Top Foods to Ease The Pain of Arthritis … And Those to Avoid

Diane Sewell | September 20th, 2017

Here are the top foods groups that are anti-inflammatory and can help reduce the pain.

The name says it all.

‘Arthro’ means joint. ‘Itis’ means inflammation.

More than 4.6 million Canadians suffer from the effects of arthritis and two-thirds are women.

Even though arthritis consists of more than 100 different conditions, the common denominator for them all is joint and muscle pain, according to The Arthritis Society. And that pain is often caused by inflammation of the joint lining.

But even though there is no cure for arthritis, there are things you can do to ease the pain, including adding foods to your diet that reduce inflammation and limiting the foods that aggravate it.

“The first thing people need to understand is that it’s really important to have a variety of foods to help maintain a healthy body weight,” says Pamela Piotrowski, a Milton, Ontario-based registered dietician and a spokesperson for The Arthritis Society. “Carrying extra weight puts an extra load on joints and intensifies arthritis.”

Here are some foods groups that are anti-inflammatory and can help reduce the pain:

1) Omega 3s: These are the fatty acids found in some fish and fish oils, flax and canola oils, walnuts and soy products. Think salmon and sardines. The U.S.-based Arthritis Foundation suggests using sardines packed in water to save calories. Here’s their recipe for a sardine spread you can use as an appetizer on crackers or spread on toast for lunch:

In a food processor, blend 2 tins of drained sardines, 1 shallot, 1/3 cup parsley, 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, 2 tsp. grainy or Dijon mustard, 1 tbsp. lemon juice and 1/4 tsp. salt (optional) until smooth.

2) Anti-oxidants: These include bright-coloured fruits and vegetables, like red and yellow peppers and citrus fruits. Tomatoes, sweet potatoes, spinach, cranberries, blueberries and blackberries are also great sources. Broccoli is another source and by way of a bonus, a top disease-fighting foods. In addition to having anti-oxidant properties it has more vitamin C than an orange. Next time you’re barbecuing why not throw some broccoli on the grill too. Here’s the Arthritis Foundation’s recipe: Slice a fresh broccoli head into large florets, toss with olive oil and season lightly with salt. Grill over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes per side or until tender and slightly charred. Garnish with parmesan cheese.

3) Fibre: “A high-fibre diet helps keep our immune system functioning and reduces the inflammatory effects,” says Piotrowski. Good sources of fibre include whole grains, fruits and vegetables. “If people are missing anything in their diet it’s usually fruits and vegetables,” she says. “And right now we’re in peak season for everything local, so there’s no real excuse not to have enough fibre in our diets.”

Piotrowski emphasizes that low-glycemic index fibre is best, so stay away from refined foods, like white breads and sugary cereals. Opt for whole grains and whole fruits, rather than fruit juices, which have no fibre but lots of natural sugar.

“Those high-glycemic foods end up turning into sugar and they cause our body to produce insulin. And while insulin is what turns food into fuel for our bodies, it’s also a pro-inflammatory agent. When you add fibre to your diet, it slows down that process.”

And here are the food groups Piotrowski suggests cutting back on to keep inflammation in check:

1) Animal fats: That crispy chicken skin or yummy fat on the edge of your grilled steak are all pro-inflammatory, says Piotrowski, so best to avoid them if you can.

2) High-fat dairy products: Things like butter and the high-fat cream you put in your coffee or iced cappuccino also contribute to inflammation.

“The thing is, a diet that supports arthritis needs to be a combination of adding and taking out,” says Piotrowski, who promotes moderation and balance. “Let’s say you want to have bacon and eggs for breakfast one day. That’s okay, but have your multi-grain toast with it too.”