They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away. While it may not be that simple, changes to your diet can have an impact on arthritis pain and symptoms. Arthritis at its most basic description is inflammation of the joints. Fortunately, healthy eating can help fight inflammation and improve your symptoms. No food is a cure-all of course, but following the best diet for arthritis may improve your day-to-day functions and help ease some symptoms.
What are the basics of arthritis and diet?
When we talk about arthritis, we often refer to inflammation. In theory, inflammation is a natural part of our how immune systems function. It’s the body’s response to injury.
However, inflammation is also at the root of most types of arthritis pain. This is characterized as swollen, painful joints that may even feel warm to the touch. How does food play a role in this? We’ll explain.
Experts agree that food can have an impact on the severity of inflammation we experience. In 2017, researchers from the University of Surrey identified a crucial link between metabolism and osteoarthritis. Metabolic changes caused by poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle can change the genetic reprogramming of cells in the body and joints.
Weight is also often associated with different types of diseases and conditions. When it comes to arthritis, weight loss can reduce excess stress on joints. One study found that a loss of just one pound of body weight reduces the load on knees by four pounds. This is especially true for those suffering from osteoarthritis, which is generally known as a “wear and tear” condition.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
If you have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, the condition stems from your immune system targeting your joint linings on both sides of the body. This may include both hands, wrists, or knees. The symmetry is what makes RA different from osteoarthritis. While this type of condition isn’t related to wear and tear or excessive weight, diet may still play a role.
Just like osteoarthritis, RA causes inflammation that can be extremely painful. By eating the best food for rheumatoid arthritis, such as fruits, vegetables, and cold-water fish, you may notice less inflammation and fewer flare-ups. At the very least, patients should try to limit processed food and sugar to stay in good health and limit the severity of their symptoms.
Tips for arthritis and diet
We understand that every person and diagnosis is different, which is why it’s important to be flexible. Rather than starting an entirely new diet, think of it as a simple lifestyle change. Focus on small, incremental changes that feel easy.
There are so many benefits to eating more nutritious meals. Even if you don’t see a change in your arthritis symptoms at first, you can improve your health which could eventually impact your arthritis symptoms. This is especially true if you suffer from multiple comorbid conditions.
For example, studies confirm that eating certain foods can:
- Lower blood pressure
- Protect against chronic conditions, ranging from cancer to stroke
- Prevent inflammation
- Protect your heart
- Lead to weight loss, which can lessen pressure that leads to joint pain
While there is no miracle diet for arthritis, simple changes can have an impact. As always, consult with your doctor before starting a new diet or exercise regimen.
12 best foods for arthritis
Now that we’ve established a link between arthritis and diet, it’s time to get specific. As you browse arthritis diet recipes, look for meals that include the following ingredients.
The glory of berries is in the anthocyanins, which have an anti-inflammatory effect.
From strawberries to raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries, add them to your yogurt or smoothie for a healthy dose of antioxidants. You’ll get health benefits whether they’re frozen, fresh, or even dehydrated.
If you need a quick and healthy snack, it doesn’t get much better than a handful of nuts. Grab some almonds, pistachios, or cashews for a quick energy boost. Just 1.5 ounces daily can provide a dose of inflammation-fighting monounsaturated fat.
Nuts are also rich in:
- Vitamin E
- Immune-boosting alpha linolenic acid (ALA)
3. Olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is a pantry staple, and as it turns out, it’s a pretty good one to have.
EVOO contains heart-healthy fats, as well as oleocanthal, which has anti-inflammatory benefits. According to studies, a diet rich in olive oil can reduce joint swelling and even slow cartilage destruction.
Omega-3 fatty acids are known for protecting your heart and helping your body fight off inflammation.
The American Heart Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommend three to four ounces of fish, twice a week. However, arthritis experts claim more is better! Go for salmon, tuna, or even scallops to reap the benefits. Check Seafood Watch to find options that are kinder to the environment and our seas.
Don’t like seafood? Consider adding a fish oil supplement to your daily routine.
5. Green tea
Studies show an antioxidant in green tea called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) blocks the production of molecules that cause joint damage in people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Aim for two serving per day, hot or iced, using traditional tea bags.
We all know the importance of eating our greens! Broccoli is rich in vitamins K and C, as well as sulforaphane. This compound may prevent or slow the progression of osteoarthritis.
The boost of calcium from broccoli also offers bone-building benefits.
7. Whole grains
Whole grains are fiber-rich and lower blood levels of CRP, an inflammatory marker. Experts recommend six ounces of whole grains per day, which means there are many opportunities to incorporate them into your diet.
Consider oatmeal, whole grain toast, quinoa, or brown rice.
Vitamin C is an excellent way to boost your immune system, protect your memory, and lower your risk of heart disease. Research shows that it may also prevent inflammatory arthritis and help you maintain healthy joints.
Sink your teeth into citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, and limes to reap the benefits.
Beans pack a punch of fiber and protein, which makes them a healthy part of any diet. For arthritis sufferers, the phytonutrients in beans may help lower CRP, an indicator of inflammation found in the blood.
With so many varieties to choose from, it can be tough to know where to start. Small red beans, red kidney beans, and pinto beans are among the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s list of top antioxidant-containing foods.
If you’re looking for flavor and health benefits, garlic is your friend. Researchers believe the compound diallyl disulphine found in garlic may limit cartilage-damaging enzymes in human cells.
Studies also show reduced risk for hip osteoarthritis, which is likely due to garlic’s strong anti-inflammatory properties.
Ginger may reduce inflammation and aid in reducing symptoms of arthritis, whether it’s fresh, powdered, or dried. Plus, it can help settle an upset stomach. A 2001 study looked at the effects of ginger extract in 261 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. After six weeks, 63% of participants experienced improvements in knee pain.
Add a bit of ginger to your tea or soup recipes or make a stir fry to use this anti-inflammatory ingredient!
Widely used in Thai and Indian cuisine, turmeric gives curry that burst of yellow color, but it’s more than a culinary benefit.
Curcumin is the strong antioxidant in turmeric that has powerful anti-inflammatory effects. If you don’t enjoy the distinct flavor of turmeric, consider taking it in supplement form.
5 foods to avoid for arthritis
We all know the importance of eating well, not just for arthritis, but for overall wellness. Did you know some types of food that could actually lead to painful flare-ups and worsening symptoms?
Here are arthritis triggers you should try to avoid whenever possible.
1. Processed foods
According to a study at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, decreasing the amount of fried and processed foods eaten can “reduce inflammation and actually help restore the body’s natural defenses.”
With this in mind, try to limit fried or fast food, as well as prepared frozen meals.
While everything in moderation is acceptable, excessive alcohol consumption will only lead to worsening symptoms. If you already have arthritis, most medications to relieve sore joints do not mix well with alcohol. Plus, alcohol is particularly problematic if you have gout.
However, according to the Arthritis Foundation, a few studies show that enjoying alcohol in moderation may reduce your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
Sugar that is processed can prompt the release of cytokines, which are responsible for causing inflammation.
We’re not talking about naturally occurring sugar in fruit, though. This is the type of sugar that is added to soda, candy, and even some types of juice. Take a look at labels and be vigilant about avoiding excess sugar.
4. Refined carbohydrates
Refined carbohydrates can fuel the production of advanced glycation end (AGE) oxidants. AGE oxidants are known to damage certain proteins in your body. Because your body tries to break them apart by using cytokines, inflammation is more likely to occur as a result.
Try to avoid refined carbohydrates when possible, such as those found in potato chips, white bread, and white rice.
5. Saturated fat
Arthritis sufferers are more at risk for heart disease, which means it’s important to pay attention to your cholesterol levels. Unfortunately, saturated fats found in meat, butter, and cheese can raise your total cholesterol level.
Limit saturated fat to 20 grams per day (for a person consuming 2,000 calories).
What are the best places to find arthritis diet recipes?
If you’re ready to get cooking, you’ll need a few simple arthritis diet recipes. Fortunately, there are thousands at your fingertips! From cookbooks to blogs, you’ll find a variety of anti-inflammatory recipes. Here are some of our favorite resources.
If you love the nostalgia of cracking open a cookbook, you’re in luck. There are many doctors, chefs, and even average arthritis sufferers who have written cookbooks.
The Anti-Inflammation Cookbook is a great place to start. According to reviews, this book is full of practical recipes with flavor in mind. Fill up your bookshelf with even more cookbooks from our own list, 20 Of The Best Anti-Inflammatory Cookbooks.
If you’re looking for visual inspiration, Pinterest recipes are only a few clicks away. A quick search for “arthritis diet” yields hundreds of pins with recipes and more.
For example, get started on your journey to healthy living with a simple week-long anti-inflammatory meal plan.
Blogs are becoming more and more popular for people who want a creative outlet. Plus, many cookbook authors start out as bloggers. If you find a cookbook author you love, be sure to do a quick internet search to check for more recipes and resources.
Other ways to manage your arthritis
Changing your lifestyle to follow the best diet for arthritis is a great first step. While aches and pains can tempt a person to take it easy, research shows that movement also helps decrease pain, lubricate joints, and increase range of motion. Consider incorporating gentle yoga or morning walks into your daily routine. This will greatly increase your chances of keeping your symptoms under control.
In some cases, basic lifestyle changes still aren’t enough, and that’s okay. A comprehensive approach to treating arthritis pain may involve a number of therapies and treatments. Your healthy diet should be used in conjunction with medical treatments to help relieve your day-to-day symptoms.
At Arizona Pain, we work as a team to develop a plan to tackle your pain from every angle. Your treatment may include many facets from our comprehensive care program, including conventional medical procedures, chiropractic manipulations, and vitamin supplements.
If you live in Arizona and need help managing your arthritis pain, contact the Arizona Pain team or click the button below to get in touch with one of our pain specialists.