As the season shifts from summer to fall, so do our sensibilities. Summertime barbeques and Labor Day festivities segue into thoughts of cleaning up the diet with nutritious meals that are both fulfilling and healthy for us. Paying careful attention to the mind-body connection is even more important when managing chronic pain in recovery, and maintaining a clean diet can vastly improve these efforts.
Consider the power bowl concept, where multiple healthy ingredients from four basic food groups create a well-balanced and delicious meal. The four groups that compose a power bowl include grains, proteins, vegetables, and fats, leaving all sorts of room for both creativity and variety. One savory power bowl recipe that is an excellent one for individuals dealing with chronic pain is this tasty vegetarian power bowl.
Vegetarian Power Bowl with Red Quinoa, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Kale, Goat Cheese and Walnuts with Apple Cider Vinaigrette
For Power Bowl:
- 1/3 cup red quinoa (will end up as 1 cup cooked)
- 1 medium sweet potato
- 2 cups kale (standard or Lacinato) or other dark leafy greens, chopped and cleaned
- 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
- ½ cup vegetable stock
- ¼ cup crumbled goat cheese
- ¼ cup walnut pieces
For Apple Cider Vinaigrette:
- 2 tbsp. apple cider or apple juice
- 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 6 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- ¾ tsp. salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Cook quinoa. Rinse quinoa thoroughly under running cold water for at least 30 seconds and drain well. Combine rinsed quinoa with 2/3 cup of cold water in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat, then decrease the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until the quinoa has absorbed all of the water (about 10-20 minutes). Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff with a fork.
- In the meantime, heat oven to 375 degrees F. Place sweet potato on baking sheet and lightly coat with oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes or until a fork pierces all the way through. On separate pan, place walnut pieces to toast. Remove from oven when fragrant but not burnt.
- In a sauté pan heat 1 tbsp. olive oil on medium high heat. When hot, add garlic cloves and sauté until soft but not colored. Raise heat to high and add kale and vegetable stock. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Remove cover and continue to cook, stirring until all liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- When all components are cooked, combine to make the bowl. Start with the base of quinoa and add all other ingredients in an attractive manner. Drizzle with a few tablespoons of the Apple Cider Vinaigrette.
- Pour apple cider and vinegar into a bowl. Add salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in olive oil until emulsified. Serve immediately.
Prep: 30 minutes. Cook: 45 minutes. Total: 75 minutes.
What Makes the Power Bowl a Healthy Meal Option in Recovery?
This flavorful gluten-free and vegetarian power bowl is composed of a combination of whole grains and vegetables that contain high concentrations of vitamins, minerals and oils. All of which are major components of the anti-inflammatory diet which includes high levels of antioxidants, omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Other nutritious elements of the bowl include:
- Antioxidants (A, E and many of the phytochemicals provided by the vegetables in the bowl) are essential for those in recovery because they help to repair damage done to tissue and cells by free radicals which come from oxidizing agents such as toxins (such as cigarettes and drugs) as well as foods that contain high levels of saturated fats and sugar.
- The inclusion of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids reduce inflammation in the body by reducing the production of inflammatory body compounds. They also help to maintain healthy heart function by reducing the stress on arteries as well as promote healthy brain function.
- The vitamin C provided from the kale is a major component of an anti-inflammatory/recovery diet because of its function in the production of neurotransmitters, specifically serotonin. This neurotransmitter is the most negatively affected by repetitive drug use. Vitamin C intake can help to restore levels of serotonin in the brain, which helps to relieve symptoms of withdrawal such as depression and anxiety. Kale is also rich in vitamins A and K, B-9, and fiber.
- Quinoa provides an excellent source of protein, which is essential in the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Proteins are made from the building blocks called amino acids. There are 21 amino acids that the human body needs to create the necessary proteins for daily function. The bowl also provides animal-based protein in the goat cheese.
- Quinoa contains almost twice as much fiber as most other grains. A high fiber diet reduces blood sugar levels, aids in digestion, and lowers the LDL cholesterol level.
- The sweet potatoes provide the antioxidant beta-carotene, as well as vitamin A, and choline.
- Walnuts are a rich source of polyunsaturated fats (omega 3 fatty acids) which help to improve artery function and prevent heart disease. Omega 3 fatty acids are essential in the anti-inflammatory diet.
Other Chronic Pain Management Strategies in Recovery
Although doctors have, unfortunately, become accustomed to prescribing opioids for pain management, more evidence is emerging that other medications can be equally effective and far less dangerous in controlling pain. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) demonstrated that the non-opioid, ibuprofen and acetaminophen (paracetamol) used to treat severe pain in an ER setting was as effective in reducing pain levels as the three opioids used in the study.
Other non-opioid pain medications include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, such as naproxen and aspirin), acetaminophen, tricyclic antidepressants, SSRIs and SNRIs, coritcosteroids and anti-epileptics such as gabapentin and pregabalin. In addition to medications, non-drug treatments such as yoga, acupuncture, biofeedback, chiropractic care, cognitive behavioral therapy, relaxation techniques such as meditation and massage, and physical therapy can effectively manage chronic pain in recovery.