My patient Peggy had severe osteoarthritis. A retired schoolteacher and mother of five, she had knee pain that was so bad that she had a hard time walking, even with her cane. Except for the few blocks' walk to the market, and the once weekly shuttle to bridge or a matinee, she was virtually housebound.

"My doctor gives me pills," she told me. "But I forget to take them."

When I asked her about her diet, Peggy said she usually ate pastries for breakfast, tuna fish for lunch, a beef pot pie for dinner, and strawberry short cake and whipped cream for dessert. She liked to cook, but didn't have the energy to do much more than poach an egg, or reheat leftovers.

Peggy's doctor had prescribed Cox-2 inhibitors, which I told her to put near her toothbrush so she would remember to take them. I explained that osteoarthritis was an inflammatory disease.

Its pattern of pain and stiffness was predictable, so we could use food to treat and even prevent the pain.

I prescribed an analgesic food for breakfast (berries), an antioxidant/anti-inflammatory food for lunch (fish, soy, ginger or avocado), and an omega-3 rich food for dinner (fish, walnuts or flax meal). And I told her not to eat foods with trans fats (they are inflammatory), starches and added sugars (they produce cytokines), or red meat (the saturated fat adds to inflammation).

The Toasted Walnut and Creamy White Bean Pitas below is the first recipe I prescribed, instead of the beef pot pie. They're light, easy to make, and require assembly but no cooking. The walnuts and walnut oil both add omega-3s. The white beans are rich in antioxidants, as are all beans. There are no trans and barely a gram of saturated fat in each one. And the juiciness of the watercress against the smoothness of the filling and the burst of ripeness from the tomatoes ... well, it's perfect. Even if you don't have arthritis.

Three months after our first meeting, Peggy walked into my office without her cane, swearing that she had not felt so good in years.

Then she said: "My daughter took me to a baseball game last week, and I had a hot dog. It was great! But I really paid for it. My knees were killing me for three days afterwards. But I went back on my program, and you know what? I feel so good I'm going to move North, where I can get some land." And she did: She now lives on 24 acres in Idaho, where she takes long walks with her two dogs. And she still makes the Toasted Walnut and Creamy White Bean Pitas, once a week.

Toasted Walnut and Creamy White Bean Pitas

Makes 4 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 0 minutes

334 calories per serving, 22 percent from fat

1 small clove garlic, peeled

1 15-ounce can organic no-salt-added navy, great northern or cannellini beans, drained

2 teaspoons walnut oil

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

1/4 teaspoon each: salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 6-inch whole-wheat pita bread rounds

3 cups coarsely chopped watercress

1 cup organic grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

3 tablespoons chopped walnuts, toasted


With motor running, drop garlic clove through tube of a food processor; process until minced. Add beans, walnut oil, lemon juice, rosemary, salt and pepper; process with on/off pulses until smooth, scraping down sides of work bowl once.

Cut each pita bread round in half crosswise; open into pockets. Combine watercress, cherry tomatoes and walnuts and stuff pockets with half of mixture. Spoon bean mixture into pockets; top with remaining watercress mixture.

Nutritional Analysis Per Serving

Total Fat 8.5g, Saturated Fat 0.8g, Polyunsaturated Fat 4.7g, Monounsaturated Fat 1.3g, Fiber 12.8g, Carbohydrates 55.7g, Sugar 2.6g, Protein 12.5g, Sodium 537.8mg, Calcium 115.2mg, Magnesium 105.8mg, Zinc 3.2mg, Selenium 28.7mcg, Potassium 549.1mg

John La Puma, M.D. is a board-certified internist, professionally trained chef and co-host of Lifetime TV's "Health Corner", airing every Sunday morning.

Also his book available at

ChefMD's Big Book of Culinary Medicine: A Food Lover's Road Map to Losing Weight, Preventing Disease, and Getting Really Healthy


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