Many people find that making changes to their diet can help with osteoarthritis symptoms, which include pain, stiffness, and swelling.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It develops when the cartilage in the joints breaks down over time.The condition can affect any joint in the body, but people often notice it in their knees, hands, hips, or spine.
This article will look at which foods people with osteoarthritis should include in their diet and which they should avoid. We also bust some common food myths regarding arthritis.
How can diet help with osteoarthritis?
Consuming a balanced and nutritious diet may help prevent further damage to the joints.
It is not possible for specific foods or nutritional supplements to cure osteoarthritis but certain diets can improve people’s symptoms.Some foods have anti-inflammatory capabilities which can help reduce symptoms while other foods may amplify them.
The right diet can help to improve osteoarthritis in the following ways:
Reducing inflammation and preventing damage
A balanced, nutritious diet will give the body the tools it needs to prevent further damage to the joints, which is essential for people with osteoarthritis.
Some foods are known to reduce inflammation in the body, and following an anti-inflammatory diet can improve symptoms. Eating enough antioxidants, including vitamins A, C, and E, may help to prevent further damage to the joints.
People with osteoarthritis are more likely to have high blood cholesterol, and reducing cholesterol may improve the symptoms of this disease. On the right diet, people can quickly improve their cholesterol levels.
Maintaining a healthy weight
Being overweight can put extra pressure on the joints, and excess fat stores in the body can cause further inflammation. Maintaining a healthy weight can lessen the symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Keeping to a healthy weight can be difficult for some people, especially those who have a medical condition that reduces their mobility, such as osteoarthritis. A doctor or dietitian will be able to provide advice.
Eight foods to eat and why
Including specific foods in the diet can strengthen the bones, muscles, and joints and help the body to fight inflammation and disease.
People with osteoarthritis can try adding the following eight foods to their diet to ease their symptoms:
1. Oily fish
Oily fish contain lots of healthful omega-3 fatty acids. These polyunsaturated fats have anti-inflammatory properties so they may benefit people with osteoarthritis.People with osteoarthritis should aim to eat at least one portion of oily fish per week. Oily fish include:
- fresh tuna
Those who prefer not to eat fish can take supplements that contain omega-3 instead, such as fish oil, krill oil, or flaxseed oil. Other sources of omega-3 include chia seeds, flaxseed oil, and walnuts. These foods can also help to fight inflammation.
In addition to oily fish, some other oils can reduce inflammation. Extra virgin olive oil contains high levels of oleocanthal. Avocado and safflower oils are healthful options and may also help to lower cholesterol.
Milk, yogurt, and cheese are rich in calcium and vitamin D. These nutrients increase bone strength, which may improve painful symptoms.Dairy also contains proteins that can help to build muscle. People who are aiming to manage their weight can choose low-fat options.
4. Dark leafy greens
Dark leafy greens are rich in Vitamin D and stress-fighting phytochemicals and antioxidants. Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption and can also boost the immune system, helping the body to fight off infection.
Dark leafy greens include:
- collard greens
Broccoli contains a compound called sulforaphane, which researchers believe could slow the progression of osteoarthritis. This vegetable is also rich in vitamins K and C, as well as bone-strengthening calcium.
6. Green tea
Polyphenols are antioxidants that experts believe may be able to reduce inflammation and slow the rate of cartilage damage. Green tea contains high levels of polyphenols.
Scientists believe that a compound called diallyl disulfide that occurs in garlic may work against the enzymes in the body that damage cartilage.
Nuts are good for the heart and contain high levels of calcium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin E, and fiber. They also contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which boosts the immune system.
What about the Mediterranean diet?
Studies have suggested that the Mediterranean diet can reduce the inflammation that contributes to the symptoms of osteoarthritis.
As well as helping to reduce the pain associated with osteoarthritis, eating a Mediterranean-style diet offers many other health benefits, including weight loss.
Following a Mediterranean diet may also reduce the risk of:
- heart disease and stroke
- muscle weakness in older age
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- premature death
The diet consists of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fish, yogurt, and healthful fats, such as olive oil and nuts.
People can make simple changes to their diet to make it more like the Mediterranean one. These may include:
- eating high-fiber, starchy foods, such as sweet potatoes, potatoes, beans, lentils, and whole-grain bread and pasta
- eating plenty of fruit and vegetables
- including fish in the diet
- eating less meat
- choosing products made from vegetable and plant oils, such as olive oil
- selecting wholemeal options over those containing refined flour