If your joints feel creaky or painful, the food you eat can make them feel worse, or better. While no single food is a magic cure, a combination of things in your daily diet can help to alleviate joint problems.
Food can either increase or decrease levels of inflammation in our bodies. Internal inflammation isn’t visible in the same way as a rash so it’s easy to ignore, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. And inflammation is one of the key reasons why joints hurt.
Picture a splinter or even a hangnail that makes your finger red and very sensitive to the touch — you can see the inflammation. We can’t literally see the inflammation inside our bodies but it basically works in the same way and sometimes, we can feel its effects on our joints. The foods you eat — or avoid — can calm or fuel the fire.Choosing Foods
Certain categories of foods, especially red meats, fried foods, fast food, starches, and added sugars, contribute to inflammation. Key foods that reduce it include fish and seafood, and fresh vegetables and fruit.
Red meats contain fat that contributes to inflammation. Starches and sugars do the same thing in a different way: They are very rapidly converted to blood sugar, and that initiates a series of hormonal events that leads to inflammation. Fast food contains a combination of unhealthy fat, starch, and sugar.
These are some ways to trade bad options for good ones:
• Choose fish over red meat (which includes pork). Salmon, herring, and sardines are especially rich in anti-inflammatory fats so aim to eat one or more of these several times a week. Any other type of fish or seafood is also a good choice, barring those that are particularly high in mercury, such as swordfish. Here’s a guide
to mercury content of different types of fish, and you can find more details about mercury in tuna here
. Skinless breast meat from poultry is the second-best option.
• Replace pasta, refined breads, and fried potatoes with lots of non-starchy vegetables. Whole grains
such as brown rice as a side dish, or whole grain bread for toast or a sandwich, are fine, but if you make it a priority to eat lots of non-starchy vegetables, you’re on a good path.
• Instead of sodas, try green tea
, which contains anti-inflammatory ingredients.
• For dessert, pick fresh fruit instead of baked or frozen treats.Cooking Methods
Frying food, including in batters for fish or chicken dishes, is the key type of cooking to avoid. Ideally, grilling or roasting would be done at a lower temperature to avoid browning or charring fish but realistically, you’re better off grilling to your liking rather than frying. When roasting, a low-salt marinade
is a healthier alternative to breading.
Vegetables don’t become pro-inflammatory if they’re well grilled, as long as you don’t add too much fat. A light brushing with some olive oil is all they need. Steaming is an easy way to cook vegetables on the stove top, and you can use an inexpensive steamer insert that fits most pots. This type
is sold in many supermarkets and most kitchen stores.
Adding more fish and vegetables to your diet is good for joints in two other ways: It helps to control weight, and losing excess pounds reduces stress on joints. And, eating this way helps you to shed fat around the waist, which is a key contributor to inflammation.