Chef Seamus Mullen and ReThink RA
Danielle Galian: Hero Food sheds a lot of light on how cooking can manage pain, so it's no surprise with your history and your formative years spent in Vermont and Spain that led you to automatically think of foods' healing abilities with your Rheumatoid Arthritis, specifically with RA, why do you think most sufferers don't look to food first for their treatment process?
Chef Seamus Mullen: You bring up a lot of great points, I think food is one of those things that's a very important part of any wellness program. If you're dealing with any kind of inflammation or disease or any kind of medical condition it's very important to have a very broad spectrum multi-pro approach way to treating it. And often times, unfortunately it (food) gets pushed to the way side a little bit and we don't focus on it being such an important part of wellness when in fact it really is. I think it's crucial and it's at the basis of what we are and that whole adage of "you are what you eat" is really true. When we're talking about dealing with disease, any kind of health condition, first and foremost you want to set yourself up for success as best as possible. Part of doing that is having a solid foundation of nutrition and having a balanced diet and really taking care of yourself. So you if you don't put good things in your body, it'll go through your body to do its job which is to try to heal itself. However our body's really want to heal itself. Our body's job is to take care of any kind of disease or inflammation or problem and to heal. And there are a lot of things we can do that help that process along and speed it up and make it better and there are other things we can do and choices we can make that make it more difficult for our bodies to do that sort of thing. Food is a cornerstone of wellness and a really important aspect of treating any kind of disease. Certainly for me with RA, food was a fundamental part of helping me live with the disease, treat and manage the disease and it played into the other aspects of managing the disease which is having a strong relationship with my doctor, using the right medications for me, monitoring the disease and tracking my symptoms and learning as much as I could about the disease. And food really played into that as being a real key.
DG: Absolutely, and in the book you mention cooking with grass fed beef and anchovies (just to name a few) - so is organic food the main way your recipes can help with RA?
CSM: It's important to understand that we're all individuals and we're all different. What works for me may not necessarily work for somebody else. And we all react differently to different foods. Things for me that are very helpful may not be as helpful to somebody else. And that's where it's really important to pay attention and to monitor how you feel and to keep a log and to be as detail oriented as you can and really take it as a personal project. I like to say "health is wealth" - without health, everything else is going to go down. Taking your health as your number one project and building everything else around that is really one of the keys to success and to longevity of success. When it comes to doing that, one of the simplest things you can do is really monitor your relationship with food and how food works for you. For me, things like grass fed beef and anchovies and dark leafy greens are all incredibly important. And having good fats in my diet is incredibly important and then things that are pretty common sense are not that difficult to do like cutting back on any kind of processed foods or foods that have a lot of preservatives in them and obviously foods that have a lot of sugar or refined sugars in them are things you want to steer clear of as much as possible.
DG: Excellent advice. With the ReThink RA Campaign, you're on the tour now with its first night in Mesa, AZ., what's the main message you want to get out there universally to sufferers with RA?
CSM: I think one of the most important things is to learn and to understand that if you're living with moderate to severe RA, you don't have to suffer. And there are a lot of really wonderful resources available to those of us who are living with moderate to severe RA, to manage the disease better and to live better with the disease. And part of that is having a strong of an understanding as you can of the disease and of what it means to have the disease, know what all of the tests are, learn how to monitor your blood, learning how to maximize the relationship you have with your doctor - I think that's incredibly crucial. And then learning to take care of yourself. It's sort of a multi-prong approach of having a strong relationship with your doctor, of understanding what the disease means for you, of setting goals, and then living as well as you possibly can and taking care of yourself as best as you can. Also, anything that I can do to raise awareness of the disease is really important to me. I kind of think of it as an invisible disease in many ways because most of us who live with RA live healthy, we live fine. And yet simple things like opening a jar or preparing a meal can be incredibly challenging if not impossible. And the more we can do to raise awareness, the better all of us living with RA can live our lives. The key message is, if you're living with moderate to severe RA you don't have to live in pain and you don't have to suffer. There are great resources. And one of the great things of this campaign is it provides people who are living with RA, folks like me, with tremendous resources to better manage the disease. And if they go to the website rethinkra.com/cooking they can order a rethink kit that helps them track their symptoms and to better manage the disease and to develop a strong relationship with their doctor. They can also see the recipes I put together for the campaign, there's some cooking videos and really good tip for folks living with the disease.
DG: Part of those tips that I read on the website was about simplifying tasks in the kitchen and being better organized, and our readers are all about simplicity. Do you have a number one tip on simplifying things in the kitchen for our readers?
CSM: One really great tip is to have a few sensible kitchen appliances, a few things that can really help you out. And learn how to use them. Don't just use them for one thing. We may have a blender, for instance, and we just use it for making smoothies. We don't think that this can actually be used for making sauces and marinades that can be kept in the refrigerator and used in a great meal. Or using the food processor for more than just chopping up some nuts but I can slice a bunch of raw vegetables and make a beautiful shaved raw vegetable salad very easily and very quickly and save a lot of work and a lot of time and try to make something that's really delicious in a short period of time. So having a few sensible kitchen appliances I like to keep at counter height if they're heavy they're easy to move and I don't have to bend down. That really makes a big difference. A recent tip I started doing two months ago that really helped me a lot, I got a really inexpensive lazy susan and I put them in the refrigerator so when I'm looking in the fridge it's really easy to just spin and see the things that I have. Because refrigerators can be a challenge for people suffering from stiffness. That's why I like the refrigerators with the freezer on the bottom but everything you need to access on a regular basis is at eye level. So that combination of having a good refrigerator that opens up at eye level and then adding in some lazy Susan's really makes a big difference to saving time and keeping things organized and making sure things don't go bad in the refrigerator and making them easily accessible.
DG: I remember watching a YouTube video where you mentioned drinking a green juice or smoothie in the mornings as part of breakfast, do you have a favorite juice recipe?
CSM: I prefer smoothies over juices simply because when you juice you extract mostly the water and sugar from vegetables. You lose a lot of the really, really good stuff like fiber and nutrients. So if you make a smoothie with a really good blender, you end up getting everything, you're not discarding anything and you're consuming all of it. I have a smoothie every morning. It's not a super veggie smoothie that just tastes like dirt. I'll usually put in some dark leafy greens like kale, I'll add some yoghurt, I'll throw some almonds in there, some raw honey, frozen blueberries, and one of my secrets for a really good smoothie is I'll throw in an avocado which is a great source of really good fats. And it's a very neutral flavor, we don't really think of it as something that can go with a sweet dish but in a smoothie it's really terrific. It's an easy, quick way to start the day.
DG: Finally, I'd like to end off on something a little fun - what are you having for dinner tonight?
CSM: Oh that's a good question, I don't know! I had a really great dinner last night in a great restaurant here in town (Mesa,AZ) called True Food and they have really great, healthy, delicious food. I had grass-fed beef tacos with an organic Autumn salad
DG: Very cool. Where can people go to get more information on the ReThink RA Campaign?
CSM: Your readers can go to rethinkra.com/cooking and there they can see a list of all the future engagements I'll be speaking at over the next couple of months. I'll be on this campaign across the country doing demos and talking about the campaign and there you can see all the dates and locations and all the tips we've put together and you can order the ReThink kit which is a must for anyone who is living with RA.