Where are all of my food lovers at? Food sustains us and provides endless amounts of energy to get through the day and night.
What if we told you that food has another superpower? It’s true.
Energy is just one of the things that food provides us. Food can also help us fight inflammation.
We already reviewed the ten best foods that fight inflammation. However, what does that mean exactly? It means that those living with chronic pain due to arthritis may be able to get some much-needed help by making the correct food choices.
Reducing inflammation means reducing pain and swelling. The result? People with arthritis can find relief without as many medications.
Can I get a hell yeah?
Best Foods for Arthritis – Get your Pen and Paper
Did you know that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that over 54 million people have arthritis in the United States alone?
That’s 23% of all adults in the US that are dealing with arthritis in some way. While osteoarthritis (degeneration of joint cartilage) is the most common form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune disease where the body attacks healthy tissue) is another widespread disease affecting many people no matter their age.
Without knowing exactly what causes the immune systems to attack viable, healthy tissue, rheumatoid arthritis is harder to treat.
Medicines can help stop the progression of joint deterioration, but they usually come with harsh side effects.
We hope this article can bring you some relief knowing that there are foods out there that can help.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids to the Rescue
Omega-3 fatty acids (unsaturated fatty acids that are known for their health benefits) have been studied in their ability to help those with rheumatoid arthritis.
One study published in the Mediterranean Journal of Rheumatology combined past clinical trial results to see if omega-3 fatty acids would affect rheumatoid arthritis progression and symptoms.
The findings were that omega-3 fatty acids could influence the autoimmune inflammatory response reducing inflammation and, in turn, pain. Basically, these fatty acids helped to slow the disease’s activity in the body. It might be another “hell yeah” moment, people.
Compounding on omega-3 fatty acids, another study looked at a range of other nutrients to see how they contributed to the disease.
The researchers found that pro-inflammatory foods like sugar and foods high in trans-fatty acids or trans fat led to a higher risk of disease progression. It was also found that a high level of vitamin C decreased the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
What’s up, oranges? Also, the Mediterranean diet showed some benefits. Don’t worry. We’ll get into more detail on the Mediterranean diet below, so you know exactly what you need to eat.
Just Keep Swimming
Sorry Nemo, but eating fish has shown to decrease inflammation in arthritis.
Okay, maybe clownfish are safe, but fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and trout are extremely high in omega-3 fatty acid.
Of course, based on the research above, we know that omega-3 is fantastic in reducing inflammation, but something else in fish also promotes lower inflammation levels.
Friends, let me introduce you to Mr. Vitamin D. Round of applause, please.
Vitamin D actually promotes calcium absorption in the body, which is why it’s so important to our health. Some studies have shown that rheumatoid arthritis may be linked to a vitamin D deficiency causing more painful symptoms.
Since vitamin D naturally occurs in lots of different foods, it’s easy to get the right amount through an anti-inflammatory diet. Thanks to these fatty fish, you can get quite a bit just by eating some.
The sun also provides us with vitamin D. A prescription to the Caribbean sounds perfect to us.
Berries and Grapes and Cherries…Oh My!
When it comes to fruit, some are more helpful for arthritis than others. Berries are packed with antioxidants and minerals that promote huge health benefits for everyone. For someone who has arthritis, it’s even better.
Two compounds found in berries called quercetin and rutin have been shown in studies to reduce arthritic inflammation.
Let’s be real people. There are a ton of berries out there to choose from as well.
Strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries (channeling Forrest Gump) are just a few of the more popular berries. Pick your favorite and go to town!
Another fruit that has high antioxidants is the ever-popular grape. In addition to the antioxidants, grapes have many other compounds that provide anti-inflammatory results. A compound called resveratrol found in the skin of grapes has been studied when it comes to inflammation.
One test-tube study showed that this compound has the ability to prevent the thickening of the joints by blocking the formation of rheumatoid arthritis cells. This is auspicious data for the future if more tests are run on humans that translate to the same results.
Worried that bananas are too high in sugar to help arthritis? Not to worry to all of our banana lovers out there.
Bananas may actually be good for arthritis because of the high potassium and magnesium levels that they contain. Both minerals promote a high bone density, while magnesium also contributes to reducing inflammation and pain. Go bananas!
With a cherry on top, just got even better. Put those cherries on top because they contain some of the anti-inflammatories that ibuprofen has. Score!
Oranges and tomatoes have very high vitamin C levels.
Remember that vitamin C shows drastic decreases in inflammation for rheumatoid arthritis, making it one of the best vitamins for arthritis symptoms.
Get in as many oranges and tomatoes as you can to get that vitamin C going.
One thing to consider about fruit is that sometimes it can be harmful to eat some fruits with certain medications. This is not because the fruit itself is bad, but more because of side effects from the medication.
Always check with your doctor to find out what foods and medications should not be paired together.
Your Mama Told You to Eat Your Veggies
Vegetables not only make you grow big and strong like our mothers told us, but they also have naturally occurring minerals that reduce inflammation.
One of our favorite veggies is broccoli. It’s a veggie that looks like a tree. You can’t get any better than that. Broccoli does get better, though.
In test-tube studies, the compound sulforaphane found in broccoli has blocked the formation of cells that are thought to cause rheumatoid arthritis. If you didn’t like broccoli before, we bet you do now.
The leafy greens also have anti-inflammatory properties. In particular, spinach is very rich in antioxidants.
One antioxidant called kaempferol is found abundantly in spinach. When kaempferol was combined with arthritic cartilage cells in a test tube, osteoarthritis progression was slowed, and inflammation was reduced.
Raw vegetables are the best way to ensure you are getting all of the best nutrients. Maybe you want to hop on the spinach train as well.
Beans, beans, they make you…
The end of that song is beans make you feel better!
Okay, maybe that’s not exactly how the song goes, but it made you feel like a kid again, right? So we all know that beans have high levels of fiber, which helps the digestive system.
Did you know that fiber also helps with inflammation? Our livers produce a protein called CRP (c-reactive protein).
This protein goes into the bloodstream when inflammation in the body is high. Fiber helps to bring the CRP down. Beans to the rescue! Now to find a good recipe for black bean soup!
Whole Grains = More Fiber and Lower CRP
Like its friend the bean, whole grains such as oatmeal, whole-wheat flour, quinoa, and brown rice are extremely high in fiber. Besides being a part of a well-balanced diet, whole grains also lower CRP in the blood.
Combine some beans with whole grains into your anti-inflammatory diet, and you have a recipe for reduced inflammation and less pain.
The only issue with whole grains is gluten. If you have a gluten intolerance, go with the beans for fiber, but leave the whole grains behind.
Feeling a Little Nutty?
We are all feeling a little nutty these days with being cooped up inside all of the time. Let’s put those nuts to good use, shall we?
Nuts are high in monosaturated fat, which is a major player in the inflammation reduction game. Specifically, almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, and pistachios are the best in defeating unwanted inflammation.
Their anti-inflammatory properties are attributed to the amount of vitamin B6 found in nuts. Vitamin B6 is also thought to be a major component in decreasing inflammation.
One thing to keep in mind is that nuts are high in fat. Even though it’s the good kind of fat, you want to eat these in moderation. Don’t go nutty. See what we did there?
Seeds prove to have similar benefits to nuts. High in omega-3 fatty acids, seeds like flaxseeds, hemp seeds, and chia seeds have major anti-inflammatory properties. Keep in mind that seeds, like nuts, are high in fat so go with a handful.
Replace Butter with Olive Oil
It’s not the end of the world if you have to replace butter with olive oil.
Extra virgin olive oil is the best since it’s the first oil pressed from the olive and has the best nutrients. Plus, olive oil tastes good and adds a lot of flavor to your food. More importantly, a naturally occurring chemical in olive oil called oleocanthal is used in anti-inflammatory drugs.
Instead of having to take medication to lower inflammation, olive oil can do it for you. If we’re honest, extra virgin olive oil is also better for your heart, so there’s that as well.
Are Eggs Good for Anti-inflammatory?
There is some debate on the eggs’ topic and whether they are good to put in your anti-inflammatory diet.
On the one hand, eggs are rich in vitamin D, which is essential for lowering inflammation. Technically this qualifies them as an anti-inflammatory food.
One thing to consider is that eggs are also rich in omega-6 fatty acids that can cause increased inflammation if too many are consumed.
Here, moderation is key when it comes to eggs. Get some in, but don’t go overboard.
Even Spices have Anti-inflammatory Properties
Where are my curry fans? Chances are, if you have eaten curry, then you have had turmeric, a spice often used in making curry.
Did you know that you are eating the strongest natural anti-inflammatory when consuming turmeric? Mind is blown, right?
The compound called curcumin is the most naturally occurring anti-inflammatory compound, and it is found in turmeric.
Ginger is also known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Who knew that spices had so much power?
Pro-Inflammatory Foods to Avoid Rheumatoid Arthritis
We knew it was coming. While there are tons of great foods with anti-inflammatory properties, there are also many foods that we like to call pro-inflammatory.
They cause inflammation in the body and can lead to more pain for those with arthritis. It’s best to avoid these foods.
It’s going to be hard to hear, but they are:
- Sugary foods like candy and soda have major inflammatory properties.
- Foods rich in trans fats or that have partially hydrogenated oils in them are a definite hard pass. Numerous studies have shown that they increase inflammation.
- Fried foods and red meat are high in saturated fats, which causes inflammation to skyrocket.
- Alcohol consumption is known to increase inflammation as well, so it is best if avoided.
- Refined carbohydrates like bread and pasta need to be avoided as well.
You Mentioned the Mediterranean Diet. Tell Me More.
The Mediterranean diet is the best when it comes to anti-inflammatory diets.
Although there isn’t a diet that is a rheumatoid arthritis diet, the Mediterranean diet has shown to lower inflammation in a drastic way leading to a lot less pain. We have really already shown you the diet without even telling you. We are sneaky like that.
The key foods are fish, nuts/seeds, fruits/vegetables, olive oil, beans, and whole grains. Basically, you want foods high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in saturated fats.
Not only does this diet help with inflammation, but it also improves your health by lowering blood pressure and causing weight loss.
Weight loss leads to less pressure on the joints and that can relieve pain too. This diet brings more than one impressive benefit to the table. Get it?
Food for Thought
Food has such an impact on us, and the right foods can make or break us.
Consuming food for energy is the main way to survive, but putting the right food in your body can cause it to function well or not so well. If you have arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, food can increase or decrease your pain.
It’s important to do as much as you can to reduce inflammation. While medications can do this, food can too. Choose wisely.
Remember, foods high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in saturated fats work the best to decrease inflammation.
Try the Mediterranean diet and report back on your results. Wonder if that diet comes with a cruise as well?
Kristen holds a bachelors in English from Louisianna university. With a longstanding passion for fitness, she owns and operate her own gym and is a certified jazzercise instructor.