Crisp, crunchy, fresh, and bright, this green apple-cabbage slaw is tossed with briny feta, toasty almonds, and a minty-sweet vinaigrette. It’s the type of salad I crave in the summer, but will avoid ordering at a restaurant because they’ll most likely use canola oil (which causes inflammation). And nothing irks me more than ordering something packed with nutritious elements only to discover a pain trigger hidden amongst all that goodness.
pain-reducing ingredients in apple-cabbage slaw
This herb contains rosmarinic acid, which is both anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative (oxidation causes cell deterioration). The more you can pack your diet with ingredients that fight inflammation and oxidation, the better your pain outcomes will be.
Honey stimulates the body to produce prostaglandin E2 and cyclooxygenase-2. These are inflammation mediators that increase blood flow, decrease swelling, and actually reduce the sensation of pain. This sweetener has a lower glycemic index than table sugar, which means your blood sugar level won’t have a dramatic spike (especially at the dose in this recipe). Moderated blood sugar level equals less inflammation and more stable hormonal levels throughout the body. And that means less pain.
The vitamin C found in lemons promotes collagen synthesis, which is essential for skin health and tendon elasticity. It also contains an antioxidant that protects against free radicals that cause cell damage (linked to arthritis symptoms). Further, vitamin C supports the immune system, helping to keep autoimmune conditions like Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)—associated with chronic joint inflammation—in check.
Packed with vitamin C, you’ll get all the benefits described above. This cruciferous vegetable also contains large amounts of both soluble and insoluble fiber. While insoluble fiber promotes efficient digestion, soluble fiber helps to increase beneficial bacteria in the gut—like bifidobacteria and lactobacilli. These bacteria play important roles in protecting the immune system.
Mustard seeds contain anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that help to relieve pain.
Opt for a high-quality feta made from sheep’s milk or a combination of sheep’s and goat’s milk. It should also be suspended in brine (a water and salt solution). Lots of feta on the market is made from cow’s milk and the benefits I’m about to describe won’t hold—plus, they’re just not as tasty, IMHO! Quality feta has a combination of calcium and phosphorous which support bone health. This tangy cheese also contains the bacterium lactobacillus plantarum, which protects the gut and digestive tract.
Celtic Sea Salt
This flavor enhancer contains lower sodium than table salt and is gathered by hand—as opposed to the industry standard of boiling sea water, which damages many of the trace minerals. We want these minerals—over 75 of them!—to stay intact because they’re a healthy source of electrolytes, keeping you well-hydrated and supporting all physiological systems.
Granny Smith Apple
Apples contain pectic, which promotes an efficient break down of food in the stomach. Pectin is a great source of fiber and also functions as a prebiotic to promote healthy gut bacteria growth. Granny Smith apples are tart and crunchy and have a lower sugar load than other apples, which—you guessed it—keeps your blood sugar stable to ensure healthy hormone balance and not spur inflammation.
Loaded with antioxidants that protect against cellular oxidation, almonds contain selenium which decreases stress and improves sleep. Keep those skins on because that’s where the majority of the antioxidants can be found. Magnesium helps to regulate blood sugar levels. Almonds contain Vitamin E, which is great for your body, but is also fat soluble (meaning fat is required for its absorption). The great thing? Almonds provide the needed fat. You won’t get that effect from a Vitamin E supplement.
Besides fueling your body with healthy fat, high-quality olive oil contains oleocanthal, an enzyme that actually works like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, also known as NSAIDS (for example, ibuprofen). Oleocanthal interrupts the signals that cause you inflammation and pain. Studies show that NSAIDS are bad for the heart over time. So, the more we can pack foods into our diets that naturally reduce the sensation of pain, the less we’ll feel the need to turn to medications that cause negative side effects with regular use.
Shred the cabbage with a hand-held slicer or long chef’s knife and cut the apple just before adding to the salad to prevent it from browning. You need a whole bunch of mint—most for the dressing, the rest for adding to the bowl. Serve as a salad for an appetizer, dress it up with grilled salmon or chicken for a refreshing main course (for four), or pile it on your favorite tacos for a tangy take on slaw.
To cut down on labor and time, feel free to use pre-shredded cabbage and cut the apples into slices or cubes instead of matchsticks. It’ll be delicious!
Dairy-free? Skip the feta, but taste and add more sea salt if you like, since you’ll miss the briny note the cheese provides.
Honey-Mint Vinaigrette Recipe
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ teaspoon salt, such as fine-ground Celtic sea salt, or more to taste
½ cup olive oil
¾ bunch fresh mint
1. In a blender or food processor, combine the honey, mustard, lemon juice, and salt. Pulse for 30 seconds.
2. While the machine is running, remove the insert in the cap and slowly drizzle in the olive oil; blend until emulsified.
3. Add the mint and pulse about 15 times, or until the leaves have broken down, but flecks remain visible.
4. Transfer to a bowl. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, if you like (the feta will add a salty note).
Apple-Cabbage Slaw Recipe
1 small head green cabbage, quartered and thinly shredded
¼ bunch fresh mint, leaves torn
⅔ cup roasted, unsalted almonds, chopped
1 Granny Smith apple, cored, seeded, and cut into matchsticks
⅛ teaspoon salt
4 ounces feta, crumbled
1. Reserve about 1 tablespoon of the torn mint for garnish. In a bowl, place the apple and sprinkle with salt. Add the remaining mint, almonds, and cabbage. Toss to combine.
2. Coat the mixture with the dressing and toss well.
3. Garnish with the feta and additional mint leaves. Serve immediately as a starter, or topped with grilled fish or chicken for a main course. Alternatively, use as a slaw for tacos.
Michelle-Marie’s recipe for apple-cabbage slaw was originally published in The Boston Globe.
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