Spice Up Your Health Life

While shopping one day, I found a mug that caught my attention.  It read: “Proud Physician. Ruining my health to save yours!”  I laughed out loud.  Although the sentiment was sarcastic, I didn’t completely disagree.  It’s no secret that many physicians sacrifice their health to become good doctors.  Constant stress, long hours, emotional and physical exhaustion, unhealthy eating habits, and lack of exercise are all factors that contribute to the kind of unhealthy lifestyle that seems common throughout the medical profession. 


Many physicians want to be healthier but lack the resources and time to achieve a healthier lifestyle.  They frequently believe that preparing healthy meals is time- consuming.  Even when time is available, they have less confidence in deciphering new recipes and preparing meals than they do in interpreting CT scans or taking care of patients.  Considering all the high-achieving, Type-A personalities in the medical profession, this is certainly understandable.


As a physician, wife, and mother, I have spent endless hours developing hacks to make my “jobs” just a little easier.  For me, finding the quickest path from point A to point B, starts in the kitchen.  That’s the place where busy physicians start reclaiming their health.  With just a few kitchen tools, a good quality spice selection, and some basic groceries, healthy cooking can be easy and enjoyable, and lead to delicious and nutritious meals.


By learning the essentials of healthy cooking, physicians can quickly become master chefs.  With a little culinary imagination, they can create signature recipes to use again and again.  By creating some easy spice rubs and learning a few basic cooking techniques, they will be able to create outstanding dishes and formulate healthy recipes their family, friends, and patients will enjoy.  


To be an efficient chef, I recommend three essential tools for your kitchen: a crockpot, an instapot, and an air fryer.  The crockpot will be the tool you will use when you are leaving for the hospital at 5 am and want to have dinner ready when you return home at 6 pm.  The crockpot will also be a great tool to use when you want to cook oats or breakfast casseroles overnight.  The instapot is the tool you will use when you want to cook pasta in three minutes or need to have pulled-pork ready in forty-five minutes instead of the six-to-eight hours it usually takes.  The air fryer is the tool you will use to make anything and everything faster and crispier.  It will allow you to prepare ten-minute meals, and quickly reheat leftovers.


Now that you have your tools, lets discuss your signature spice rub.  The spices I am about to describe all have major health benefits.  Your challenge is to create a delicious spice rub that utilizes as many of these powerhouses as possible.  In addition, include any other flavors you personally enjoy.  I highly recommend including turmeric, cumin, garlic, and chili powder in your spice rubs.  I also recommend topping everything with parsley.  When you finally create a spice rub that tastes just right, make a lot of it and store in an airtight container.


Turmeric is well known for its anti-inflammatory properties.  It has also been known to help with memory impairment.  


Cumin is excellent for digestion and boosting the immune system.  It has antibacterial and antiviral properties and is also an excellent source of iron.  


Garlic contains polysulfides which reduce LDL, and allicin which boosts immunity by buffering free radicals.  It is a valuable fish-seasoning because fish can contain trace amounts of heavy metals and garlic chelates these substances.  Garlic can also preserve bone because of its estrogenic effects.  


Chili Powder contains high levels of Vitamin A, which promotes eye health and may help prevent macular degeneration.  The high amount of iron in Chili Powder can increase hemoglobin production.  Because of this, the delivery of oxygen to the brain may be increased, which may decrease the chances of various neurologic diseases from developing.  The high level of potassium in Chili Powder can help maintain a healthy blood pressure because potassium relaxes blood vessels.  Finally, Chili Powder contains high levels of Vitamin C, an antioxidant that can help eliminate cancer-causing free radicals.


Parsley is also high in Vitamin C, and is an excellent source of beta carotene, another antioxidant that prevents free-radical damage.  Parsley may also help prevent kidney stones and promote kidney health.  Parsley is recognized as a powerful cancer fighter because it acts as an antioxidant, protects DNA from damage that can lead to cancer, and inhibits the proliferation and migration of cancer cells.


Here’s one of my favorite recipes for a tasty and healthy spice rub:  In your crockpot, spread a thin layer of high quality marinara sauce.  Line the bottom of the crock with thawed, wild-caught cod filets.  Press your spice rub into the cod fillets.  Now, cover the cod with the remaining marinara sauce and drizzle the entire dish with extra virgin olive oil - the more the better.  Top the dish with fresh parsley and cook on low heat for six hours.  When you are ready to serve, add more fresh parsley to your dish.  Flake apart the cod to create a chunky marinara sauce.  Serve over your favorite side.  I enjoy noodles made with konjac flour. They are low carb and an excellent source of prebiotic fiber.


There are many different strategies that can be used to help us become healthier.  When time is an issue, we must carefully choose how to get the greatest benefit with the least amount of effort.  Easy cooking techniques, using a disease-fighting spice rub, is a great start.  This gave me an idea for a new mug, “Smart physician. Improving my health so I can improve yours too.”