Ever since starting this blog in my early 20s, I’ve been incredibly fascinated by health, nutrition and fitness. This interest has been the biggest driver behind my decisions to enrol in the fitness and nutrition certification programs I’ve taken on so far, and it’s also one of the reasons this blog exists today. After all, I’m sure it would be really hard to write about something for 6 1/2 years when you’re not passionate about it!
Outside of desire to learn for pure interest’s sake, there’s another motive behind it all and that’s wanting to use this knowledge to help. Help myself, my friends, family, readers like you, and anyone else who cares to listen.
Understanding the role of food in health has been a big focus of mine over the past year, and as more research becomes available on healing benefits of food, the more I think we’d be silly not to give it a try. If you could eat things that make you feel better and enjoy all sorts of amazing tastes and textures (not to mention great conversation with your dining companions) why the heck would you want to take pills?
Let’s apply this to something I’m sure we all experience in some capacity: inflammation. Whether it’s workouts and muscle soreness, random injuries, digestive conditions and gut disfunction, arthritis or asthma, inflammation is involved. If you’ve ever had (or currently deal with) any of these conditions, I’m sure you’ve probably popped the odd aspirin or ibuprofen tablet, and depending on how severe and chronic, maybe this is even part of your daily ritual. But what if what you ate could help too?
The majority of the recipes on this blog are anti-inflammatory in nature due to the fact that they’re plant-based, gluten free and dairy free. However, conversations with my mum (who has osteoarthritis) a few months ago got me thinking that it would be really cool to see if I could create a meal plan that helped her to feel better. It took me a while to find the time to do it, but I’ve been putting together a whole bunch of meals that feature ingredients with anti-inflammatory properties. Today’s recipe – and the free 1-day meal plan download I’ve got for you – are examples of just a few.
Before we start, I should state the obvious:
I am not a doctor. The information below is based on the knowledge I’ve gained through professional courses, reading published research and personal experience, but it should never replace the advice given to you by your doctor.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way…
Acute vs Chronic Inflammation
Not all inflammation is bad. It’s the body’s built-in mechanism for repairing itself and without it, our wounds would never heal. Acute inflammation (the kind you experience when you cut yourself, sprain your ankle, or get a sore throat) is a good sign. It indicates our immune system is working well, and eventually our bodies heal and the inflammation goes away.
Then there’s the chronic kind, or the type of inflammation that lasts a long time. For example, high levels of stress (mental, emotional or physical) to our bodies day in and day out and a steady diet of crappy, nutrient-poor food would contribute to this. It’s a long-term thing that can develop into more serious conditions that involve chronic inflammation are things like asthma, chronic sinusitis and arthritis. It’s this type of inflammation that we want to keep to a minimum, and luckily, a lot of this is controllable through the foods we choose to eat.
Foods that contain gluten, dairy, loads of sugar, hydrogenated oils, refined and processed ingredients, and (in some very sensitive people) nightshades appear to be pro-inflammatory, but there are a whole bunch that have the opposite effect. These are the ones we need more of!
That’s where this Curried Salmon with Cauliflower Rice Biryani recipe comes into the picture. It’s a twist on the traditional rice biryani I used to eat growing up in the Middle East, only with loads more health-building properties.
What have we got going on in there and what makes it so great? I’ll tell ya about 4 of the key ingredients. Note that I’m going to talk about these foods and how they’ve been studied in the context of people with osteoarthritis, but the same benefits also apply to inflammation of other kinds. (There’s a reason my post-workout smoothies are always loaded with ginger!)
Wild caught salmon
You guys know I adore this stuff, and there are many reasons why. Salmon is one of the richest sources of anti-inflammatory omega-3 essential fatty acids. The ‘essential’ bit means we need to obtain them from food because our bodies are unable to make our own. Omega-3 fatty acids are helpful because they slow the production of pro-inflammatory compounds and enzymes that cause cartilage breakdown (which is what happens near the joints of someone with osteoarthritis). Studies have shown that arthritis patients who consume fish oil experience less inflammation and rely less on their anti-inflammatory medication.i
Another ingredient I adore for so many reasons. 😍 The key anti-inflammatory compound in ginger is called gingerol. Studies of people who were previously on conventional medications for arthritis found that 75% experienced relief of pain and/or swelling after having been treated with ginger instead.ii Researchers believe this is partly because of ginger extract’s ability to suppress pro-inflammatory compounds which are produced near joints affected by osteoarthritis.iii
Can I get an aaaaaamen for cruciferous veggies? Cauliflower belongs to this family family along with kale, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and many others. All of these contain the mineral sulfur and the compound MSM, and in some studies, arthritis patients who took MSM as a supplement experienced less joint inflammation and pain than those who didn’t.iv And, even though it’s not orange like carrots and sweet potatoes, cauliflower is also rich in the antioxidant beta carotene which destroys free radicals.
This bright-yellow spice has been used in many cultures for its anti-inflammatory properties, and the active component of turmeric root is known as curcumin. One study found that three of the curcuminoids found in turmeric were effective in preventing the joint inflammation that can eventually lead to arthritis if taken before the onset occurred.v Another compared the impact of turmeric and ginger in rats induced with arthritis, and while both were helpful in reducing production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, turmeric was shown to be more effective than ginger and a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that was also tested.vi
Ok, enough of the long words and science-y banter. Let’s get cooking.
I’ve included a recipe for fresh curry powder below which makes the list of ingredients look loooooong. Grinding your own spices means that they’ll be super fresh, more flavourful and the potent health-building properties of them will be greater, but I 100% understand that you might be short on time. If that’s the case, you can totally use a pre-mixed blend.
Curried Salmon with Cauliflower Rice Biryani
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 15 mins
Ingredients (2 servings)
For the fish:
- 2 skin-on salmon fillets, about 130g each
- 1 tbsp curry spice blend, recipe below
- 1 tsp coconut oil
For the Cauliflower Rice Biryani:
- 1/2 head cauliflower
- 1 tsp coconut oil
- 1 large clove chopped garlic
- 2 tsp finely minced or grated fresh ginger
- 1/3 cup diced white onion
- 2 tsp curry spice blend (see recipe below)
- 1 1/2 cups non-GMO defrosted peas, carrots, corn + beans
- 2 tsp low sodium tamari (totally not an Indian ingredient, but it adds saltiness)
- 3 tbsp chopped raw or toasted cashews (optional)
- a few sprigs of cilantro, roughly torn, to garnish
- lime wedges, to serve
Curry Spice Blend: (You could also use a store bought curry powder, but the recipe below will taste super fresh and flavourful if you grind the spices yourself. You’ll also have leftovers!)
- 2 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp each cardamom pods, fennel seeds and ground turmeric
- 1 tsp each black peppercorns, whole cloves, ginger powder, garlic powder, cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- pinch of cayenne
If making the curry spice blend:
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and combine all ingredients in a bowl. Pour them out on the parchment and roast for 150-20 mins at 275F to bring out their flavour.
- Working in batches, grind the spices in a coffee grinder. Transfer to a glass jar.
For the cauliflower rice:
- Break the cauliflower into roughly equal sized florets and pulse in the food processor until it resembles rice and no large chunks remain. (Note: You’ll want to work in batches here so none of the pieces become pureed.) You should have about 3 cups.
- Melt the coconut oil in a frying pan and stir fry the garlic, ginger and onion in the curry spices for 1 minute.
- Add the riced cauliflower, vegetables, tamari and cashews. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. The mixture should be hot throughout and fragrant.
- Transfer the cauliflower rice to a serving bowl and garnish with torn cilantro and lime wedges.
For the salmon:
- Pat the fish dry and rub the curry spices into the fleshy side of each fillet with your hands.
- Wipe the frying pan clean and melt the coconut oil over high heat. Swirl it around, then place both fillets skin side down in the pan.
- Cook for 4-5 minutes or until the flesh appears nearly cooked through the middle.
- Flip the fish and cook for 1 more minute skin side down.
- Remove the salmon from the pan and serve beside or on top of the cauliflower rice biryani.
If you’re hungry for more, I’ve put together a full 1-day meal plan with snack options that you can download instantly (and totally free!)
If you give it a try, I’d love to hear what you think. Even if you don’t specifically want to reduce inflammation, I think you’ll still find it tasty. 😉
So tell me…
- Do you build recipes (or search for recipes) with a particular health condition or purpose in mind?
- Have you tried an anti-inflammatory diet before? How did it go for you?