If you have arthritis or joint pain, you’ve probably seen a doctor and may be taking medications to improve your condition.
Although diet can’t cure arthritis, certain foods can worsen joint pain and other foods can improve it, said Kristene Schulte, a Marshfield Clinic Health System dietitian. She highlighted some of the best and worst foods for joint inflammation.
Avoid saturated fats and fried foods
Foods high in saturated and trans fats contain compounds called advanced glycation end products (AGEs) that increase inflammation. Inflammation aggravates joint pain.
AGEs are naturally present in the largest quantities in high-fat animal products. Cooking these foods at high temperatures forms even more AGEs. Bacon, deep-fried foods, cream sauces and butter are high in AGEs. These foods, along with other processed foods, often have a lot of sodium, which can make joints hurt.
Schulte recommends limiting high-fat, high-sodium and high-sugar processed foods as much as possible and flavoring food with herbs or seasonings instead of added salt, fat or sugar.
Eat foods high in antioxidants
Eating foods high in antioxidants can relieve joint pain by preventing cell damage to cartilage. Damaged cartilage causes joint pain and functional issues.
Look for deep-colored fruits and vegetables like berries, cherries, sweet potatoes, broccoli and dark leafy green vegetables,” Schulte said.
She recommends eating 2-4 servings of fruit per day and 3-5 servings of vegetables. A medium piece of fruit, a cup of melon or berries, ½ cup canned fruit or ¼ cup dried fruit counts as a serving. For veggies, a serving is 1 cup of raw non-leafy vegetables, 2 cups of raw leafy vegetables or ½ cup of cooked vegetables.
“All of your fruits and veggies don’t have to be high in antioxidants, but you should try to eat a few servings of antioxidant-rich foods every day,” Schulte said.
Eat more plant-based protein
Eating a few meatless meals a week will help you avoid AGEs found in meat. Red kidney beans and black beans are good protein sources, plus they have antioxidants that help prevent joint pain. A serving is ½ cup cooked beans.
Nuts are another good protein source that have anti-inflammatory monounsaturated fats. Nuts are high in calories, so you don’t need very many. Just 12 almonds or 7 walnut halves is a serving of healthy fat, or ¼ cup counts as a serving of protein.
Eat fatty fish
Fish contains fewer AGEs than other animal products, so it’s a good choice in place of meat.
Opt for 3 ounces of salmon, tuna, mackerel or lake trout twice a week to add inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. If you don’t care for fish, taking fish oil supplements will provide omega-3s that can reduce arthritis symptoms.