Best Anti-inflammatory Diet to Follow for Arthritis
Arthritis can be managed in a number of ways. While medication may be recommended for more severe cases, making changes to your lifestyle can keep symptoms at bay. Left unchecked, chronic discomfort and pain caused by arthritis can affect your quality of life and independence.
If you’ve been diagnosed with arthritis, your doctor may suggest committing to an arthritis-friendly diet that can help you maintain a healthy weight, improve joint pain, and reduce inflammation.
What is an Arthritis Diet?
Many people with arthritis live with chronic pain their entire lives. The pain may not be continuous all day, every day. The discomfort may come and go. But stiffness and swelling from inflammation can change the way you live. As part of your doctor’s prescribed treatment plan, the primary goal of an anti-inflammatory diet for arthritis is to reduce joint pain associated with inflammation so that you can participate in activities that bring you joy.
What is Chronic Inflammation?
Inflammation is your body’s natural response to infection or injury. Your body discharges a battalion of white blood cells to the infected or injured location, and swelling is part of the process.
Inflammation becomes a problem when it doesn’t go away, which can occur if you have certain conditions like obesity or an autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis. Chronic inflammation can wreak havoc on your body, aggravating arthritis and other disorders.
The good news is that growing evidence from research studies indicates that specific foods offer protection from the life-changing effects of chronic inflammation.
Benefits of an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Anti-inflammatory foods for arthritis can bring relief from arthritis-related pain but may also contribute to a healthy weight. Obesity can significantly increase the risk for many health conditions and may damage the body’s musculoskeletal health, including hip and knee joints.
Research suggests that chronic inflammation plays a critical role in obesity and associated diseases like Type 2 diabetes, heart and lung disease, and cancer. A balanced, nutritious diet centered on whole foods may prevent these diseases, as well as improve conditions associated with inflammation.
While the Arthritis Foundation explains that “there’s no miracle diet for arthritis,” the organization does support following the Mediterranean diet because it is comprised of foods known to have “anti-inflammatory and disease-fighting powers.”
What Foods Reduce Arthritis Inflammation?
Within the recommended Mediterranean diet, there is a wide variety of anti-inflammatory foods arthritis patients can choose from that contribute to good health in multiple ways. The best anti-inflammatory diet for arthritis incorporates the following foods:
1. Fruits and vegetables
Anthocyanin is a pigment that gives certain flowers and foods a hue that appears purple, red or blue. Studies have shown a positive anti-inflammatory impact from foods that contain this pigment, such as cherries, berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries) and red cabbage. A healthy diet should also include vegetables high in antioxidants, such as spinach, broccoli and kale.
Daily serving recommendation: Nine or more, with one serving equivalent to one cup (two cups for raw leafy green vegetables).
2. Whole grains
Fiber-filled foods like whole-wheat flour, brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa and bulgur can reduce C-reactive protein, an inflammatory molecule. However, if you follow a gluten-free diet, you may need to avoid these products.
Daily serving recommendation: Six ounces, with one serving equivalent to one-half cup of cooked rice or one slice of bread.
3. Cold-water fish
Whether you like eating fish or prefer fish oil as a diet supplement, you can reap the benefits of reduced arthritis symptoms. The Arthritis Foundation studies have revealed that when people with rheumatoid arthritis take fish oil, they report a reduction in joint swelling, pain and morning stiffness. Examples of cold-water fish are salmon, sardines, scallops, herring, tuna and anchovies.
Weekly serving recommendation: at least three to four ounces twice per week.
4. Olive oil
Some people shy away from oil because of concerns about fat. However, olive oil is considered a healthy fat in terms of benefits to your heart. The Mediterranean diet originated in a region abundant in olive trees. Olive oil, in particular extra-virgin olive oil, is high in beneficial compounds that spur anti-inflammatory activity.
Daily serving recommendation: Two or three tablespoons.
Beans, a good source of plant protein, are high in fiber, phytonutrients, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. If you prefer the canned variety, look for cans with BPA-free lining. The versatility of beans makes it easy to integrate this food into your diet: Throw beans into a salad, mix them with rice, or fill a wrap with mashed beans for a quick meal.
Weekly serving recommendation: at least two one-cup servings.
6. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are also forms of plant protein with anti-inflammatory properties and healthy fat. You might shy away from these foods because of the high-calorie content, but there are ways to consume nuts and seeds that don’t require a great quantity in one sitting. Sprinkle sliced almonds or unsalted roasted sunflower seeds on oatmeal, salad, rice dishes, or fresh fruit. Nuts and seeds are also easy grab-and-go food on a busy day.
Daily serving recommendation: 1.5 ounces or 1.5 handfuls.
7. Herbs and spices
Keep your kitchen stocked with a variety of herbs and spices to flavor your foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Spices and herbs known to reduce inflammatory markers include ginger, garlic, mint, sage, cardamom, nutmeg, ginseng, rosemary and green tea leaves.
Using salt-free herb and spice blends is also a great way to reduce the amount of sodium in your diet.
Is an Anti-Inflammatory Diet a Cure for Arthritis?
While there is no cure for arthritis, anti-inflammatory foods can help you manage the symptoms that interfere with everyday living. Formulating and practicing an anti-inflammatory diet plan for arthritis reinforces a sense of control over your condition, so the pain does not define your life.
The Arthritis Foundation shares inspirational stories from people with arthritis who experience chronic arthritis pain.
Focus on these key areas when it comes to self-management of your symptoms:
- Managing weight with exercise and diet
- Participating in regular physical activity
- Maintaining a positive attitude
- Taking charge of your health
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