All types of arthritis have an element of inflammation, and inflammation causes pain and joint damage. Ideally, preventing inflammation is the goal, but that is not always possible. Once it exists, the goal becomes reducing it for pain relief. A diet for joint pain includes foods with known anti-inflammatory nutrients and also nutrients for bone building and connective tissue strengthening.
Anti-inflammatories in Foods for Joint Pain
Inflammation can cause a lot of damage in the body, including the joints. It is inflammation that causes joint linings to swell, and joints to get red and warm. Chronic inflammation is linked to lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis, and is a symptom of osteoarthritis when bone deterioration irritates soft tissues. Inflammation can cause serious joint damage when left untreated or becomes chronic.
Medical research is learning more and more about the role of foods for joint health and for reducing joint pain. Foods considered anti-inflammatory have certain characteristics. For example, they have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants compared to other foods. The truth is that many of the foods people are consuming are contributing to more joint pain and more severe arthritis symptoms than would be experienced otherwise.
What Foods are good for Joints?
Food choices for healthy joints will:
- Help control inflammation
- Increase build density
- Strengthen connective tissue
- Help manage weight
- Promote overall good health
There is still a lot of ongoing medical research investigating the role of diet in joint pain, but the general recommendation is to eat a lot of cold-water fish, fruits and vegetables. A largely plant-based diet that minimizes consumption of red meat is ideal.
Preventing and Reducing Inflammation and Joint Pain
Specifically, what foods help with joint pain? Research indicates the following foods can reduce pain.
- Cold-water fish are high in omega3-fatty acids (polyunsaturated fatty acids) that prevent or reduce inflammation – mackerel, salmon, tuna, herring, oysters, sardines.
- Leafy green vegetables for joint pain can block an enzyme that is known to cause joint swelling and contain calcium and a variety of vitamins and other compounds that strengthen bones – kale, mustard greens, purple cabbage, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, arugula.
- Richly colored fruits have nutrients, like anthocyanins and lycopene, that limit the inflammatory response, and citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C that prevents inflammation – blueberries, blackberries, tomatoes (it is a fruit), strawberries, cherries, raspberries, oranges, limes, and grapefruits.
- Oil is another omega-3 source and a source of healthy fat – extra virgin olive oil, safflower oil, avocado oil, walnut oil.
- Beans have anthocyanins, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties – soybeans, chickpeas, black beans, lentils, pinto beans, kidney beans.
- Whole grains are high-fiber and contribute to the production of fatty acids, which work to limit inflammation – whole wheat, barley, rye, whole oats, brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa.
- Dairy has calcium and vitamin D to increase bone building – low fat milk, cheese, yogurt.
- Nuts contain vitamin E, linolenic acid for immune strengthening, and other nutrients – almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pine nuts.
Foods to Avoid
Just like some foods prevent or reduce inflammation and reduce joint pain, there are foods to avoid. These foods are inflammatory foods that can lead to increased joint pain and other arthritis symptoms. The foods that cause joint pain and stiffness include:
- Fried foods
- Processed foods
- Refined carbohydrates and sugar
- Oils high in saturated fats or omega 6 fatty acids, like corn and safflower oil
Nutrition for Joint Pain
Foods for pain relief are really just healthy food choices. Everyone, whether or not they have arthritis, should avoid processed and fried foods, sugary desserts and marbled red meat. These foods contribute to a variety of diseases and can aggravate the inflammatory response and increase joint pain. Following a healthy diet can help anyone ease joint pain, and in the process, people better manage his or her weight and enjoy better overall health.