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Diet and Osteoarthritis

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.

Keep these six diet tips in mind if you have OA.

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1. Cut Extra Calories

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 can help prevent arthritis from getting worse. 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, found in many fruits and vegetables, including apples, onions, shallots, and strawberries, may also help reduce joint inflammation and pain. There is some inflammation associated with osteoarthritis -- though not as much as with some other forms of arthritis. But a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is good for your health in so many ways.

3. Add Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids may help relieve joint pain and decrease morning stiffness. They work by reducing inflammation in the body. One easy way to add omega-3s to your diet is by having two 3-ounce servings of fatty 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

Meat cooked at high temperatures 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.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on April 02, 2014
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