If you have arthritis or another condition that causes joint inflammation, you may be wondering if there is anything you can eat, or avoid, to help ease discomfort. According to the Arthritis Foundation, the answer is yes!
Although there is no diet cure for arthritis, certain foods have been shown to fight inflammation, strengthen bones and boost the immune system. Adding these foods to your balanced diet may help ease the symptoms of your arthritis, says the Foundation. The following are dietary guidelines they recommend.
A diet low in processed foods and saturated fat and rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts and beans, also known as the “Mediterranean Diet,” is advised. Studies have shown that eating these foods can:
- Lower blood pressure
- Protect against chronic conditions ranging from cancer to stroke
- Help arthritis by curbing inflammation
- Benefit your joints as well as your heart
- Lead to weight loss, which makes a huge difference in managing joint pain.
Here are the key foods to focus on with the Mediterranean Diet, and why they’re considered beneficial for joint health.
Fish. Some types of fish are good sources of inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids. Researchers have also shown that taking fish oil supplements helps reduce joint swelling and pain, duration of morning stiffness and disease activity among people who have rheumatoid arthritis.
Best sources include salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, anchovies, scallops and other cold-water fish. If you don’t like fish, take a supplement. Taking 600 to 1,000 mg of fish oil daily eases joint stiffness, tenderness, pain and swelling, according to studies.
Nuts and seeds. 1.5 ounces of nuts is recommended daily. Multiple studies confirm the role of nuts in an anti-inflammatory diet. And though they’re relatively high in fat and calories, studies show snacking on nuts promotes weight loss because their protein, fiber and monounsaturated fats are satiating.
Best sources include walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios and almonds.
Fruits and vegetables. Aim for nine or more servings daily, according to the Arthritis Foundation. This is because fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants, which act as the body’s natural defense system, helping to neutralize unstable molecules called free radicals that can damage cells.
Research has shown that cherries and other red and purple fruits like strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries have an anti-inflammatory effect. Citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C. Research shows getting the right amount of that vitamin aids in preventing inflammatory arthritis and maintaining healthy joints. Other research suggests eating vitamin K-rich vegetables like broccoli, spinach, lettuce, kale and cabbage dramatically reduces inflammatory markers in the blood.
Best sources include colorful fruits and vegetables – the darker or more brilliant the color, the more antioxidants it has. Good ones include blueberries, cherries, spinach, kale and broccoli.
Olive oil. Two to three tablespoons daily. Olive oil is loaded with heart-healthy fats, as well as oleocanthal, which has properties similar to nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs. Inhibiting these enzymes dampens the body’s inflammatory processes and reduces pain sensitivity.
Best sources include extra virgin olive oil, Avocado and safflower oils; and walnut oil, which has 10 times the omega-3s that olive oil has.
Beans. About one cup, twice a week or more. Beans are loaded with fiber and phytonutrients, which help lower CRP, an indicator of inflammation found in the blood. Beans are also an excellent and inexpensive source of protein, with about 15 grams per cup, which is important for muscle health.
Best sources include small red beans, red kidney beans and pinto beans.
Whole grains. Eat a total of 6 ounces of grains per day; at least three of which should come from whole grains. Whole grains contain filling fiber, which can help you maintain a healthy weight. Some studies have also shown that fiber and fiber-rich foods can lower blood levels of the the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein.
Best sources are foods made with the entire grain kernel, like whole-wheat flour, oatmeal, bulgur, brown rice, quinoa. However, gluten (a protein found in wheat and other grains) has been linked to inflammation for some people.
What about nightshades?
Nightshade vegetables, including eggplant, tomatoes, red bell peppers and potatoes, are nutritious. But they also contain solanine, a chemical that has been branded the culprit in arthritis pain. While there’s no scientific evidence to suggest that nightshades trigger arthritis flares, many people do report significant symptom relief when they avoid nightshade vegetables, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
Source: “The Ultimate Arthritis Diet,” published by The Arthritis Foundation, arthritis.org.
Do you experience joint pain? If so, do you find that your diet makes a difference? Please share in the comments!