Cooking to Control Pain: Mediterranean Diet
Feeling a little more pain after the holidays? Maybe the increased pain is related to the foods that you ate during the festivities of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Foods can trigger pain, so now is a good time to discover new recipes and foods that can help you feel better. A good diet will lower your glycemic load, help you balance your omegas, and give you a wide variety of plant-based nutrients. Of all the regional cuisines in this world, one in particular is a shining example of what to eat: the Mediterranean Diet.
Those who eat a Mediterranean diet do not eat a lot of sugar or simple carbohydrate foods with hidden sugars. Yes, it is true that some pasta is involved. But those in the Mediterranean do not abuse pasta the way Americans do. And many recipes call for other sources of grains. In the Mediterranean countries Turkey and Greece, they use a type of wheat called bulgur. In Italy, they use other varieties of wheat: farro and wheat berries. The people who live in the Mediterranean enjoy many sources of whole grains without relying heavily on the sugar load found in bread, rice, and pasta. A lower glycemic load is just one reason why the Mediterranean diet could help you feel better and maybe even prevent cancer.
Another health benefit enjoyed by those who eat dishes from this region is the well-balanced ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Olive oil and fish have a high content of omega-3 fatty acid. Both are used extensively in Mediterranean cuisine. Foods that are heavy in omega-6 like beef, corn, and corn-oil based products are just not as prevalent in the Mediterranean diet as they are in the American diet. A well balanced ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 can help more than just painful conditions. Your vascular, immune and nervous systems can all benefit if you balance your omegas with a Mediterranean diet.
Now some of you may not live in a Mediterranean-like climate, which means that some of the fresh fruits and vegetable are not as widely available. But most people can find the basics like broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, spinach and squash. The more variety of plants that you eat, the more likely you will get a full array of nutrients like important vitamins that can help reduce pain. If you spend more time in the produce aisle, you might expand your horizons beyond iceberg lettuce, a carrot and a tomato.
Now what you need is some great recipes to help you expand your culinary horizons into the all the Mediterranean countries in the world. All it takes is one great cookbook. The queen of Mediterranean cooking is Joyce Goldstein and her recipe book called Mediterranean Fresh is to die for. My husband and I have enjoyed every recipe that we have tried from this book. Who knew that a combination of black olives, capers, anchovies, garlic, lemon zest and olive oil could taste so good? For those who do not recognize that combination, it is called a tapenade and it goes with everything from cauliflower to chicken or fish. Do yourself a favor this year, buy Mediterranean Fresh and experience the joys of new tastes and better health
Christina Lasich, M.D., wrote about chronic pain and osteoarthritis for HealthCentral. She is physiatrist in Grass Valley, California. She specializes in pain management and spine rehabilitation.