bike daily as well as a bit of Pilates for core work. And I’ve always noticed a difference for the better when I’ve been faithful to this regimen.

But a few months ago, I felt terrible and was so discouraged and tired of feeling pain. I was determined to try anything (short of drugs) to lessen my joint pain. You see, I had joint pain all over. Right shoulder, knees, wrists…I felt much older than 55. So I went online to find information about arthritis and stumbled across a book called, “Foods that Fight Pain,” by Dr. Neal Barnard. I went right to the library, took it out, and devoured the chapter on arthritis. He explained that in the early 1990s, the role of nutrition in arthritis was established beyond any reasonable doubt:

“In 1991, researchers in Oslo, Norway, reported in The Lancet a study in which they eliminated foods believed to be common arthritis triggers in a group of 26 arthritis patients. The average pain score fell from over five, on a scale from zero to ten, to under three. Joint stiffness, swelling, and tenderness diminished, and grip strength also improved. Most importantly, the benefits were sustained on reexamination a year later.

“Numerous studies have shown that, if testing is done with sufficient care, dietary sensitivities can be identified in 20-60 percent of subjects. Pure vegetarian (vegan) diets appear to benefit about half of arthritis patients, including some who have not identified a specific diet trigger.”

The foods he suggested be eliminated on a trial basis were:

Dairy products Citrus fruits
Corn Potatoes
Meats Tomatoes
Wheat, oats, rye Nuts
Eggs Coffee

So I eliminated them, and I lasted about two weeks! Of all of those foods, I wanted my tomatoes, dang it! (I went overboard this year and am growing 25 tomato plants!) But I felt better. I had less pain. So I very gradually reintroduced all of the above foods except for gluten-containing foods. I stayed off gluten for the next 3-4 months, which brings me to the present.

Prior to this elimination diet trial and the discovery that I’m evidently sensitive to gluten, I felt pretty hopeless about my future regarding joint pain. No one’s more amazed than I am that I have no pain now!

I could not sleep on my right side for about 8 months because I had so much shoulder pain. Now I can turn back and forth all I want, and it doesn’t wake me up. And I can be more active! When I tried riding my bike (regular bike) for about 5 miles a few months ago, my knees were inflamed for about a week. On my birthday, I rode for 7 miles with no repercussions!!!

I encourage you, if you have joint pain, even a diagnosis of osteoarthritis, try eliminating the above-mentioned foods for a short time. Gradually reintroduce one food at a time every 2 or 3 days to see if you react. You may find that your body is sensitive to one of these foods and your joints become inflamed as a reaction to ingestion of that food.

So my new adventure, once the weather is consistently cooler, will be learning to bake with gluten-free flours. In the meantime, I’m just grateful for all the foods I’m NOT sensitive to!

For more information:

http://www.pcrm.org/health/health-topics/foods-and-arthritis

http://www.livestrong.com/article/530531-gluten-intolerance-is-causing-joint-pain/
Notice: My address has changed. For future posts, please search enjoyingrealfood.wordpress.com. Thanks! 🙂

I’m back…

…but my address has changed. Please see enjoyingrealfood.wordpress.com if you’re interested in reading future posts.

(I’m not techy at all, so I apologize for this change-of-blog craziness!)

In addition to recipes, I’d like to add some topics to this blog that have become of great interest to me:

Food quality/purity issues.

A little food politics.

Book/cookbook recommendations.

How some health issues can been resolved by a simple change in diet.

Maybe some food prep ideas, shortcuts or economy measures.

It’ll be a place where, when I’m talking to someone at church or in a grocery store or at work and can’t remember the details of an aspect of nutrition that can help them (this happens to me often!), I can say, “Go to this blog. There’s a link there to an article about this very thing!”

I’m not a nutritionist, health care practitioner, or certified anything. Just a wife and mom of three married kids who has always had a passion for studying nutrition and for preparing food for family and friends from whole, natural ingredients.

I am a researcher, though, and I have a high tolerance for searching out possible nutritional answers to health problems. If we chat about avoiding processed foods or why to choose grass-fed meat or the benefits of shopping at your local farmer’s market, I will share what I’ve learned from experience as well as links to articles that can help you choose for yourself.

I’ll also be adding a few personal bits of my life for the sake of loved ones who live at a distance, so bear with me!

So, I guess we’ll see what happens. Just another leg of the journey that’s my life. I hope this little blog will be able to encourage you to wade through the food options available to us and determine how best to nourish yourself and your families. :)

Revamping a Recipe for Banana Bread

Thanksgiving’s over, and the last of the pies went to work with my husband. We also bought about 80% of our Christmas gifts over the last few days! Now I have a day home before returning to work, and I’m so glad to get back to the cooking and baking that’s not only good but good for us!

I really wish you could smell this banana bread. None of that fake stuff out of a box! Just sweet, ripe bananas, whole grain flour, honey…so good!

The original recipe I’ve used for years calls for white flour and white sugar, so I’ve been changing it a bit each time I’ve made it. I can’t simply substitute whole wheat flour, because my body can’t tolerate whole wheat! I actually get a headache and head congestion within a half-hour of having eaten it, so you’ll NEVER see a recipe with whole wheat here! I’ve had to learn how to use other whole grain flours, and there’s usually no problem until I try to make whole grain yeast bread without wheat…but that’s a story for another post!

Prep is quick and easy – no mixer needed! My substitutions are listed below, and notes about these ingredients follow the recipe. If any of you are on a gluten-free diet, this should be okay for you. Hope you enjoy it!

Healthy Banana Bread

Whisk together in medium-sized bowl:

2 c whole grain flour

1 t baking soda

1/4 t salt

Mash in large bowl:

3 large very ripe bananas

Add to large bowl and whisk:

1/4 c honey

1/3 c oil

1/3 c applesauce

2 eggs

1 t vanilla

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients in large bowl and whisk together. Turn into a buttered (paper on the bottom would help too!) loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes.

Notes:

1. Flour – The only whole grain gluten-free flour I had in the house was my organic brown rice flour so I used one cup of that. I did have some organic millet, though, that my Blendtec made into a beautiful flour in 40 seconds, so I also used one cup of millet flour. The final product was not at all gritty, but rather has a wonderful soft and tender crumb. Moist, too.

2. Honey – I’ve also used the same quantity of Sucanat or pure maple syrup in this recipe. Either works well. (You might also like it sweeter, so you could add another 1/4 cup!)

3. Oil – I used extra virgin olive oil today. It’s okay, but I suggest either a light olive oil, melted butter, or melted extra virgin coconut oil. Your preference.

4. Applesauce – I keep a four-pack of Trader Joe’s organic unsweetened applesauce cups in the house for lower fat baking.

5. Pan size – I used a fairly wide loaf pan (about 6″x9″), so this was done baking in 55 minutes. If you use a traditional 5″x9″ pan, you might need to bake it an additional 5-10 minutes.

We interrupt this healthy eating lifestyle to bring you…company!

So how is your Thanksgiving going so far? Are you happy? Stressed? Excited? Dreading?

I’m excited, but conflicted.

Normal day – homemade yogurt, hot cereal with seed combo, salad or soup, snacks of a lot of fresh fruit, some raw nuts, and finally, hopefully a creative dinner with a few vegetables, a whole grain and protein and more fruit. Looks boring, but really very enjoyable. Very satisfying.

Today – hot cereal with seeds, taste of cranberry sauce, many more tastes of cranberry sauce after adding more sugar, taste of homemade organic white bread for stuffing, a sandwich made with aforementioned white bread, tastes of stuffing for turkey, stuffed mushrooms, pie crust dough (and it was good!), and mini-cheesecakes being made for tomorrow!!!!!!

Oh, goodness! 🙂

First of all, I just want to say that I really enjoy eating healthy because:

  1. I feel a sense of responsibility for this one body I’ve been given, and I want to be faithful in taking care of it.
  2. I feel good when I eat healthy
  3. I believe it greatly affects my physical health and well-being.
  4. As I learn more about nutrition, I can help others too.
  5. When I have the habit of eating healthy, I can really enjoy occasional treats without ramifications.
  6. It helps my pants stay the same size. 🙂

HOWEVER, when I have company, I believe it’s way more important for them to feel comfortable in my home, for them to be served what they like (within reason), and so I compromise. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Same thing goes for when I bring food somewhere, like to Bible study or work or a covered dish supper.

The best thing I ever read on this topic of keeping healthy living in its proper perspective was written by Lindsay Edmonds in her blog Passionate Homemaking:  Can Natural Living Become an Idol? | Passionate Homemaking

So in planning my Thanksgiving menu, even though we’ll be having pumpkin pie, homemade cherry, maple pecan, and apple crumb pies, and mini-cheesecakes, we’ll also have many vegetables to balance out the heavier foods. And I will enjoy it all!

Hopefully, my pants will still fit when I go back to work on Monday.  😉

Comfort food – Easy, Immune-Boosting Chicken Soup

 

You HAVE to make this soup!!!

I had no intention of posting tonight, but this soup is so beautiful and delicious, I had to let you know! My husband said that he’s always leery when I rave about something I made for dinner, because he thinks I’m trying to sell him on something that’s good for him (his words).  🙂  But it is that good!

Granted, it is enhanced with some immune-boosting ingredients, but they only also enhanced the flavor. The blend of spices is just right. The chicken melts off the bones. There are veggies, but they’re tender and don’t get in the way of the flavor of the chicken and broth. Oh, goodness!

Regarding nutrition, turmeric and ginger have powerful anti-inflammatory effect.  Shiitake mushrooms have been shown to protect against cardiovascular disease and boost the immune system. Garlic is anti-fungal, antiviral, raises HDLs, lowers LDL and triglycerides, is an anti-oxidant, and protects the immune system. Really, is there anything garlic can’t do? Onions are also anti-inflammatory and immune boosting. (most of this nutrition information can be confirmed at WHFoods.com)

And besides that, it’s good!!!!!

Convinced?

Easy Chicken Soup – Serves 2

2 chicken thighs with bone (but pull off skin)

4-6 cups water

1 rib celery, diced

1/2 onion, chopped

1 handful dried, sliced shiitake mushrooms

1/2 t turmeric

1/2 t minced garlic

1/2 t ginger

1/2 t sage

1-2 T organic chicken base

salt to taste and dash cayenne

2 leaves dark green leafy vegetable, shredded

2 carrots, diced

cooked noodles or brown rice, whichever you are in the mood for!

Simmer the two chicken thighs in the water for 1 hour. Meanwhile, sweat onion and celery in a little oil. Add these veg, mushrooms, spices and chicken base to broth and cook for another 1/2 hour or so. While that’s simmering, steam chopped carrots separately, then set aside. About 10 minutes before serving, remove chicken bones and add the shredded greens. Add a little more water and chicken base if necessary. Finally, just before serving, add the carrots and cooked noodles or brown rice and salt and pepper to taste.  (see notes below)

Note #1. I use organic chicken base from Costco. It’s great to add a little flavor to soups.

Note #2. I put the carrots in all the way at the end because I like a fair amount of carrots in soup, and they would overwhelm the flavor and you wouldn’t be able to taste the chicken.

Note #3. In my family, chicken soup is always served with a sprinkling of grated parmesan or romano cheese, but to be honest, there was so much flavor we forgot it!

 

“Light” Oatmeal Fruit Squares

There are some recipes you can make for just about anyone, and they would like it. Maybe even rave about it. This is not one of those. 🙂

I’ve never brought these to the office or to a covered dish dinner. And I certainly wouldn’t make them for my brothers for Thanksgiving! (I will probably make Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Squares for them. Mmmm!)

But for these pre-Thanksgiving days when I want to be a little more careful than usual calorie-wise, these oatmeal fruit squares are perfect. They’re also good for when you want to eat really, really healthy. They’re good for the times when others in your household are eating regular sweets and you don’t want to, but you will if there’s no other alternative. These totally meet my need for something sweet and filling – whether dessert or breakfast!

They are fruit-sweetened and fat free. Ninety-nine percent of the ingredients are either fruit or whole grain. They can be made with gluten-free oats and brown rice flour for a gluten-free option. Check ’em out…

Oatmeal Fruit Squares

(adapted from an old Weimar Institute Cookbook)

1 1/4 c quick oats

1/2 c whole grain flour (I use barley flour because I’m intolerant to whole wheat.)

1/4 c unsweetened, shredded coconut (opt.)

2 T milled flaxseed

1/4 c chopped walnuts (opt.)

1/4 t cinnamon

1/4 t salt

1/4 t Stevia (opt.)

1/3 c frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed

1 1/2 – 2 c fruit (can be applesauce, peaches or bananas – thickened berries might even work, but I haven’t tried them yet)

10 pitted dates, chopped

1/4 c water

1/2 t vanilla (opt.)

Mix all dry ingredients together. Sprinkle juice concentrate over dry ingredients and toss around (fingers work best) until mixtures resembles a crumb topping.

Set half of mixture aside. Put remaining half into oiled 9×9″  or 7×10″ pan. Pat down firmly to form a bottom crust.

Steam chopped dates in 1/4 c water till soft. Put into food processor along with fruit of your choice (I used peaches that I froze last summer, so had to thaw) and vanilla and process till blended but chunky.

Pour over bottom crust. Smooth out.


Sprinkle remaining crumbs evenly over fruit layer. Gently pat down till crumbs feel well situated. This is important – there’s nothing to bind these crumbs together, so the fruit layer acts like a kind of glue. Appetizing thought, I know. Forget I said that. 😉

Bake 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool, cut and enjoy!


“Escarole” and beans

Many of my meals come about by my standing in front of the refrigerator and seeing what fresh vegetables I have. That’s kind of a new thing for me. For many years, my thinking was, “What protein (meat, fish, chicken, beans, eggs, etc.) am I in the mood for?” Then I would add in starch, a veg (usually frozen) or salad, and that would be dinner.

Now it’s, “Hmmmm. What veggies am I in the mood for?” and then, “What protein might I add to it?”

Like tonight…we’ll be going away for the weekend, so this morning I looked in to see what might not last until we get home. I saw kale and green beans. Both needed to be used. And in a bowl on my side table I had a few organic sweet potatoes that we bought from an Amish health food store recently. So I figured I’d make Kale and Beans with some steamed green beans and baked sweet potatoes on the side.

I’m part Italian, so escarole and beans have always been comfort food to me. But other greens work well, too, so I proceeded to make my version of escarole and beans.

First, I cooked the beans. I had soaked them overnight in the refrigerator, so they were ready to be cooked today. I learned a long time ago that if I added some ginger to beans when I cooked them, they would be easier to digest. I learned more recently, that bay leaves and kombu have the same anti-gas properties, so I now use all three! 🙂

I cook my beans in bulk and then freeze them in Ball jars so they’re ready to go any time I need them for a recipe. So I reserved about a cup of these for dinner and froze the rest.

Greens and Beans – Serves 2 for dinner

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

extra virgin olive oil

1 bunch greens, about 8 ounces (escarole, kale, turnip, or mustard – they all work well)

1 cup white beans, cooked (great northern, cannelini)

2-3 t organic chicken base

Prepare greens.  Trim out any center ribs, if desired. Roughly chop and wash in lettuce spinner. Place in wide saucepan with 1 c water. Steam until wilted. Strain.

In same pan, saute minced garlic in oil for 30 seconds. Turn greens back into pan. Add cooked beans. Dissolve chicken base in 1 cup water and add to pan. Simmer for 10-15 minutes or until done. Broth should be a little creamy. Greens should still be a bit bright. Serve in shallow soup bowl with a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan or romano cheese.

Enjoy!