Eating a healthy well-balanced diet is important for everyone. But if you have osteoarthritis (OA), a well-balanced diet is essential. Although experts don’t recommend a specific diet for OA, choosing healthy foods offers many benefits. These include keeping your weight down, building strong cartilage, and reducing inflammation, which are all important for people with arthritis.
Just as the tread on your tires wears away over time, the cartilage that cushions your joints can wear away, too, in a condition known as osteoarthritis. And without enough cushioning, the bones of a joint will hurt when they rub against each other.
Frayed cartilage can't heal or grow back. "There's no way to reverse the arthritis once it has started," says Michaela M. Schneiderbauer, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. But there are ways to reduce the...
Weight is one of the biggest factors in preventing and treating OA. One study found that obese women who lost just 11 pounds cut their risk for knee OA in half. And if you already have arthritis, losing extra weight may help prevent the disease from becoming more advanced. Try cutting calories by taking smaller portions, avoiding sugary foods and drinks, and eating mostly plant-based foods.
2. Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are always a healthy food choice. And as a bonus, many are loaded with antioxidants. These are substances that can help protect your cells from damage. Some antioxidants -- such as those found in apples, onions, shallots, and strawberries -- may also help reduce joint inflammation. This may help ease the pain of arthritis.
3. Add Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids can help relieve joint pain and decrease morning stiffness. They work by reducing inflammation in the body. In one study, people taking omega-3s were able to reduce their dose of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). One easy way to add omega-3s to your diet is by having two 3-ounce servings of fish each week. Some of the best sources are trout, salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna, and sardines.
4. Use Olive Oil in Place of Other Fats
One study found that a compound in olive oil, called oleocanthal, helps prevent inflammation. It works in much the same way that NSAIDs do. Olive oils with the strongest flavor have the highest amount of oleocanthal. About 3 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil offers the same relief as 200 mg of ibuprofen. However that much oil also gives you about 400 calories. To add olive oil to your diet without adding extra calories, try using it in place of other fats, such as butter.
5. Get Enough Vitamin C
A key element for joint health, vitamin C helps build collagen and connective tissue. Eating foods rich in vitamin C is a great way to add this nutrient to your diet. Citrus fruits, red peppers, strawberries, broccoli, cabbage, and kale are all good sources. Aim for the recommended daily amount of 75 mg a day for women or 90 mg a day for men.
6. Watch High Cooking Temperatures
Foods cooked at high temperatures, such as grilled or broiled meats, produce compounds that can cause inflammation in the body. These compounds are called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs are associated with diseases such as arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes. Although AGEs are found naturally in our bodies, eating foods high in AGEs can increase these levels. You can reduce your levels of AGEs by cutting back on grilled, fried, broiled, and microwaved meats. It’s also helpful to limit processed foods, as they are often cooked at high temperatures.