Delicious Flavors – With Natural Anti-Inflammatory Benefits!
Some people with RA find that following a particular type of diet helps control their RA symptoms. Unfortunately, this is not true for everyone. In my personal experience, for example, I tried a gluten-free diet for a full six months with no improvement in my RA symptoms. So while changing your diet does seem to work for some and is certainly worth a try, unfortunately there is no scientific evidence that any particular diet will help control your RA.
There is, however, a fair amount of scientific evidence concerning the natural anti-inflammatory properties of many different herbs and spices. Though none of these herbs or spices should be used as a replacement for the treatment recommended by your rheumatologist, I figure it can’t hurt to add an extra dash or two to my cooking! Not only do they have delicious flavors but they may also help reduce the constant levels of inflammation in my body! (Though it is also important to speak to your doctor before making any big changes to your diet.)
Ginger is a delicious flavor traditionally used in Asian and Indian cooking. It has also been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Although best known for treating stomach ailments, ginger also contains an anti-inflammatory compound called gingerol that reduces inflammation in the body by suppressing other pro-inflammatory compounds. In fact, gingerol functions very similarly to non-sterodial anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen or naproxen. You can buy ginger fresh in the produce section of your supermarket or you can find it powdered in the spice section. It can be added to any number of dishes, such as a stir-fry or marinade for fish or meat. Powdered ginger can also be used to flavor a variety of baked goods, while fresh ginger can be steeped directly in hot water to make tea.
Part of the same family as ginger, turmeric is a yellow spice that is often found in curries and other Asian and Indian dishes. The active ingredient in turmeric, called curcumin, is not only responsible for its yellow color but also has natural anti-inflammatory benefits. Several studies have found that people suffering from RA who consume turmeric on a regular basis experience additional relief from joint pain and inflammation. An easy way to incorporate more turmeric into your diet is to eat more curries and other Indian dishes. Or you could try drinking steamed turmeric milk by mixing ½ tsp turmeric powder with 1 cup of steamed milk (dairy or soy), 1 tsp of honey, and a dash of cinnamon. This warm drink is not only delicious but may also aid in relaxing for sleep, another common issue for people with RA.
If you end up trying the above recipe for steamed turmeric milk, you will also get the added benefit of drinking another spice with natural anti-inflammatory benefits! A recent study found that cinnamon extract helped suppress inflammation in mice, which has lead researchers to theorize that cinnamon extract may also have significant anti-inflammatory benefits for humans. Cinnamon is sold in the spice section of the supermarket as sticks or ground into a fine brown powder. Sprinkle it on top of fresh apple slices or over your morning oatmeal, use it to add flavor to baked goods, or soak a cinnamon stick in your favorite hot drink. However, it is also important to note that cinnamon should be used in moderation as it also contains compounds similar to those found in blood thinners.
Rosemary is a Mediterranean herb with fragrant, evergreen needles. Not only is it deliciously flavorful but it has also been found to inhibit pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are molecules that relay signals to trigger the body’s inflammatory response, such as interleukin-1 (IL-1) and tumor necrosis factor (TNF). If these terms sound familiar it is probably because many of the biologic medications used to treat RA work to inhibit the very same cytokines! Rosemary is an herb that can be grown almost anywhere, including your windowsill, so it is easy to have fresh rosemary available for cooking. You can also find rosemary fresh in the produce section of your supermarket or dried in the spice section. This herb goes well with lamb, pork, chicken, and turkey. Or try sprinkling some over potatoes or adding a little to pasta sauce.
Humans have been using garlic for culinary and medicinal purposes for thousands of years. A close relative to the onion, garlic is an edible bulb made up of multiple sections called cloves. Garlic contains unique sulfur compounds – including Z-ajoene, E-ajoene, and oxidized sulfonyl derivatives of ajoene – that work to inhibit inflammatory messenger molecules. As an added bonus, garlic has also been shown to promote heart health, benefit the respiratory system, ward off cancer, and possibly combat obesity. It can be found fresh or powdered at your local grocery store and, assuming you like the flavor, can be used liberally in virtually any type of cooking. Though beware of garlic’s effect on your breath!
These herbs and spices all have natural anti-inflammatory properties, so experimenting with them in your cooking may be a tasty way to feel a little bit better!