What to eat for... Healthy joints
Natural anti-histamines, potent antioxidants and inflammation-fighting foods have been packed into our ultimate recipe for joint health. Read up on key ingredients to include in your diet and try making our powerful amaranth porridge...
View this recipe: Amaranth porridge with green tea & ginger compote
How these ingredients and others promote healthy joints...
- Nuts and seeds
Full of omega-3, these healthy fats hold anti-inflammatory properties. We’ve used chia seeds in our porridge because they’re one of the richest seed sources of omega-3. Oily fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines and trout also contain a potent form of omega-3, which dampens inflammation and relieves stiffness. Aim for at least one portion of fish per week and use gentle methods of cooking such as poaching and baking to protect their beneficial oils.
- Colourful fruit & veg
Eating a rainbow of fresh, dried and/or frozen fruit and veg will mean your diet is full of potent antioxidant vitamins, which fight free radicals and reduce the damage caused by inflammation. Stars of the show include kale and broccoli, which research has shown may protect joints from damage, thanks to a compound called sulforaphane.
- Ginger and turmeric
Both of these warming spices contain potent anti-inflammatory compounds – use liberally in your cooking.
- Lean protein
Protein is key for building healthy connective tissue and inadequate intakes may lead to loss of muscle mass and diminished strength. Poultry, fish and plant-based proteins such as beans and pulses are great options.
- Optimise your nutrient intake
Certain medications interfere with the metabolism of vitamins and minerals like folate, vitamin B6, zinc and magnesium. Low levels of nutrients like B vitamins (which includes folate and B12) can increase your risk of joint degeneration, so include dark green leafy veg as well as gluten-free whole-grains like rice, buckwheat and amaranth. We’ve soaked the amaranth for our porridge overnight as this speeds up the cooking time and reduces levels of naturally occurring phytic acid, which means you absorb more of amaranth’s nutritious goodness.
Is there anything I should avoid?
Some arthritis sufferers have reported that omitting certain foods has helped to alleviate their symptoms. Foods commonly cited include oranges, tomatoes and peppers as well as dairy foods and wheat. Because there is no scientific evidence yet to support these claims it may be worth keeping a food diary to see what works for you. Don’t omit any major food groups from your diet without seeking the advice of your GP or dietician first. For more information visit Arthritis Research UK.
What else can I do to protect my joints?
Maintain a healthy weight – for every extra pound you lose, you can reduce the load on your joints three-fold.
Get active – aim for 30 minutes of gentle exercise most days - try joint-supportive activities such as swimming.
Rest your joints regularly – listen to your body and know when you need to take time out.
Stop smoking – those who smoke are twice as likely to develop cartilage loss.
Boost your vitamin D levels – the action of sunlight on your skin promotes the production of vitamin D. Low levels of the 'sunshine' vitamin are associated with osteoarthritis, so head outside in the morning or late afternoon when the sun is less intense without sunscreen for 15 minutes. Don’t forget vitamin D-rich foods such as oily fish, eggs and fortified spreads.
Medicate mindfully – take painkillers with or after your meals to prevent gut discomfort – ask your GP for advice.
This page was last updated on 24 January 2019.
Kerry Torrens is a qualified Nutritionist (MBANT) with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.
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