The Best Foods for Arthritis

The Best Foods for Arthritis

Did you know that there are over 100 types of arthritis? In the United States alone, almost a quarter of all adults have some form of arthritis.1 That’s a significant number of people who experience the pain, stiffness, aches, and swelling around the joints, and the symptoms can be bad enough to cause serious problems in daily life.

Not only can it be difficult to work (arthritis is a leading cause of workplace disability, according to the CDC) but it can also make what were once simple tasks very difficult. It can become hard to walk up and down a staircase, and even walking across a long parking lot can be an exercise in frustration. Opening jars and bottles, or otherwise using fine motor skills to do household tasks, can become anything but simple.

And as the joints become inflamed and painful, movements become restricted, and that can lead to even more problems, such as an increased risk of falls. While medical alert technology and aging in place solutions can help alleviate some of the worry, there are also many lifestyle changes that can help with some of the pain and inflammation the condition causes. Choosing the right foods is a great way to start on the road to keeping the symptoms of arthritis under control.

Eating the best foods for arthritis can help with any form of it, including the most common for the elderly – osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis becomes more common with age, and most cases are diagnosed past the age of 50. Over 32 million adults currently suffer with osteoarthritis.But there are other forms of arthritis that can benefit from eating the right foods as well, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis – these problems affect not only the joints but multiple organs as well, causing widespread physical ailments.

Let’s take a look at some of the best foods to control those symptoms and keep those with arthritis feeling as healthy as they can.

Stock Up on Fish

You probably know that fish gives you a good dose of omega-3, which is a vital nutrient that can help ease joint swelling, pain, and even improve the health of your heart. This fatty acid does a great job of inhibiting inflammation. It does this by interfering with leukocytes, which are a type of immune cell, and cytokines, which are enzymes. Leukocytes and cytokines play a part in inflammation; by disrupting their action, omega-3 can reduce that inflammation and make you feel better.

But only the right kind of fish will do. Fish can be loaded with mercury, and too much of that can lead to serious problems that go well beyond arthritis. You want to choose fish that are not only high in omega-3 but also very low in mercury. The Arthritis Foundation suggests that Atlantic mackerel is the best option, followed by lake trout, salmon, herring, sardines, anchovies, sablefish, and albacore tuna.

You’ll notice that most of these fish are on the smaller side of what you find in the ocean – that’s not an accident. Smaller fish are lower in mercury because they are near the bottom of the ocean’s food chain. The larger fish, such as swordfish or king mackerel, feed on smaller fish, and the mercury accumulates in their bodies. So when shopping for fish, remember a good rule of thumb: The smaller the fish, the better it might be for your regular consumption of omega-3.

How much do you need? Look to a serving of 3 to 6 ounces of fish two to four times each week.3

What About Fish Oil Supplements?

If you’re not into eating fish, supplements can help you get the omega-3s you need. But keep in mind that while fish oil supplements are proven to provide some benefits, the body tends to absorb the omega-3 in oil in a different way than it does the same nutrient when ingested through food. And in addition, fish has other benefits, including a wealth of vitamin D, selenium, and calcium.

So take supplements if your doctor recommends, but it’s best if you can put the fish on your plate instead.

Load Up on Nuts and Seeds

A handful of nuts and seeds make a satisfying snack that includes a good amount of fiber, magnesium, vitamin E, zinc, and calcium. They even have some omega-3! There is a different flavor for every taste, from pistachios to walnuts to almonds. Go with them plain from the shell or roasted and salted for a special treat – no matter how you enjoy them, you’ll get some good benefits to fight against the inflammation that causes arthritis, although raw nuts will give you the biggest nutritional boost.

One serving a day of nuts or seeds is plenty to help keep inflammation at bay. This includes about an ounce of nuts or two tablespoons of smaller seeds. Here’s what some of the tastiest options do for you:

·        Walnuts have the highest omega-3 content. They lower C-reactive protein, also known as CRP, which has been linked to inflammation. They also relax the blood vessels, which can lower cholesterol and reduce blood pressure.

·        Peanuts are packed with protein and quite affordable. Not only do they help with inflammation, they also lower cholesterol and have a lot of magnesium, which can help control blood glucose.

·        Almonds are full of fiber, so they help with weight management. They contain plenty of vitamin E and like walnuts, they lower CRP.

·        Pistachios are good for weight management, but opening those shells can be tough for those with arthritis in the fingers. You’ll get lots of vitamin A, lutein, and potassium, and you can buy them already shelled.

·        Flaxseed is a rich source of omega-3. Crush or mill the seeds for better absorption of the nutrients. In addition to easing arthritis pain, flaxseed also helps with cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease risk.

·        Chia seeds are a powerhouse of fiber, which helps fill you up, and they are also a great source of omega-3s. As they absorb liquid easily, look into blending them with your favorite milk to create a satisfying pudding treat.

Reach for Sweet Berries and Other Fruit

Delicious berries are an excellent snack or side dish. Look for berries that are darker in color, such as blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, or cherries. They are all full of antioxidants – that’s what gives them their deep color. Berries can help get rid of the free radicals in the body, which can cause inflammation. As an added bonus, they can help reduce your risk of developing certain cancers and heart disease.

Five or more servings of fruit every day is considered ideal. Here are some of the options:

·        Tart cherries, or even concentrated cherry juice, can relieve joint pain so well that some researchers compare them to NSAIDs for pain, such as ibuprofen.

·        Strawberries are surprisingly sweet for a fruit so low in sugar, and they contain more vitamin C than an orange. They also lower CRP and offer folic acid, which some arthritis medications can deplete.

·        Raspberries are shown to reduce inflammation. When eaten regularly, they tend to lower the risk of chronic conditions, such as heart disease.

·        Watermelon reduces CRP and gives you plenty of lycopene, which lowers heart attack risk. Besides that, watermelon is great for weight management, as it is about 92% water and only about 40 calories per generous serving.

·        White or red grapes are delicious little bursts of antioxidants. They contain resveratrol, a potent inflammatory, that can have the same effects as NSAIDs.

Have a Spoonful of Beans

It’s clear that beans are an excellent source of protein and fiber, but they also contain folic acid, magnesium, iron, and zinc in good amounts. Like most plant-based foods, they are a natural anti-inflammatory.

Red kidney beans and pinto beans are both tops for reducing the inflammation that is a hallmark of arthritis. Black beans are dense with nutrients and one of the best choices for fighting against joint pain. Though these three options provide the best quality for your plate in terms of battling arthritis, any beans will be a good addition to your diet.

Use the Right Oils

Healthy oils have unsaturated fatty acids, which can lower your bad cholesterol levels, which can help prevent heart disease. They also have antioxidants and specific anti-inflammatory compounds, which are linked to the reduction of swelling and damage to joints.

While olive oil is a popular option and a well-known part of the Mediterranean Diet, grapeseed oil is also a good bet. It’s a great source of vitamin E. Walnut oil is a more unique option that lowers CRP and includes alpha-linoleic acid, which has cardiovascular benefits.

Turn to Spices for Flavor

Some spices have the ability to suppress inflammation in the body. In addition to adding a serious punch to your meal, these spices are often quite affordable and easy to incorporate into a variety of foods. For instance, a sprinkle of cinnamon on top of oatmeal in the morning, a dash of garlic in whatever you’re preparing for dinner, or ginger tea when you need a pick-me-up can all be easy ways to get these spices into your diet. Here are some good options to keep on hand:

·        Garlic contains diallyl disulfide, an anti-inflammatory. It can even help prevent the damage to cartilage that often occurs with arthritis. Go for fresh garlic for the best benefit.

·        Turmeric is a strong anti-inflammatory that works well in curries and other Indian dishes. Want to get the most out of it? Eat it alongside pepper, which helps the body absorb the turmeric.

·        Ginger has been found to reduce some symptoms of osteoarthritis, thanks to gingerol and shogaol, which block inflammation pathways. Using it fresh is best.

·        Cinnamon can be sprinkled on almost anything and still taste delicious. It can help prevent cell damage from free radicals.

·        Cayenne pepper contains capsaicinoids, which are often used in topical medications for arthritis. The strong anti-inflammatory properties can be obtained through using sauces, marinades, and rubs, or sprinkling a bit of the pepper on your meal.

Other Ways to Prevent Arthritis Pain

Indulging in a healthy diet can help ease the pain of arthritis, but there are other things you can do in conjunction with eating those good meals.

·        Stay active. Physical activity of at least 150 minutes each week – which most people like to break down to 30 minutes of moderate activity each day – can help improve function for those with arthritis. Low-impact options, such as walking, biking, or swimming, can give you the exercise you need while going easy on your aching joints.

·        Stay at a healthy weight. The heavier you are, the harder your joints have to work, and the more pain and inflammation you might experience. Control your weight to reduce the risk of osteoarthritis, especially in the knees.

·        Protect your body. Avoid activities that are likely to cause injury and if you do get injured, get help right away. The sooner you can get assistance for a fall or other accident, the better your outcome might be. Look to a senior life-saving alert system, such as a medical alert pendant, to reach out for help at a moment’s notice.

·        Speak to your doctor. Don’t write off joint pain as just “old age.” It might be arthritis, and there might be many solutions that will improve your quality of life.

·        Learn to manage arthritis symptoms. Even with the best possible diet and proper medications, you might still feel overwhelmed by arthritis. Self-Management Education Workshops from the CDC can help you build the confidence and skills you need to make your arthritis journey easier.

When you are dealing with arthritis, every little bit of assistance can help. From eating foods loaded with anti-inflammatory properties to exercising regularly to wearing a medical alert necklace around the clock in the event of emergency, being proactive about your health can make it easier to manage arthritis and other chronic conditions. Now is the time to dive into a healthy lifestyle and marvel at the changes a good diet and exercise regimen can bring!