While arthritis is a chronic condition for which there is no cure, certain dietary changes can help to alleviate its symptoms by reducing inflammation, improving bone strength, and boosting the immune system. Following the anti-inflammatory arthritis diet recommended by the Arthritis Foundation Discover could help you control your joint pain and stiffness, along with other therapies. Discover which foods to prioritize, and just as importantly, which to avoid, in honor of National Arthritis Awareness Month this May.
The Anti-Inflammatory Arthritis Diet
Although there is no prescriptive diet recommended for people with arthritis to follow exclusively, the low-inflammatory Mediterranean diet has been shown in numerous studies to reduce pain and increase physical function in certain types of arthritis, including Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). The Mediterranean diet emphasizes vegetables and fish, along with olive oils and other foods that can help control inflammation. Here are a few foods to consider eating regularly:
- Fish: Salmon, tuna, sardines, and other cold-water fish have high concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids, which are known for fighting inflammation.
- Colorful Fruits & Vegetables: Packed with antioxidants which support a healthy immune system and may combat inflammation, heavily pigmented produce like blueberries, blackberries, cherries, spinach, broccoli, and kale are great foods for filling your plate and snacking between meals.
- Nuts & Seeds: Monounsaturated fats found in pistachios, almonds, pine nuts, and walnuts are excellent for reducing swelling in the joints. Plus, they’re filled with fiber to help keep you full.
- Beans: Varieties like pinto, black, and garbanzo beans have both antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, along with a high dose of powerful vitamins and minerals.
- Olive Oil: A perfect addition to salad greens, extra virgin olive oil is minimally processed and a heart-healthy source of fats. It also contains oleocanthal, a compound known for reducing pain and inflammation.
3 Inflammation Triggers to Avoid or Minimize
While eating inflammation-fighting foods can help reduce swelling and pain in the joints, it’s important not to counteract the effects of your healthy dietary choices with foods known to trigger inflammation. Here are a few foods to avoid or have sparingly:
- Added Sugars: Unlike the natural sugars found in the fruits listed above, processed sugars can spur the release of cytokines, the body’s inflammatory messengers. Avoid any packaged or prepared foods with ingredients ending in “-ose” on the label.
- Saturated Fats: These fats are known for aggravating arthritis inflammation. Full-fat dairy, red meat, pasta, pizza, and many desserts are high in saturated fat, so try to reduce your consumption of these foods for better arthritis management.
- Trans Fats: Meat and dairy contain trace amounts of trans fat, but it’s mostly found in foods as a result of a process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oil. Not only does this dangerous fat raise “bad” cholesterol levels, but it can also trigger inflammation. Steer clear of margarine, nondairy creamer, fried foods, and chips and baked goods with trans-fat.
While making dietary modifications to improve arthritis symptoms may seem daunting at first, the changes are worth making. Not only do the suggestions above help to control pain and swelling in the joints, but they can also contribute to a healthier lifestyle overall. If you’re considering an arthritis diet, consider speaking with your doctor about the best dietary choices to benefit your specific condition.