This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.
Suffering from arthritis? You have plenty of company.
An estimated six million Canadians — nearly one in five — live with arthritis. Experts assume that number will increase to nine million by 2040.
Additionally, people with arthritis are five times more likely to have mobility problems. Forty per cent of patients have pain severe enough to limit activities.
But there are ways to combat the pain and symptoms of arthritis – and what you eat can make a difference.
Read on to learn more about arthritis, how your diet affects it, and what you can eat to feel your best.
What is arthritis?
Arthritis is an inflammatory condition that affects the joints and occasionally other parts of the body. Like other chronic diseases, it can affect sufferers on and off or constantly for years.
There are two primary types of arthritis:
Osteoarthritis: This is the most common form of arthritis and develops due to failed healing after joint damage.
Inflammatory arthritis: This involves degeneration of the joints due to inflammation, which is often autoimmune (when your body attacks its own healthy tissues).
The degeneration of joint tissue causes the pain, stiffness and mobility problems you associate with arthritis.
The best foods for arthritis symptoms
Foods won't cause or cure arthritis, but they can affect your symptoms. Some foods worsen arthritis by triggering inflammation or contributing to weight gain, which stresses the joints.
Other foods can help decrease inflammation and contain vitamins that protect the cartilage in your joints. In some cases, these foods may even slow the progression of arthritis so you feel better longer.
Here are eight of the best foods for arthritis:
If you love ordering salmon at your favourite restaurant or often crack open a can of tuna, keep it up. Fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are powerful anti-inflammatories.
Add mackerel, trout, sardines, anchovies, black cod and herring to that list. Two to four servings of these types of fish a week — about three to six ounces each — can help control that painful swelling in your joints.
2. Beans and lentils
Beans are good for your heart — and your arthritis. Beans are fibre-rich, which can reduce inflammation, according to several studies.
One study points to beans as an inflammation-buster. And when you suffer from arthritis, you need all the help you can get.
3. Whole grains
There's a reason why whole grains are on almost every "healthy diet" list. They're rich in nutrients, fibre and antioxidants — and like beans and fish, they can reduce inflammation.
For best results, opt for non-wheat whole grains like brown rice and cereal. Wheat contains gluten, which may trigger an inflammatory response in some people.
4. Green tea
Green tea is rich in antioxidants called polyphenols, which can reduce swelling and relieve pain in people with arthritis.
These superstar chemicals also have the power to slow the cartilage destruction that comes with arthritis.
Your mother was right — broccoli is good for you. Studies show that sulforaphane, a compound in broccoli, can protect cartilage and slow the progression of arthritis.
Not a fan of broccoli? Brussels sprouts and cabbage also contain sulforaphane. Plus, they're darned tasty oven-roasted.
6. Extra virgin olive oil
A chemical in olive oil has effects that are similar to ibuprofen. It's called oleocanthal, which prevents the development of enzymes which cause swelling.
One scientist says virgin olive oil from Tuscany has the highest concentration of oleocanthal. The defining factor? Its characteristic tangy "bite," which tickles the throat like ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory drugs.
Extra virgin olive oil has additional benefits for the heart and can protect against bone loss.
However, eating olive oil may reduce its anti-inflammatory properties. Consume it at room temperature for the best results — it makes a tasty salad dressing!
7. Soy protein
Love snacking on edamame? We have good news for you! The proteins in soy may help to alleviate arthritis symptoms.
Tofu is another excellent source of soy protein. Substitute it for meat in some of your favorite dishes or marinate it in a delicious sauce.
8. Berries and cherries
There's nothing better than a heaping bowl of blueberries or cherries as an afternoon snack — except knowing that those tasty fruits are helping your arthritis.
Berries and cherries are rich sources of a compound called anthocyanins, which have strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
If these fruits aren't your jam (pun intended), you can get anthocyanins in other fruits and vegetables including peaches, plums, eggplant and red cabbage.
Managing your arthritis
Eating well is one of the best things you can do day-to-day to manage your arthritis, but it's not the whole picture.
Arthritis is a complex chronic condition that requires medical management. If you continue to experience symptoms, talk to your doctor about possible treatments such as medication and/or lifestyle adjustments.