"Let Food be Thy Medicine" - Enjoy the Anti-Inflammatory Benefits of Curcumin!
Welcome back to month two of The Doleys Clinic blog on anti-inflammatory nutrition. I hope that everyone who read last month’s post was able to take away something useful. This month I want to give everyone two bits of information that we’ll bring together in one very versatile recipe. First we’ll talk about the spice turmeric, or more specifically the curcumin contained therein. I’ll also give you my opinion on carbohydrate intake. Let’s get started.
If you’ve ever eaten middle-eastern cuisine you’ve likely had a curry dish. As a dish, curry originates from the Indian Subcontinent and has a very deep orange-yellow color. One of the spices that creates curry’s unique color is turmeric. Curcumin is the orange pigment in turmeric and may be one of the healthiest foods a person can consume. Here’s why:
Curcumin may be anti-inflammatory: Cyclooxygenase (or COX) is an enzyme in the body that is associated with inflammation and pain. Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) like Aspirin are COX inhibitors meaning they relieve pain and inflammation by blocking enzymes. The problem with over the counter NSAIDs is that they come with a host of unwanted side effects (as manufactured drugs often do). In 2007, I assume while dining on Indian cuisine, an ethnobotanist (person who studies interactions between plants and people) named James Duke decided to look further into turmeric. Duke published an article in Alternative & Complementary Therapies summarizing his findings after reviewing some 700 studies on the benefits of turmeric. One such benefit of turmeric was over two dozen anti-inflammatory compounds including six different COX inhibitors. Some studies have even suggested that curcumin is as effective at relieving pain and inflammation as Motrin but without any of the unwanted side effects.
Curcumin may be anti-cancer: Several studies have suggested that curcumin may block four different pathways that lead to cancer growth.
Curcumin may be anti-toxin: Curcumin has been shown to help the liver clear environmental toxins. Interesting note, your liver is the organ most responsible for metabolizing fat so those of you who would like to lose weight may want to give the liver a little attention.
Curcumin may be anti-oxidant: Our bodies are made up of proteins, fats, and DNA which are, at their most basic level, collections of atoms. Atoms exist because of electrical charges in the form of electrons (negative charges) and protons (positive charges). Think of the positive and negative signs on a battery and how they have to face the right direction for something to work. Now imagine what would happen to that battery if you cut it in half and threw the negative end away. That’s what’s happening in your body by way of a process called oxidation; atoms lose electrons and become unstable. Unstable atoms are known as free radicals and their only goal is to steal electrons from other atoms in an effort to become stable. So as you lose electrons to oxidation and free radicals become more abundant, all of the batteries making up your body are becoming useless or even dangerous. Anti-oxidants are external sources of electrons that stabilize free radicals. Make your batteries whole, folks! Add up the negatives…. It’s science.
Now for a quick note on carbohydrates as we segue into this month’s recipe. I noted earlier that our bodies are made up of proteins and fats. We’ve all heard of essential amino acids (building blocks of tissue that we have to get from food because we can’t make our own) and essential fatty acids (again, can’t make our own). Ever heard of an essential carbohydrate? I hope not, because there’s no such thing. Carbohydrates are nothing more than sources of energy. Delicious, buttered sources of energy dipped in marinara. I’m not saying carbohydrates are bad, I’m just saying I believe they should be consumed before, during and after times of energy expenditure. Since dinner may or may not be before, during, or after your time of energy expenditure J I have a great recipe that looks like a plate of carbs but really isn’t: Cauliflower fried rice. And the best part is that we’ll use turmeric to give the “rice” a nice, fried golden brown look.
1 head of raw Cauliflower. Green Giant actually sells pre chopped cauliflower in most major grocery stores.
1 Tbsp. coconut or macadamia nut oil
1/3 cup or roughly half a yellow onion chopped
2 Tbsp. of fresh grated turmeric or 2 tsp of dried ground turmeric (you can find fresh turmeric at most major grocery stores and specialty stores like Whole Foods and Sprouts)
2 tsp. of fresh grated ginger or ½ tsp. of dried ground ginger
2 cloves of minced fresh garlic
½ cup frozen green peas
2 whole omega-3 eggs (the carton will say omega-3 on the front; Eggland’s best is sold in most stores)
¼ cup soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid amino acids (more if you like at the end)
1 Tbsp. Splenda, stevia, or brown sugar (more if you like)
1 stalk sliced green onion (green and white)
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro (omit if you don’t like cilantro).
Start by removing the florets from the cauliflower head (note that you can also just purchase florets but make sure they’re fresh not frozen). Use a food processor to chop the cauliflower down to rice like consistency.
Heat the oil in a skillet or sauté pan over medium heat.
Add the onion to the oil and cook until soft (3-5 minutes)
Add the turmeric, ginger, and garlic and cook stirring frequently until fragrant (1-2 minutes)
Add the cauliflower rice, cover and cook for about 3 minutes to soften the cauliflower. We want to soften the cauliflower with steam over medium heat and then add texture by finishing the dish uncovered over higher heat.
Once the cauliflower is soft, turn the heat up to medium high, add the frozen peas, and stir to combine.
Push the rice to the sides of the pan and add your eggs in the middle. Scramble the eggs and begin stirring the whole dish together. You can also scramble your eggs first and set them aside to combine at the end.
Add the soy sauce and sweetener and stir to coat the rice.
Transfer the rice to a bowl and while it’s still hot add the cilantro and green onion. Stir to combine.
The key to making this dish easy (especially for someone with pain) is chopping, slicing and measuring before you begin cooking (what the French call “mise en place”). Don't forget to use pre-chopped veggies when possible to save some time and effort.
This dish is definitely a favorite of mine because you get a serving of turmeric and ginger which are known to be great for inflammation and ridding free radicals, you get healthy fats from the coconut oil, and some protein and choline from the eggs. The peas add a serving of green and we get a nice filling dish from the fiber in the cauliflower. Also, you can use the same cauliflower and turmeric while changing the rest of the spices to suite your tastes. This is a very versatile dish. I chose to serve it with lean grilled sirloin, more veggies, and some Sriracha.
In addition to using the spice, I recommend supplemental curcumin which can be found online or in The Doleys Clinic Wellness Store. I think you’ll be pleased after working curcumin in for a few weeks.
Until next month, remember that if you want to be treated as more than a pain patient you need to first see yourself as more than a pain patient. You have the tools you need to take back control and the kitchen is a great place to do just that.
Yours in good health,