Saturday, 1 April 2017

April 2014: arthritis


There are over 100 types of arthritis, which literally means 'joint inflammation'.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease: our immune system attacks healthy tissue. It strikes at any age and develops fast. It involves morning stiffness and there are usually several joints involved, especially the first finger joints. The causes are partly genetic, but there are things you can do to help prevent the disease, and treat the symptoms once you've got it. See [1].

Gout is caused by high levels of uric acid. For foods which can help, see [2].

In the case of osteoarthritis, the inflammation is the result of wear and tear, injury, infection, or age. This usually affects older people and comes on slowly.
Prevention is best. If you are this perfect person who has always
1) maintained a healthy weight;
2) kept your muscles strong by exercising (not necessarily in a gym!)
3) had a good posture, lifted properly, and
4) eaten well,
you may not have to read the rest of this article. However, few of us are like that. And genetic makeup or injury also play a role.
Once you have osteoarthritis, what can you do for yourself with food (and drink)?
The consensus in literature appears to be:
1) eat lots of vegetables and fruit
2) go easy on meat and dairy
3) and avoid fried and processed foods [3]
Most experts advise a food elimination system, where potential triggers are eliminated from the diet for several weeks, to see if there is any change in arthritis symptoms. My own osteoarthritis gets worse when I eat too much red meat, chocolate, and sugar in general.
In general:
a) avoid foods that encourage inflammation: saturated fat, trans fat and simple refined carbohydrates
b) make sure you get plenty of omega 3: it decreases production of chemicals that spread inflammation, and inhibits enzymes that trigger it: in fatty fish, walnuts, salad
c) use good olive oil [4]: it blocks enzymes involved in inflammation
d) have antioxidants like
  • vitamin C: sweet peppers, citrus fruit, strawberries, pineapple, kohlrabi, broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, red cabbage, potato (with skin) and mustard greens 
  • selenium: brazil nuts, crab, whole-wheat pasta, lean beef, fish, whole grains, turkey and wheat germ 
  • carotenes: carrots, kale, turnip greens, mustard greens, sweet red pepper, apricots, spinach, pumpkin, red peppers, corn, apricots
  • bioflavonoids: onions, kale, leeks, broccoli, blueberries, blackcurrants, apricots, apples with skin, blackberries, raspberries, cherries, red grapes, strawberries, plums. Tomatoes, especially a bit underripe, are best avoided [5].
e) have ginger, turmeric (in curry powder) and
f) vitamin D, which decreases swelling and soreness [6].

Websites [3], [5] and [6] give information for all three arthritis types. For osteoarthritis specifically, weight loss, exercise and capsaicin cream are recommended [6a].
There are exercises at And you will find interesting alternative remedies at And if you're really keen, you can always roll in stinging nettles - one of those old wives' tales which actually turns out to be true [6b]!

I don't promise miracles, but none of this will do any harm. On the contrary, as long as you don't go overboard, your general health will benefit no end.


To be local and seasonal, 
purple sprouting broccoli, chard, cabbage, leeks, spring onions, spinach, watercress, loose-leaved lettuce, radish, sorrel, spring greens.

Direct: lettuce, rocket, radish, beet, broad beans, summer cabbage, calabrese, kohlrabi, parsnips, peas, spinach (beet), spring onions, chard, early carrots, autumn cauli, salsify, scorzonera, celeriac, celery. Late April: courgettes, french beans, pumpkins.
Plant: summer cabbage, onion sets, potatoes, summer cabbage.
Sow to transplant: leeks, brussels, sprouting broccoli, autumn cauli, kale, tomatoes (indoors).


Got radishes in the garden? Don't throw out the greens, even if they are bolted. This is how it goes:
Per person 50-70g (bolted) radish greens, 250g potatoes. Also some milk, ginger if you like that and lots of butter - sorry if that undoes the cheapness!
Cook potatoes in salted water. Drain the water off and add a bit of milk instead, plus the finely chopped greens (and some ginger). Heat it all through, mash, add plenty of butter, serve.
If the radish greens are a bit rough, let them cook for a few minutes in the milk before mashing.
With for protein grated cheese, or chopped nuts mixed in, or any meat. The butter is not just for the taste, but also helps your body absorb the nutrients in all this good stuff.

2 sliced leeks, 400g (frozen) peas, 1l water, 20 leaves of mint + some for garnish, 100g watercress, butter, seasoning, 50ml crème fraîche/sour cream.
Sauté leeks with mint in butter for 3 mins. Add peas and stock, bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 5 mins or until peas are tender. Add cress and simmer till done, blend. Stir in cream at the last moment.

Remove thicker veins from the cabbage and chop finely. Heat olive oil, add a chopped garlic clove and 1 tsp of cumin seeds, fry until the seeds pop. Add greens and keep frying on a very low fire. Just before it starts to brown, add a little bit of water. Go on stir-frying. Keep adding bits of water and frying till it is soft enough for your liking. Don't be impatient, this takes longer than you may think. Add salt, serve. Great with roast chicken, or fold into an omelette.

Cover a boned herring in oatmeal (or porridge oats), fry in rendered bacon fat and serve with plenty of chopped parsley and lemon wedges.

Spring greens, anchovies, garlic, balsamic vinegar, crème fraîche, lemon juice, pine nuts, salt, pepper.
Dry roast pine nuts. Remove stems from the cabbage and chop. Chop garlic. Drop both into boiling salted water for 6 mins. Drain, save liquid for stock. Melt at least 4-5 anchovies in some of their oil and maybe a little bit more olive oil. Cook gently until they break down and soften. Add balsamic vinegar, some lemon juice, plenty of crème fraîche and freshly ground pepper. Add greens to the mix and stir to warm and coat it. Put them on mashed potatoes, pine nuts on top, serve immediately.

350g finely chopped spring greens, 1 sliced bunch spring onions, 410g tin cannellini beans, drained, 125g grated cheese, 50g dried breadcrumbs, 1 heaped tsp mustard, some ginger, 1 beaten egg, oil or butter.

Cook greens in salted water till tender. Leave to drip dry. Fry spring onions until soft. Mash the cannellini beans with a fork.
Squeeze greens to get rid of excess moisture, then add to the beans along with the breadcrumbs, spring onions, mustard, egg and ginger. Taste and season. Shape mix into cakes and chill for 15 minutes. Shallow-fry for 5-6 minutes on each side until golden brown.

2-3 cups coarsely chopped sorrel, some chopped spring onions (or use smallish onion), 75-125g goat cheese, 3 eggs, 360ml milk, ¼ tsp salt, grated mature cheese, pie crust.
Preheat oven to 190°C. Spread goat cheese (or any strong flavored cheese) in the bottom of a piecrust. Cover with sorrel and (spring) onions. Beat eggs, salt and milk together. Pour over greens. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

About 75g nettletops, 50g sorrel, 175g grains like barley or rice; 1 chopped onion, butter, grated mature cheese, water/stock, seasoning. 
Rinse the leaves, keeping nettles and sorrel separate. Blanch nettles in salted water for 2 mins, drain, squeeze the liquid out (and use for nettle tea?), chop.
Sauté onion in butter, add grains and stir well. Add as much liquid as the grains need, cover and cook till they're done. Add nettles and chopped sorrel, warm through for a few mins. Add cheese, more butter, seasoning, and serve.

50ml extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, zest if you have an unwaxed one, mint, 400g purple sprouting broccoli, 100-150g feta cheese, 1 sliced and de-seeded red chilli or chillipowder.
Dressing: mix oil and juice (and zest). Chop mint and add: season to taste. Whisk until slightly thickened. Trim tough broccoli ends, halve thick stalks, cut. Blanch for 3 mins, drain. Put in bowl, add crumbled feta and chilli. Pour the dressing over it and mix.
I like this served hot straight away, but you can eat it warm or cold.

A lot of this information comes from
If you're adventurous, you can also look at
[2] Diet advise for gout sufferers:
And don't forget the (red) cabbage! See
[4] This should ideally be not just extra virgin, but also, and more importantly, cold-pressed.

Next month: Inflammation: good or bad?