If you suffer from arthritis, you know all too well about the aches, pops and pains that come with the condition. But changing your diet to include certain foods and eliminate others can be beneficial when trying to manage joint pain.
Arthritis involves an inflammation of the joints and a breakdown of cartilage that normally protects the joints and allows them to function smoothly. Cartilage also acts like a shock absorber when you walk or exercise. When a breakdown of cartilage occurs, the bones rub together, and this friction causes pain, swelling, and stiff joints.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 50 million adults in the United States have been diagnosed with arthritis—that’s over 1 in every 5 adults. There are over 100 different types of arthritis, and of those, osteoarthritis is the most common.
Food for Joint Pain
While there’s no magic food for joint pain that you can eat to ward off arthritis aches completely, there are certain foods that contain specific vitamins and minerals that can soothe your aching joints naturally.
While you might not want to toss out your painkillers just yet, including the following foods in your diet can make you healthier and possibly thinner. Maintaining a healthy weight is always a good strategy, especially when you consider that every one extra pound you carry puts an extra 10 lbs. of pressure on your joints.
- Fatty fish, such as salmon, herring, and sardines, or other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as walnuts, soy beans, flaxseeds, canola oil and pumpkin seeds: These foods contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids that reduce the production of chemicals which spread inflammation and inhibit enzymes that trigger inflammation. Fatty fish also contains vitamin D that helps to prevent swelling and pain.
A Women’s Health Study that followed 30,000 women for 11 years found that those whose diets included less than 200 international units (IU) of vitamin D a day (which equates to about 3 ounces of sardines) were 33% more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than women whose diets included more daily vitamin D. It’s recommended to add at least one gram of omega-3 to your daily diet.For example, four ounces of salmon contains 1.5 grams of omega-3. Another option is to add walnuts (2.27 grams per ¼ cup) to a salad or flaxseed (two tablespoons has 3.51 grams) to your breakfast cereal. It’s recommended to boost your vitamin D intake by drinking two glasses of low-fat milk (200 IU) on days you don’t eat omega-3 foods. And spend 10-15 minutes a day in the sun since sunlight triggers vitamin D production in your body. Or, to ensure you’re getting enough vitamin D, take a supplement such as Healthy Choice Naturals Vitamin D, which provides 4,000 IU of vitamin D in every daily dose.
- Extra-virgin olive oil: Olive oil contains oleocanthalwhich blocks enzymes associated with inflammation. About 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil acts like one-tenth of a dose of Ibuprofen, according to a study at the Monnell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. This may not sound like much, but it adds up. However, one tablespoon also contains 119 calories, which adds up quickly as well, so use it sparingly. It’s recommended to consume about one tablespoon of olive oil a day.
- Sweet peppers, citrus fruits and other foods with vitamin C: Vitamin C protects collagen, a major component of cartilage. Inadequate amounts may increase your risk for some kinds of arthritis. A Canadian study of 1,317 men found that those who got 1,500 mg of daily vitamin C through foods or supplements had a 45% lower risk of gout than those who consumed less than 250 mg a day.But don’t take high doses if you have osteoarthritis. Duke University researchers found that animals that consumed high doses of vitamin C (the equivalent of 1,500-2,500 mg a day in humans) over an eight-month period suffered worse knee osteoarthritis. It’s recommended to get 200-500 mg of vitamin C daily. For example, eating an orange and a cup of broccoli will provide about 200 mg of vitamin C. To ensure you’re getting enough vitamin C, take Healthy Choice Naturals Full Spectrum Daily Multivitamin which provides 1,000 mg of vitamin C in its complex of 56 vitamins, minerals and important nutrients for your overall health.
- Brazil nuts: Brazil nuts are rich in selenium with 270 mcg in just three or four nuts, compared to 63 mcg in 3 ounces of tuna. Selenium is a mineral that helps antioxidants fight free radicals, helps regulate the thyroid gland, and may ward off other ailments.A 2005 University of North Carolina study found that participants with the highest levels of selenium had a 40% lower risk of knee osteoarthritis than those with the lowest levels of selenium. Low selenium may also be linked to rheumatoid arthritis.
It’s recommended to consume 55-200 mcg of selenium a day. If you don’t like Brazil nuts or tuna, you can get 32-35 mcg in 3.5 ounces of beef or turkey, or 12 mcg in a cup of cooked oatmeal.
- Onions, leeks, kale, cherry tomatoes and apples: Onions and leeks contain quercetin, an antioxidant that may inhibit inflammatory chemicals. Other foods rich in quercetin are kale, cherry tomatoes and apples. It’s recommended to eat about ½-cup of these quercetin-rich foods each day.
- Tart cherries: A University of Michigan study suggests that a diet including tart cherries can reduce inflammation in animals by 50%. And a 2009 study at Baylor Research Institute in Dallas found that 56% of patients with osteoarthritis had more than a 20% improvement in regard to pain and function after taking cherry pills for eight weeks. This is due to the anthocyanins in cherries, which are powerful antioxidants that reduce inflammation and also give cherries, grapes, black raspberries and eggplant their vibrant colors. It’s recommended to eat about ½ cup tart cherries (fresh, frozen, canned or dried) a day or drink 8 ounces of cherry juice.
- Green tea: Studies have shown that certain antioxidant compounds in green tea reduce the incidence and severity of arthritis.
One University of Michigan study found that epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) lowers production of inflammation-causing substances in the body that cause joint damage. It’s recommended to drink 1 to 4 cups of green tea daily.
Here are some foods to avoid if you have joint pain:
- AVOID shellfish and red meat if you have gout: When there is an excessive amount of uric acid in the blood, crystals form and collect in the joints, which causes a painful condition called gout. Consuming a lot of shellfish, red meat, dairy foods and beer can cause an increase in uric acid due to a compound called Purine that is abundant in these foods and is converted into uric acid in the blood. So if you have gout, these foods should definitely be avoided: mussels, clams, oysters, anchovies, herring, kidney, mackerel, liver, brain and sweetbreads.Good substitute:Instead of shellfish and red meat, eat 5-6 ounces of lean poultry or fish each day. If you need more protein, add some beans to your diet. Beans provide magnesium to relax your muscles and calcium for strong bones.
- AVOID sunflower, safflower, corn and soybean oils: These oils are undesirable because they are high in omega-6 fatty acids which are the kind of omega fats that increase inflammation. Avoid eating processed snack foods because they are packed with unhealthy oils and saturated fats, not to mention plenty of unwanted calories, sugar and salt content. Plus, they contain unhealthy chemicals, preservatives and food colorings, so avoid them whenever possible.Good substitute:Switch to healthy olive oil or nut oils, and eat whole, natural foods as much as possible.
- AVOID sugar: Some research studies found that sugar may increase inflammation. Sure, eating a candy bar may provide a quick energy boost, but the “sugar buzz” is short-lived and is usually followed by an energy crash. This fatigue can make matters worse for those with arthritis who already suffer from tired, aching joints. Plus, eating high-calorie sugary foods causes weight gain, which adds more pressure on your joints.Good substitute: An occasional sweet treat is fine, but try to satisfy your sweets cravings with natural sugars from fresh fruits. For best results, eat 2 to 4 ½-cup servings of fresh fruit daily.
To maintain flexible, healthy joints and enjoy optimal overall health, make sure your diet is filled with the food for joint pain listed above, including a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, beans and peas, nuts and seeds, whole grains, lean meats and fish. And to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients your body requires, take natural health supplements such as those available at healthychoicenaturals.com.