Joanne SmithWhenever I do my client intakes and review lists of foods they regularly consume, I’ve noticed there are two foods/drinks people are routinely hesitant, and even sometimes embarrassed, to tell me they ingest — red meat and coffee! It’s become so consistent that when I ask if they eat or drink either, I put my pen down because, after reluctantly telling me yes, they then run through a list of reasons why they enjoy them and then try to persuade me not to take either away. I always reassure my clients, as I’d like to assure you, in their purest form, neither is bad for you. In fact, for many people with disabilities, they are highly recommended. Here’s why …

Many people who live with disabilities, such as brain injuries, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries and multiple sclerosis, experience fatigue. A long list of factors can contribute to fatigue, including but not limited to chronic pain, low blood pressure, reduced respiratory capacity, and poor diet and nutrition. Persistent low energy can often lead to low mood, reduced motivation and decreased ability to perform every day activities.

The appetizing news is that eating red meat (preferably organic, which doesn’t contain hormones and antibiotics) one or two times a week can play a significant role in improving energy levels. The mineral iron found in red meat is used to make hemoglobin, the component of red blood cells that attaches to oxygen and transports it around the body to be used for energy. Vitamin B12 is also found in red meat and plays an important role in making red blood cells.

Another encouraging reason to consume lean red meat is that it may help prevent autoimmune diseases, such as MS. A new study by Curtin University and The Australian National University, published in The Journal of Nutrition, found that including unprocessed red meat such as lamb, beef and pork in your regular diet reduces the risk of developing MS. It is thought that the combination of both macro and micronutrients, including iron and B-vitamins, helps support the nervous system.

Coffee, the other oft-assumed unhealthy gastronomic pleasure, contains over a thousand compounds with a plethora of health benefits, including increasing energy levels. Coffee, made from the seeds of berries from plants known as Coffea, is one of the world’s most consumed beverages. A single cup of black coffee is loaded with antioxidants, contains vitamins B2, B3, B5 and the minerals magnesium, manganese and potassium. But it’s the caffeine in coffee that most people crave, and studies demonstrate that caffeine not only stimulates the nervous system to give us the desired energy boost, but can also enhance physical performance, boost metabolism and improve mood, memory and overall mental function. Coffee also appears to be protective against some types of cancer. Last year, a study at Rutgers University revealed that a compound in coffee, together with the caffeine it contains, can help slow the brain degeneration associated with two neurodegenerative diseases — Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia.

So help fuel your body throughout the day by savoring that morning cup of coffee or enjoying a nice steak salad for lunch guilt-free! Or treat yourself to a double shot of energy by combining the two in this delicious recipe.

Coffee Rubbed Steak

Coffee rubbed steak2 tablespoons chile powder
2 tablespoons finely ground coffee beans
3 teaspoons coconut sugar
1 tablespoon paprika
1.5 teaspoons dried oregano
1.5 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1.5 teaspoons ground coriander
1.5 teaspoons mustard powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon sea salt
2 lean cuts of steak (pick your favorite cut)
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Mix chile powder, ground coffee, sugar, paprika, dried oregano, pepper, coriander, mustard, ginger, and 1 tablespoon salt in a small bowl.

2. Season steaks with salt, then coat with 5 teaspoons spice rub per steak. Chill uncovered 3-6 hours.

3. Let steaks sit 1 hour to come to room temperature, then grill/BBQ/skillet your steaks the way you like them.

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Joanne Smith is a nutritionist and co-author of
Eat Well Live Well with SCI and Other Neurological Conditions. For more information on nutrition for neurological injuries, go to eatwelllivewellwithsci.com.