What is the Best Anti Inflammatory Diet?

Over the past several years, you probably have heard about the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet and it’s ant-inflammation effects. In 2017, there was an article published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology titled Trending Cardiovascular Nutrition Controversies. This article includes a wonderful infographic called Evidence for Cardiovascular Health Impact of Foods Reviewed. I hope that you get to look at it because it contains a lot of great information. One of the things It mentions is that foods prepared the traditional southern way may be linked to heart disease.

How Anti Inflammatory Foods Improve Your Health?

Plant based foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy plant fats like olive oil and avocados are full of antioxidants and phytochemicals which help prevent and help heal the inflammation in our body. Fish rich in omega 3 fatty acids like salmon also help the body fight inflammation.

Here is a blog post on my website that talks more about inflammation:

7 Ways to Help Fight Inflammation

I have been thinking for quite some time a blog post that would share how traditional Southern foods can be prepared in a heart healthy way while still tasting delicious. That is why this post is called, the Mediterranean Diet Appalachian Style!

I have lived in Southern Appalachia for almost 12 years now and when I moved here, I was so happy to learn about the incredible local food scene here in Asheville. There are many foods grown and raised where we live that provide many of the same health benefits as the foods found in the Mediterranean Region. I named this way of eating the Mediterranean Diet Appalachian Style!

What Kinds of Foods Do You Eat On the Mediterranean Diet Appalachian Style?

  1. Healthy Fats: Our region has native nuts full of healthy fats like pecans and black walnuts as well as a few lesser known ones like hickory and chestnut. Feel free to add a little olive oil and avocado in the mix also!
  2. Beans: Heirloom beans like black eyed peas, greasy beans and field peas are available in our region and provide a little different twist than the beans traditionally eaten in the Mediterranean region.
  3. Fruits and Vegetables: Have historically have been a staple of the Southern Diet and many of the traditional meals eaten have been plant based.
  4. Whole Grains: Corn bread is our traditional bread and rice is often served with meals. In the Asheville region we also have a local grain mill called Carolina Ground and more wheat is being grown in our region.
  5. Fresh Water or Farm Raised Trout: Farm raised trout can be almost equal in the anti inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids as wild salmon.
  6. Grass Fed Meat and Chicken: Grass fed protein is higher in omega 3 fatty acids than grain fed.
  7. Herbs and Spices: Not only do they make food more flavorful but many of them have great anti inflammatory value for our health!

3 Recipes Using Local  Southern Food That Help Fight Inflammation

Black Eyed Pea Bowls

The first recipe is called Black Eyed Pea Bowls. It was inspired by a dish served at Tupelo Honey Cafe which is a well known farm to table restaurant which started in Asheville and now is regional in our area. I use fresh okra in the summer and when it is out of season, I use frozen okra in recipes but I also want to share a variation today of substituting sweet potatoes instead of okra during the winter months. In Western North Carolina, we have a grist mill named Barkley’s Mill so I can get fresh grits for this recipe! They are so yummy and are also a whole grain!

Black Eyed Pea Grit Bowl

These tasty bowls use the abundance of food available in Appalachian and the rest of the Southeast.

Check out the blog post below for the Black Eyed Pea Bowl Recipe! Use sweet potatoes or okra in your recipe. You can even use them both!

Healthy New Year Black Eyed Pea Bowls!

Spring Strawberry Asparagus Salad

Spring means asparagus and strawberries and I hope that this recipe will soon become your new favorite salad! A little sweet, a little tart and a little savory, this salad is full of flavor. I used aged Parmesan cheese to make my cheese curls to garnish the salad but you can use a local cheese also. Here is a list of cheese in our region WNC Cheese Trail.

Makes 4-5 servings.

1 bunch fresh asparagus

2 cups fresh strawberries

1/4-1/3 cup red onion rings

1-2 tablespoons chopped walnuts

Approximately w ounce large Parmesan curls, see below (but you could use hard, aged local cheese)

Dressing:

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 of a freshly squeezed lemon

2 teaspoon honey

2 teaspoon chia

Salt and pepper to taste

Carefully wash asparagus and gently trim the stems on the end. Heat a medium sauce pan with bottle and begin boiling.While the water is heating, in a large bowl add water and ice.  Place the asparagus in the sauce pan for a couple of minutes until the spears become bright green. Take out with tongs and then plunge into the bowl.Take out gently and allow to dry on a clean kitchen towel. Place gently on a medium platter. Wash and stem the strawberries. Slice in half and lay carefully on top of aspargus. Sprinkle with walnuts. With a cheese cutter or vegetable carefully shave large slices of Parmesan cheese. Prepare salad dressing by adding olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon, honey, salt and pepper to taste. Shake well and drizzle over salad. Gently sprinkle with chia seeds.

 

Spring Strawberry Asparagus Salad

This salad highlights two of my favorite spring foods from the garden!

 

 

 

Pecan Encrusted Trout

 

Pecan Encrusted Trout Over Greens

Makes 4 filets

A few years ago, I fell in love with some pecan encrusted trout! This recipe is a lightened version of the other but with all the great flavor! It is also very quick to make! My picture does not show the fish over greens but it is a delicious variation!

4 trout filets (approximately 4-5 ounce)

1 tablespoon melted Smart Balance or butter

1 cup finely chopped pecans

1/2 cup bread crumbs (can use gluten free)

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 egg

1/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and lightly grease a cookie sheet. In a glass pie plate, beat egg, add milk and melted butter or margarine.  In a separate plate, mix bread crumbs with chopped pecans, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Dip the skinned side of the fish in the egg wash and gently press into the crumb mixture.  Place fish on a lightly greased cookie sheet pecan side up. Repeat this process for each filet. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet with a spatula.

For a great resource on local food in the Western North Carolina, check out Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Programs Food Guide.Local Food Guide is a wonderful resource to help you find local farms, tailgate markets and farm to table restaurants. Here is an interview I did with one of our local newspapers on diet and inflammation.

The Appalachian Pyramid

I had the opportunity to partner with Metro Wine Asheville to present the Mediterranean Diet Appalachian Style with Andy Hale with Asheville School of Wine. We paired some Appalachian inspired small plates with wine and I shared more about how to try this way of eating. My friend and artist, Rachel Kanter helped me bring my vision of the  Appalachian Pyramid a reality just in time for this class. Thank you so much Rachel!

Appalachian Pyramid

A new tool to follow healthy seasonal eating and embrace food grown where we live!

I hope that you enjoy these recipes and that they will inspire you to eat healthier whether you live in Southern Appalachia or somewhere else!

I grew up in the Midwest but have lived in the south for over 20 years. I have embraced many delicious traditions here in my new home but I have been fortunate enough to be able to make them heart healthy without losing the flavor.

Being an registered dietitian nutritionist in living Asheville, I love helping others feeling their best and becoming more healthy. If you are new to my blog, welcome and if you have come by again, thank you and I hope that you feel inspired to make something delicious! I just added some free seasonal food posters, you can find them here.

Strive towards the Mediterranean Diet only making it even better by incorporating the food that grows where you live!

 

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