Painful joints can bring your life to a standstill. And your diet could be making the situation worse. We’ve examined the research into the links between arthritis and diet and bring you 10 foods to enjoy, or avoid, to take the edge off joint pain.
Arthritis, as we discussed in our blog Arthritis: 10 ways to ward off joint disease, is a word commonly used to describe a range of musculoskeletal disorders, most notably osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. We showed you how to reduce your risk of developing arthritis. Now, for those people who have been diagnosed with arthritis, we bring 10 arthritis diet tips that will help to take the edge off joint pain. The first 9 tips are excellent for the successful arthritis diet; the last one lists the absolute no-nos.
When arthritis strikes, the pain caused by the inflamed joints that accompany the condition can be debilitating. Luckily, arthritis pain is highly susceptible to the positive influences of healthy foods, supplements and sensible lifestyle changes. While you can’t heal painful joints with an arthritis diet, you can include foods containing oils, minerals and vitamins that can help to ease the discomfort. Many of the foods suggested are found in a cuisine that most of us love – the so-called Mediterranean diet. It’s rich in fish, vegetables and olive oil and low in red meat and dairy products.
Follow these 10 arthritis diet tips to reduce joint pain:
1. Fish… and lots of it
A number of studies show that omega-3 fatty acids are useful tools in an arthritis diet. Certain types of fish are rich in inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids, which quell inflammatory proteins in your body, easing joint tenderness.
- Best sources: Salmon, tuna, sardines, anchovies and other cold-water fish.
- How much: At least 100 grams, twice a week.
2. Fill up with colourful fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are packed with anti-oxidants, which support your body’s natural defence system and may help fight inflamed joints caused by arthritis. Fill half your plate with brightly coloured vegetables – they can cut your risk of developing painful joints by 50 percent. Onions, although not brightly coloured (unless they’re the red ones), are also packed with beneficial anti-oxidants, so add them to your arthritis diet daily veggie quota.
- Best sources: Blueberries, blackberries, cherries, pomegranate, strawberries, salad peppers, spinach, kale and broccoli.
- How much: At least 1½ to 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per meal.
3. Snack on nuts and seeds
Nuts contain loads of inflammation-fighting mono-unsaturated fat, protein and fibre too. That’s good news for the arthritis diet and for nut lovers too.
- Best sources: Brazil nuts, walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios and almonds.
- How much: Eat 40 grams of nuts daily – that’s about one handful.
4. Beans and more beans
Beans are a low-cost source of fibre, protein, folic acid and minerals such as magnesium, iron, zinc and potassium. Excellent additions to the arthritis diet, the anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds in beans can ease arthritis pain.
- Best sources: Red kidney beans, lima beans and chickpeas.
- How much: At least one cup, twice a week.
5. Olive oil
A beloved ingredient and the subject of heated foodie debates, olive oil contains heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fat, anti-oxidants and oleocanthal, a compound that can lower inflammation and pain caused by arthritis.
- Best sources: Extra-virgin olive oil is less processed than standard varieties and therefore retains more nutrients.
- How much: Two to three tablespoons per day for cooking, salad dressings or other dishes.
6. Fabulous fibre
Fibre lowers C-reactive protein (CRP), a substance in the blood that indicates inflammation such as arthritis flare-ups. And the extra-good news is that getting fibre from your diet lowers CRP levels more than taking fibre supplements. Foods that have carotenoids, the anti-oxidants that give carrots, peppers and some fruits their colour, are also helpful in lowering CRP. Fibre is a must in the arthritis diet.
- Best sources: Canned kidney beans, oat bran dates, prunes, baked beans.
- How much: 25 to 38 grams a day.
7. Add turmeric, ginger, cloves and other spices
Spike your arthritis diet with spices. Recent research shows that curcumin, the active ingredient in ginger and turmeric, has potent anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritis properties. Turmeric has been found to profoundly reduce inflammation and degeneration of the joints. Cloves contain eugenol, another anti-inflammatory stalwart.
8. Top up your vitamin D
Low levels of the ‘sunshine’ vitamin could trigger arthritis. Use supplements if you don’t get the opportunity to venture outdoors, and eat liver, oily fish and other seafoods.
9. Supplements can help
To ease arthritis symptoms, opt for omega-3 fatty acid supplements when fatty fish is hard to find. Bromelain, found in pineapple, is a protein-digesting enzyme that also controls inflammation. It sounds surprising, but studies suggest that bromelain may be as effective for reducing arthritis pain as some anti-inflammatory medication. Flora Force’s unique Arthro-Aid™ capsules relieves pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints; Devil’s Claw and Turmerynne™ are also excellent additions to the arthritis diet.
10. Foods to avoid
Processed foods such as biscuits, chips and other snacks can be high in unhealthy fats, which are linked with inflammation. Red meats may worsen arthritis symptoms, as may coffee. Drink alcohol in moderation. Although resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, may have anti-inflammatory effects, people on an arthritis diet should limit alcoholic drinks – especially when they are taking medications. Your doctor can let you know what amount of alcohol, if any, is appropriate for you.
Above all, while we advise you to play a conscious role in making the most of your health and following a common-sense arthritis diet, if you’ve been diagnosed with a medical condition such as arthritis, it is vital to consult your medical professional. Do not treat yourself without discussing the severity of your condition and your therapeutic options with your doctor.
Acknowledgements & Photo credits
Article compiled for Flora Force by Judy Beyer.
- Adam, O. Anti-inflammatory Diet in Rheumatic Disease. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1995; 49:703
- Arthritis Foundation. Is There an Arthritis Diet?
- Chen, Dr Julie T. Nutrition for Rheumatoid Arthritis and Ankylosing Spondylitis.
Huffington Post, September 2014.
- Karlson, E.W. et al. Coffee Consumption and risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis Rheum. 2003; 48:3055–3060.
- Pattison, D. et al. The role of diet in susceptibility to RA: systematic review. Arthritis Rheum. 2004; 50:3804–3812.
- Photo of fruits courtesy of xedos4 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net