Food is medicine. We’ve all heard it before, but what does it mean? You can’t really treat chronic conditions like arthritis with food. Can you? Are there arthritis foods, things you can eat that cure arthritis?
Unfortunately, no, you cannot cure arthritis – not with food and not even with traditional medicine. You can, however, make food choices that help fight inflammation, the main characteristic of arthritis. The right foods also help boost your immune system and strengthen your bones to alleviate the painful symptoms of this chronic disease. Keep reading to discover the best foods to reduce inflammation, plus a few you should avoid.
Eat Your Broccoli
The Mayo Clinic spent more than a decade studying the effects of antioxidant-rich cruciferous vegetables in preventing arthritis. Their findings suggest that eating cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, and bok choy lower your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Reduce Inflammation
The Arthritis Foundation suggests a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids to reduce inflammation and counteract the inflammatory properties of unhealthy fats, which are much more prevalent in the average American’s diet.
Great sources of omega-3 include:
- Proteins: Grass-fed beef, salmon, sardines, tofu, and navy beans
- Fats: Fontina cheese, flaxseed oil, olive oil
- Veggies: Spinach, winter squash, purslane
- Nuts and legumes: Walnuts, chia seeds, red lentils
- Spices: Mustard seed
- Grains: Wild rice
Spice it Up
An easy way to reduce inflammation is to reach for the spice rack, particularly turmeric and ginger.
Turmeric contains curcumin, a terrific anti-inflammatory. You find turmeric and cumin in mustard and curry. Adding it to your diet is simple: just sprinkle a little on your food. It’s great added to a variety of meats and vegetables, and a delicious way to flavor rice.
Ginger is another great anti-inflammatory and it’s also a popular choice for treating an upset stomach. One warning, though: ginger is also a blood thinner. Talk to your doctor before adding it to your diet if you currently take blood-thinning medications.
Here are some great ways to add ginger to your diet.
Get Your Vitamin D
The best way to get vitamin D is direct sunlight, which is also why so many Americans are vitamin D deficient. The amount you get from the sun varies according to your skin tone and your location, but 20 minutes per day on your bare arms (no sunscreen) is typically sufficient.
You can also get vitamin D through your diet, but that’s a little trickier, since many of the foods rich in this nutrient also trigger inflammation. Your best bet is oily fish, which are also a great source of omega-3, so win-win!
If you decide to take a vitamin D supplement, make sure you opt for the highest quality you can afford. Not all supplements are created equal, so talk to your doctor to find out which ones are the best.
You may not have heard of beta-cryptoxanthin, but you likely know her sister, beta-carotene. They’re both members of the carotenoid family and convert to vitamin A in the body.
Look for orange foods, which are the best sources of beta-cryptoxanthin. These include pumpkin, squash, papaya, sweet peppers, tangerines, and apricots. Collard greens are another great source.
Drink Green Tea
Studies show that the antioxidants in green tea help reduce inflammation, as well as the severity and number of rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups you experience. Enjoy your green tea either hot or cold, but use tea bags, not a powdered green tea mix.
Lower C-Reactive Proteins with Pomegranates and Tart Cherries
Pomegranates and cherries are great sources of a flavonoid called anthocyanin, which reduces CRP levels and inflammation. It also protects your body’s cells against free radical damage, and sour cherries help lower nitric oxide levels, which is linked to rheumatoid arthritis.
Get Your Vitamin C from Foods, Not Supplements
Vitamin C offers loads of health benefits but, like everything in life, too much can be a bad thing. Most vitamin C supplements contain several times the recommended daily dose, which may exacerbate your arthritis symptoms. For reference, men only need 90 mg/day and women need 75 mg/day.
Most plant-based foods are a great source of vitamin C. Look for ways to add oranges, bell peppers, strawberries, mangos, kidney beans, and pineapple to your diet. And skip the supplement.
Cook with Olive Oil
Olive oil’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties come from the polyphenols and omega-3 fatty acids it contains. It’s great for reducing joint pain and stiffness, and adding it to your diet is as simple as using olive oil to cook your meal instead of butter or vegetable oils.
You can also use olive oil in place of pre-packaged salad dressings, following a three-to-one ratio (three parts olive oil to one part vinegar or lemon juice). Add your favorite spices, drizzle over your veggies, and enjoy!
Inflammatory Foods to Avoid
Certain foods trigger your body’s inflammatory response. Practice moderation with the following:
- Refined grains
- Junk food, such as chips, french fries, and pizza
- Sugar and high fructose corn syrup
- Packaged foods, which are typically loaded with sugars
By avoiding inflammatory foods and adding healthier options, you’ll likely see improvements throughout your body, not just in your arthritis symptoms.
Arthritis affects more than 54 million Americans, with that number expected to rise to 78 million adults by 2040. The most common arthritis symptoms are pain, inflammation, and loss of function.
Research suggests that following a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods (and avoiding inflammatory foods) may help alleviate the symptoms associated with arthritis.
If you aren’t sure where to begin, talk to your primary healthcare provider about developing a healthy eating plan to help manage your arthritis symptoms.