Seamus Mullen, a chef and owner of the New York City-based restaurant Tertulia, was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in 2007.
He turned to traditional medicine to alleviate his symptoms, which worked quickly.
“I would get a tremendous pain in my joint, whether it was in my shoulder or my wrist or my knee – it would get very swollen, and it would hurt more than you can imagine,” Mullen said.
Mullen was a finalist on the Food Network’s Next Iron Chef, but a RA flare-up made it difficult for him to finish the show.
He began to question whether the food he ate was affecting his symptoms.
“Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, and our immune system directly responds to the food that we eat,” Mullen said. “We are what we eat – literally.”
Foods to feel better
So Mullen started experimenting with the foods he loved – and it turned out his favorites made him feel healthier.
That’s how his book, Hero Foods: How Cooking With Delicious Things Can Make Us Feel Better was created.
"I'd rather have vitamin A, E, all these important vitamins coming from greens instead of from a pill and having my liver process it,” Mullen said. ‘So, I'd rather get all the nutrients I need through a balanced diet instead of through a supplement."
Mullen likes to use leafy greens when he is cooking, like kale and parsley.
Mushrooms also make the list of ‘hero foods,’ both fresh and dried, since they contain immune-boosting properties.
"My feeling is that I have an autoimmune disease (and) my immune system is constantly misfiring and causing issues in my joints,” Mullen said. “Everything I can do to bolster my immune system, to strengthen it, and put it in a better position the better."
He said eggs are ‘hero foods’ because of their high concentration of protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
Anchovies get a bad rap, he added, but if prepared correctly, they are healthy and tasty.
"Anchovies are really important for your joints,” Mullen said. “I'd rather eat anchovies than take a bunch of glucosamine pills in the morning. This, to me, is the natural way to take care of my joints."
Mullen, whose book is featured on Rachael Ray’s website, said he wasn’t ready to let go of his dreams at the age of 38 – so he’s fighting the RA battle with every step he takes.
He offers recipes on Ray’s site, as well as tips to dealing with RA.
“We will also take a real look into the lives of people who have various kinds of hardships, and have overcome adversity to find inspirations,” Mullen said on the website. “These people will remind us every day that no matter how hard we have it, how much pain we feel, we can go on."