If you’re struggling with pain from arthritis, choosing and consuming the right food can work — along with the drugs or surgery your doctor recommends — to make the hurt go away.
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“Research is ongoing, but scientists already have found that certain foods may reduce arthritis-related inflammation and pain,” says registered dietitian Andrea Dunn, RD, LD, CDE.
Ready to go grocery shopping? Here are 10 foods that Dunn recommends for a diet that may help ease your arthritis pain:
- Salmon, sardines and mackerel — These fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which studies have found can decrease inflammation. Dunn says just two servings a week may help ease joint pain.
- Green tea — High in nutrients and antioxidants, green tea is known to reduce inflammation, says Dunn. Studies performed on animals also found that it can help reduce the incidence and severity of rheumatoid arthritis. Aim for two servings a day, either hot or cold. Be sure to use tea bags – not the powdered tea mixes, which are more processed. If you drink the decaffeinated variety, make sure the process is all-natural.
- Dark chocolate — This is another substance high in antioxidants, which studies have found can ease inflammation. Look for products that have at least 60 percent cocoa content (the higher the cocoa content, the lower the amount of sugar in the chocolate). Just keep portions small to limit the saturated fat and calories. Dunn recommends a half-ounce daily.
- Berries — Feel free to indulge on these natural delights, because berries also are high in those important antioxidants. Berries are particularly beneficial if you’re taking arthritis medications because the fruit’s high fiber content can help ease the constipation that the medicines often cause, Dunn says.
- Apples — These are high in antioxidants and a good source of fiber. Plus, they can help curb your appetite for unhealthy snacks, Dunn says.
- Canola and olive oils — Skip the generic vegetable oil or corn oil and reach for these two varieties, which have a good balance of the omega-3 and omega-6 acids, both of which are essential fatty acids. Moreover, studies have found that a component in olive oil called oleocanthal has anti-inflammatory properties, Dunn says.
- Ginger and turmeric — According to traditional Eastern medicine, these spices have anti-inflammatory properties. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, an adjunct of the National Institutes of Health, reports that preliminary studies suggest that chemicals in these plants may ease inflammation. There’s no scientific data on recommended daily or weekly intakes of ginger or turmeric, but Dunn says a healthy sprinkling of these spices on foods or in beverages could bring health benefits and add a little kick to your favorite dishes.
- Nuts — All nuts are high in protein, low in saturated fats and contain no cholesterol, unlike animal proteins. Replacing a serving of meat with just a quarter-cup of nuts can help you avoid the inflammation you may experience when eating red meat. Unlike meat, nuts also are a good source of fiber. Choose unsalted nuts to limit the amount of sodium in your diet.
- Whole grains — It’s better, of course, to use whole-grain bread instead of the white variety, but Dunn recommends adding even more grains to your diet. She suggests eating barley, bulgur, or quinoa for the extra nutrients and fiber that only whole grains can offer naturally. Try them as side dishes instead of more common choices, such as white rice.
- Salsa — Eating salsa is a great way to increase your intake of vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants, thanks to its rich mix of tomatoes, onions, and other vegetables. Use it for a vegetable dip in place of high-calorie dressings.