Let’s face it — arthritis is a huge pain in your joints. The pain and stiffness it causes can significantly impact your quality of life. If you’re searching for home remedies to manage your arthritis, the best place to start is your diet.
How Diet Affects Arthritis Symptoms
Arthritis causes pain, stiffness, and swelling in places like your knees, hips, lower back, or fingers. It most often happens when the cartilage between your joints wears down. There are different types of arthritis, but the foods you eat may affect how you feel with any kind of arthritis.
There is no specific diet for arthritis. But a diet that promotes a healthy weight and helps reduce inflammation is helpful.
Your joints (especially your knees or hips) often feel worse if you’re overweight. That’s because when you walk, your joints have to absorb the pressure of your weight. If you’re overweight, losing at least 5% of your body weight (often about 10 to 15 pounds) can reduce arthritis symptoms.
Losing excess weight not only lessens the strain on your joints but also helps reduce inflammation in your body and joints. Inflammation is your immune system’s response to an irritant. Inflammation happens when you have an infection or twist your ankle, and it causes redness, swelling, and pain.
Fat cells also produce inflammation-causing chemicals, and they can worsen arthritis-related joint pain and stiffness. Besides shrinking your fat cells, eating more plant foods and healthy fats can further reduce inflammation. And as a bonus, a diet rich in these foods also promotes a healthier weight.
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Foods For Joint Health
Whole plant foods often top the list of foods that are good for joint health. They’re high in antioxidants and compounds that can calm inflammation. Plant foods are also high in fiber, which helps reduce arthritis pain.
Studies show these foods are beneficial for joint health:
- Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, or kale.
- Orange fruits and vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, cantaloupe, oranges, and mangos.
- Berries like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries.
- Dried or canned beans, like chickpeas, kidney, black, or pinto beans.
- Whole grains like oats, barley, brown rice, or whole wheat.
Healthy fats, like monounsaturated and omega-3 fats, can also help reduce inflammation and thus protect your joints. Add these healthy fat foods to your arthritis diet:
- Olive oil.
- Avocado oil.
- Nuts and seeds (especially walnuts and flaxseeds).
- Oily fish like salmon, sardines, or mackerel.
All these anti-inflammatory foods help manage arthritis symptoms. Plus, they’re great for your overall health and healthy weight, so try to eat them regularly.
Limit These Inflammation Boosters
Some foods and ingredients create more inflammation, so limiting them may reduce arthritis symptoms. The biggest culprits are
- Highly processed foods.
- Foods with saturated fats.
- Sugary foods.
Chemicals and compounds in these can trigger inflammation in your body and worsen joint pain. Also, many of these foods contribute to weight gain — or make it harder to lose weight. Your arthritis symptoms might feel worse if you frequently eat:
- Fast foods like burgers or fried foods.
- Packaged snack foods like chips, crackers, or frozen meals.
- Sweetened soft drinks.
- Baked goods like cakes or pastries.
- Candies or foods with lots of added sugar.
It’s okay to treat yourself occasionally, but try to limit these when choosing foods for joint health.
Planning Arthritis-Friendly Meals
A meal plan to manage arthritis isn’t much different from other healthy meal plans. One eating pattern that both reduces inflammation and promotes a healthy weight is the Mediterranean diet.
It features lots of whole plant foods, fish, and healthy fats, so it’s a natural fit. A meal plan for arthritis that’s based on the Mediterranean diet might include:
- Breakfast: Oatmeal with fresh berries, walnuts, and low-fat milk.
- Lunch: Vegetable barley soup with a kale avocado salad.
- Dinner: Roasted salmon with mixed vegetables (carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, and sweet potatoes).
- Snacks: Blackberries, almonds, carrots, hummus, and whole-grain crackers.
If you’re living with joint pain from arthritis, consider working with a registered dietitian. They’ll help you make some healthy diet swaps that may have a surprising effect on your joint health.
To learn more about arthritis symptoms and treatments, visit our website. To make an appointment with UPMC Orthopaedic Care, call 1-866-987-6784.
Rheumatology. What is the Evidence For a Role For Diet and Nutrition in Osteoarthritis? LINK
Journal of Frailty, Sarcopenia, and Falls. The Role of Mediterranean Diet and Its Components on the Progress of Osteoarthritis. LINK
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Arthritis Frequently Asked Questions. LINK
Arthritis Foundation. The Ultimate Arthritis Diet. LINK
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About UPMC Orthopaedic Care
As a national leader in advanced orthopaedic care, UPMC treats a full range of musculoskeletal disorders, from the acute and chronic to the common and complex. Whether you have bone, muscle, or joint pain, we provide access to UPMC’s vast network of support services for both surgical and nonsurgical treatments and a full continuum of care. As leaders in research and clinical trials with cutting-edge tools and techniques, UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside appears on U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of the top hospitals in the country for orthopaedics.