Why Is Diet Important?
While there is no specific “Osteoarthritis Diet,” experts agree that healthy eating is very important for everyone, and that’s especially true if you have osteoarthritis. In general, a healthy diet can help you:
- Maintain a healthy weight
If you’re currently overweight, losing a few pounds can cut your risk for osteoarthritis in your lower body, or help keep it from worsening. Just think—the less weight your knees and hips have to carry around, the less stress put on them.
- Support healthy cartilage
Cartilage cushions your joints. Keeping your cartilage as healthy as possible can help keep your osteoarthritis symptoms from worsening.
- Ease inflammation
Although symptoms of osteoarthritis do not stem from inflammation, it can be part of the disease activity.
What Should You Eat?
The best foods for an osteoarthritis diet include a variety of healthful choices:
- Fruits and vegetables: plant-based foods are full of antioxidants, which can reduce inflammation in the body..
- Whole grains: foods made with the entire seed of the plant (germ, endosperm, and bran) can also lower certain protein levels in the blood that cause inflammation. If wheat gluten is an issue for you, try grains like steel-cut oats, barley, quinoa, and brown rice.
- Dairy: the vitamin D found in dairy products may help maintain cartilage and reduce arthritis pain and inflammation. If you can’t tolerate dairy, then a vitamin D supplement can provide similar benefits.
- Fish: omega-3 fatty acids, found in cold-water fish like salmon, mackerel, bluefin tuna and sardines, can pack a real punch against inflammation. Just take note of the mercury levels in some of these fish, especially if you’re pregnant. Fish oil supplements may be a good alternative.
- Vitamin C: this can be a biggie for the health of your joints. Foods rich in this essential nutrient – like citrus fruits – help to build and maintain collagen and connective tissues around your joints.
What Should You Avoid?
Certain foods, known as “trigger foods,” can make your osteoarthritis symptoms worse. These can vary from person to person, but can include:
- Fried foods: cutting back on fried foods, especially fried meats, can help reduce the inflammatory response.
- Processed, prepackaged, and prepared foods: the large amounts of additives and preservatives, along with trans fats, may increase inflammation for some people.
- Sugary foods and drinks, refined carbohydrates: these foods contain little to no nutritional benefit, contribute to weight gain, and can make inflammation worse.
- Dairy: while these foods contain many nutritional benefits, for some people, the protein found in dairy products can cause more irritation in joints and surrounding tissues.
- Alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine: these products generally aren’t healthy choices for anyone, and they can cause further irritation in the joints.
- Salt: foods high in sodium can contribute to increased inflammation around the joints.
- Omega-6 fatty acids: certain oils, like corn, palm, and soybean oils, are high in omega-6 fatty acids, which can trigger pain and inflammation. Red meat can also be a significant source of unhealthy fats.
Experts may not agree on a detailed osteoarthritis diet, but by using common sense and making healthy eating choices, you may be able to make a difference in your osteoarthritis symptoms—and your overall health. Of course, you should consult with your doctor before making major changes in your diet.