7 Foods for Feeling Better When You Have Arthritis
Certain foods can fight inflammation, boost the immune system or promote a healthy weight — all factors in alleviating the symptoms of arthritis. Photo: Jevtic/Getty Images
One in six Canadian adults has arthritis. Although most are 75 or older, many are much younger.
The two most common forms of the disease — osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis — tend to cause painful joints. No wonder your grandmother had so many home remedies for the condition. That doesn’t mean they’re all effective. Copper bracelets? Debunked. Magnet therapy? Doesn’t work. Diet? Now we’re on to something!
Certain foods can fight inflammation, boost the immune system or promote a healthy weight — all factors in alleviating the symptoms of arthritis. Because arthritis takes so many different forms, individual results with these foods will, of course, vary.
Cabbage and its cousins, Brussels sprouts and broccoli, all contain sulforaphane, a compound common to cruciferous vegetables. Promising research has shown that sulforaphane may slow down damage to cartilage and reduce joint inflammation. A 2016 study in the Clinical Journal of Pain even suggests that wrapping raw cabbage leaves around sore arthritic knees may help ease the pain!
Cherries, specifically the tart or sour variety, are rich in a flavonoid known as anthocyanin. This antioxidant also acts as an anti-inflammatory agent that may help osteoarthritis. Research using components of tart cherries, such as concentrated juice, show a range of benefits including decreased pain. The cherry juice may also reduce flare-ups in people with a form of arthritis called gout. And if those aren’t enough benefits for you, consider the findings of researchers at Northumbria University: People who drank concentrated tart cherry juice had higher levels of melatonin and enjoyed a longer and better sleep compared to those on placebos.
Omega-3 fatty acids are well proven to help with inflammation, which makes an omega-3 supplement a reliable arthritis remedy. But why take your omega-3s in pill form, when there are so many delicious food sources? Exhibit A: tofu, a versatile fermented soybean product that’s high in ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), one of the three types of omega-3 fats. Tofu is also high in fibre and low in fat, and it packs a protein punch. Plus it’s rich in important minerals such as iron, calcium and zinc. (Oily fish like salmon, of course, is another excellent source of omega-3 fats.)
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4. Walnut oil
Another rich source of healthy fat is walnut oil. Like tofu and fish, walnut oil has anti-inflammatory properties. According to the U.S.-based Arthritis Foundation, walnut oil has ten times as much omega-3 fat as olive oil. It can help to lower cholesterol and promote a healthy cardiovascular system. Walnut oil has a tantalizing nutty flavour that can enhance many dishes. You shouldn’t cook with it on high heat, but do add it to a stir-fry after it’s been prepared, or mix it into a salad dressing. Be sure to keep walnut oil refrigerated to extend its freshness.
Whole grains, too, are known to lower inflammation markers in the blood. This may be because they’re high in fibre, which seems to be linked with reduced inflammation. Oats are also loaded with micronutrients such as vitamin E. Oatmeal porridge made from steel-cut oats is a great choice for a high-protein, high-taste breakfast. It’s even suitable for people on gluten-free diets.
6. Cayenne pepper
Do you like spicy peppers? So will your joints, so try adding a few dashes to your dishes. Powdered cayenne pepper is made from a type of hot chili pepper that contains a high amount of capsaicin. This is the compound that sets your tongue on fire, but it can calm inflammation. Hot off the presses: Researchers have also found that capsaicin may have additional benefits for weight loss, such as controlling hunger, and may even fight cancer.
This juicy fruit contains an enzyme called bromelain, which may play a role in reducing pain and inflammation. Pineapple happens to be a rich source of vitamin C as well. Half a cup contains as much as 49 grams, approximately the same amount as you’d get from half a grapefruit. People who eat an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables with vitamin C (including green peppers and cantaloupe) seem to be less likely to develop inflammatory arthritis. Vitamin C also promotes healthy joints in people who have osteoarthritis. Here’s what else is great about vitamin C: It helps with the absorption of iron from foods, which is important, since people with arthritis are often anemic.
This story was originally published in August 2018.