Arthritis, or the inflammation or swelling of one or more joints, is used to describe over 100 conditions that affects joints, tissue around the joints, and other connective tissue. This diagnosis includes symptoms like pain and redness at the affected joints, difficulty moving around, and even trouble breathing. This chronic state of inflammation cannot be cured, but it can be managed with purposeful nutrition strategies that support the immune system, reduce inflammation, and strengthen bones. Below are some foods to include in your balanced diet.
Fish Rich in Omega-3s
Cherries + Berries, Citrus, Leafy Greens, and Broccoli
Low fat dairy
Studies have found that those who had the highest consumption of omega-3s had lower levels of two key inflammatory proteins, C-reactive protein and interleukin-6. Consuming three to four ounces twice per week is the recommended amount for beneficial effects. With this in mind, try swapping your usual protein for tuna at lunch or salmon at dinner. Consider taking 600-1000mg of fish oil daily to ease joint pain and stiffness if fish is not a do-able protein for you.
Olive oil is known for containing heart-healthy fats but it also contains oleocanthal. Oleocanthal has similar properties to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – this unique component of olive oil can inhibit the activity of certain enzymes that in turn can diminish the body’s inflammatory processes and reduce one’s pain sensitivity. Aim to consume two to three tablespoons daily to experience those pain reducing benefits. Experiment with avocado and safflower oils and consider drizzling walnut oil on salads and in nutty baked goods – it has 10x the anti-inflammatory properties compared to olive oil!
Fruits and vegetables add color to our plate – and provide loads of antioxidants to fight inflammation throughout the body. Studies have shown that deeply hued cherries and berries could reduce the frequency of gout attacks while citrus can aid in the prevention of inflammatory arthritis and maintaining healthy joints. Leafy greens aren’t only great for salads, but they are also rich in calcium and vitamin D which are essential for strong bones. Broccoli is a powerhouse vegetable for good reason – it is rich in vitamin K and C as well as suplforaphane which could prevent or slow the progression of osteoarthritis. Consider making a smoothie with extra berries in the morning and trying a stir fry of veggies in the evening to hit the goal of 9 servings of both fruits and vegetables throughout the day.
Not only is dairy a good source of protein, it is also rich in calcium and vitamin D, both of which are necessary for bone health and strength. Vitamin D also supports a healthy immune system that can in turn aid in the fight against chronic inflammation. Reach for lower fat cottage cheese (with some berries for an extra anti-inflammatory boost) or high protein yogurts to get around 3 servings of dairy in each day.
The highly researched beverage is known for it’s ample amounts of polyphenols which can reduce inflammation and slow cartilage destruction. It also contains epigallocatechin 3-gallate (EGCG). This unique component of green tea blocks the molecules that cause joint damage in people who are suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Try swapping your regular caffeinated beverage for some green tea and see if you can feel a difference in your joints!
Yet another healthy pick when it comes to our carbohydrates, whole grains are very beneficial in lowering the levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood. CRP is a know marker of inflammation associated with many chronic diseases, so being able to lower this inflammation marker could bring some relief to those with arthritis. Pick whole grain options over more refined options when picking bread, pasta, and even crackers.
Beans, beans, the magical fruit… we all know the little jingle with these fiber and protein packed nutrition powerhouses but there’s more to these legumes than just that! Their high fiber content has been shown to lower CRP similar to whole grains and they are also rich in folic acid, magnesium, iron, zinc, and potassium – all of which are known for their positive impact on the heart and immune system. Break out the chili recipes and three bean (or more!) soups to really benefit from beans.
Nuts are often the go-to healthy snack – and for good reason! They are not only rich in both protein, fiber, and heart healthy fats (hello alpha-linolenic acid!) but they also contain calcium, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin E which are all necessary for a healthy immune system to fight chronic inflammation. Try snacking on about a handful and a half (1.5 ounces) of unsalted or lightly salted versions to reap the benefits.<
So, although arthritis cannot be cured, it can be a little easier to manage by including these foods that will help reduce inflammation and the pain that comes along with it. Plus, you might notice other health benefits when you incorporate these healthy foods into your diet, too!