How to Manage Arthritis Symptoms with Smart Food Choices
Osteoarthritis (OA) affects 50 million Americans. It is a chronic, degenerative condition where cartilage in the joints deteriorates. It causes bones to rub against each other resulting in chronic pain, loss of flexibility, and even a diminished or complete loss of movement in the affected joint. OA is the leading cause of disability in this country.
While there is no cure for osteoarthritis, there are steps you can take that may help you manage the pain and symptoms caused by the disease.
Controlling your weight and exercising can help. Adopting a diet that is rich in anti-inflammatory foods and free from foods believed to contribute to inflammation is another important preventative step to take.
“Eating a healthy diet can help prevent many diseases and health conditions as we age,” says Caitlin Rogers, Sunrise Senior Living’s vice president of Dining & Senior Nutrition. “To ward off osteoarthritis, it’s important to consume plenty of anti-inflammatory foods such as fruits and vegetables, and avoid less healthy options such as sugary treats.”
Fight OA with Anti-Inflammatory Food Choices
Incorporating foods believed to help prevent or reduce inflammation may help you keep joints from getting stiff and swollen. This is key to managing pain. Try to work foods into your diet that include the following:
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Many people know that omega-3 fatty acids are good for the heart. The good news is that they may also help fight inflammation. A few ways to get omega-3 fats into your diet are through foods like flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, salmon, herring, and rainbow trout.
- Vitamin C: Oranges, strawberries, kiwi, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, red and green bell peppers, and cauliflower are all foods that are rich in vitamin C. They help promote new collagen production in the body, which is necessary for healthy cartilage.
- Green tea: You’ve likely heard talk about green tea being good for your health. When it comes to fighting inflammation, researchers say an antioxidant called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) found in green tea can help. EGCG is believed to block production of some of the body’s inflammatory chemicals. That protects cartilage in joints from further breakdown. If you aren’t a fan of drinking green tea, you can incorporate it into smoothies, use it to marinate fish, or add it to salad dressing.
- Anthocyanins: These antioxidants help promote healthy connective tissue. Anthocyanins are found in bright red-orange and violet-purple foods such as pomegranate, beets, cherries, raspberries, red and green grapes, and plums.
- Ginger: This popular spice contains some of the same chemicals found in arthritis medications. It can act as a natural treatment for managing inflammation. You can mix it into a cup of hot tea, sprinkle it over chicken, or add it to your favorite muffin mix.
Just as important as knowing which foods can help to reduce inflammation is knowing which ones to avoid. If you suffer from OA or are the caregiver of someone who has it, stay away from sugary treats, processed meats, saturated fats, and refined carbohydrates.
One resource you might find helpful in creating healthy menus is “My Plate for Older Adults.” Created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center, it’s designed to meet the unique dietary needs of older adults.