NUTRITION

Celebrate National Arthritis Awareness Month

Celebrate this month by taking the time to treat your arthritis with a healthy diet.

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By Holly Clegg

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Arthritis is the 2nd most frequently reported chronic condition with over 100 different types, and after researching the correlation between nutrition and inflammation, I was amazed at the results. Everybody can benefit from an anti-inflammatory diet with arthritis diet recipes as chronic inflammation (from environmental causes to stress and unhealthy diet) results in long-term tissue destruction and may be the underlying cause of chronic diseases such as some cancers, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, arthritis –even aging!

The good news is you can start now by eating nutrition-rich foods that work against the inflammation from the inside out. In my trim&TERRIFIC Eating Well to Fight Arthritis cookbook, I focus on specific well researched nutrients that reduce inflammation, and in turn you are including better foods in your body to help fight off disease. We know eating healthy is good for us, and with May being National Arthritis Awareness Month, there are a few standout nutrients that are real power players in reducing inflammation.

Epidemiology studies show that populations such as the Greeks with a Mediterranean diet high in fruits and vegetables, nuts, healthy oils and fatty fish have less chronic disease. Several nutrients may be specifically important in helping to reduce inflammation, such as the antioxidants Vitamin C, Carotenoids and Omega-3 Fatty Acids.

Move over orange juice, did you know 1 cup of bell pepper provides 200% of your daily recommendation of vitamin C? Vitamin C plays an important role in tissue repair, helping keep bone, cartilage and connective tissue strong – reducing inflammation. My Stuffed Bell Pepper Bake recipe has all of the delicious colorful and hearty flavor of stuffed peppers but made easy in a casserole style. Use my short-cut and purchase pre-sliced peppers to save a step!

From reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke, lowering cholesterol, to reducing joint pain from inflammation, even lessening depression - research supports a long list of health benefits from eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the body to work properly and we must get them through diet as they are not made in the body. Foods high in omega 3 fatty acids include salmon, shrimp, tuna, walnuts, sardines, and flax seeds. This Roasted Seasoned Salmon recipe uses only 5 ingredients of sweet and spicy spices you probably already have to make one mouth-watering meal, and it’s even diabetic friendly!

Beta-carotene is one of 600 Carotenoids (which turn into Vitamin A). These powerful antioxidants are found to have anti-cancer, anti-oxidant, and immune boosting properties. Carotenoids are mostly responsible for the color red, yellow, and orange in fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes, carrots and sweet potatoes. My Italian Chicken Sausage, Sweet Potato, and Red Pepper Sauce recipe is chocked full of mouth-watering flavor and a nutritional powerhouse. Include these easy dinner solutions in your meal plan and you are sure to have new family favorites with nutrition to boot.

Italian Chicken Sausage, Sweet Potato, and Red Pepper Sauce from Eating Well To Fight Arthritis. The sweet potatoes add a natural sweetness, fire-roasted tomatoes add a smoky flavor and Italian chicken sausage gives the dish heartiness. Serve over pasta, couscous or quinoa. Serve it with this Watermelon Tomato Salad for a wonderful quick dinner.

Makes 8 (1-cup) servings

4 cups cubed sweet potatoes (about 3 medium), cut in 1/2-inch pieces

16 ounces Italian chicken sausage, crumbled and removed from casing

1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 onion, chopped

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can fire roasted tomatoes

1 cup fat-free low sodium chicken broth

1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves

1/2 cup chopped green onions

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese, optional

1. Preheat oven 400°F. Line baking pan with foil and coat with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Spread sweet potatoes on prepared pan and roast 20-25 minutes or until tender and start to brown.

3. Meanwhile, in large nonstick skillet, cook sausage until lightly browned. Add red pepper, onion and garlic; continue cooking until sausage is done and vegetables tender.

4. Add tomatoes, broth and thyme, cooking 5 minutes until bubbly. Carefully add green onion, parsley and cooked sweet potatoes, stirring until heated. Sprinkle with goat cheese when serving, if desired.

Nutritional information per serving:

Calories 167, Calories from Fat 25%, Fat 5g, Saturated Fat 1g, Cholesterol 44mg, Sodium 468mg, Carbohydrates 20g, Dietary Fiber 4g, Total Sugars 6g, Protein 12g, Dietary Exchanges: 1 starch, 1 vegetable, 1 1/2 lean meat

Nutritional Nugget: Unlike most vitamins in fresh fruits and vegetables, the antioxidant lycopene, actually improves with the cooking process instead of diminishing it.

With over 1 million cookbooks sold, Holly Clegg has become a healthy culinary expert through her nationally recognized best-selling trim&TERRIFIC® and Eating Well cookbook series. Clegg has appeared on Fox & Friends, NBC Weekend Today, QVC, The 700 Club, USA Today, Web MD, and The Huff Post. Clegg has consulted for Walmart, Teflon, The Coca-Cola Company, and hospitals throughout the country. Visit Holly: YOUTUBE and WEBSITE or BLOG for more recipes & tips to start cooking healthier, the easy way!

Second Photo Credit: Marian Weyo/shutterstock.com; Third Photo Credit: Madeleine Steinbach/shutterstock.com