Our diet really is important when it comes to our joints because what we eat can impact how our joints feel – some foods can help our joint pain whilst others can hurt our joint pain. Inflammation is your body's way of healing and repairing itself as well as protecting itself from foreign invaders such as viruses and bacteria. When we eat highly processed, artificial foods that aren’t natural or found in nature, it comes as no surprise that our bodies recognise these foods as foreign too. Today I look at the best and worst foods for your joint pain.
There are a number of great foods that you can eat that can help with joint pain. Although the link between food and joint pain isn’t exactly clear, research indicates that foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and protein are among the most beneficial. Below I’ve listed some of the best foods that can help with joint pain.
Salmon or Soybeans
Foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and work to reduce joint pain and stiffness by suppressing the production of enzymes that erode cartilage and proteins that regulate inflammation.1
Examples include fish such as salmon or mackerel and, if you’re not a fan of fish, soybeans will do the trick. Salmon is full of calcium and vitamin D which help keep bones strong and, of course, it is also loaded with omega-3 which helps prevent inflammation.
Soybeans are packed with protein, rich in unsaturated fatty acids and contain low amounts of saturated fatty acids. Avocado-soybeans have been shown to help prevent inflammation, have a protective effect on cartilage degradation and help to improve and relieve pain from arthritic symptoms.2
Cherries contain anthocyanins, which is what gives them their red colouring. Anthocyanins have antioxidant properties that help to prevent inflammation in the body. They can also be found in red and purple fruits like strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries. Cherries are high in bioflavonoids that can actively help sore muscles and joints.3
One study found that people who drank 8 ounces of cherry juice daily experienced significant reduction in pain and stiffness.4 What’s more, cherries have also been shown to be beneficial in gout management, with cherry intake being associated with a 50% lower risk of gout flare-ups.5
Broccoli is rich in vitamin K, which is thought to destroy inflammatory cells that contribute to arthritis,6 and vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant that helps to fight off molecules that trigger rheumatoid inflammation.7 Broccoli also contains a compound called sulforaphane which could help slow the progression of osteoarthritis.
One study suggested that this compound may help slow down the breakdown of cartilage by reducing the production of the enzymes that contribute to human cartilage breakdown. However, it is important to note that this study involved human cells and cartilage samples from cows and mice, and further research needs to be done in order to identify whether it has the same level of beneficial effects on human cartilage.8
Regardless, broccoli is extremely good for us and the other nutrients present in this vegetable can contribute to the health of our joints. Broccoli is also high in calcium, which is great for strengthening and preserving the bones.
Convinced of broccoli’s joint-loving benefits? I thought you might be! Why not try sprouting your own? Our BioSnacky Broccoli Seeds are rich in vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K, calcium, iron, magnesium – and many other nutrients that we don’t get enough of. Due to the fact that our BioSnacky are essentially baby plants, they contain higher concentrations of valuable enzymes, proteins, minerals and natural vitamins – 1oz of our Broccoli Rapini contains as much antioxidants as 3lb of whole broccoli!
Want to start sprouting? Check out our how-to video below.
Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that are known to help relieve muscle soreness, menstrual cramps, headaches and arthritis. Traditionally and today ginger is used to help relieve stomach aches; it is thought to relieve joint pain by blocking several enzymes that promote inflammation and discomfort. One study found that ginger significantly reduced pain and stiffness in the knee joint in people who suffer with osteoarthritis by 40%!9
Foods that hurt your joint pain
So, we’ve taken a little look at what foods can help our joint pain, now let’s explore those pesky foods that make joint pain worse. When you experience joint pain, it is likely that your body is in an inflammatory state. Eating foods that cause further inflammation will not only worsen your joint pain but it can also lead to heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
Sugar promotes the production of AGEs, inflammatory compounds that form when excess protein and sugar combine together. These compounds prematurely age our bodies and are linked to varying health conditions that all originate from increased inflammation.10
Sugar also causes peaks and dips in our blood sugar levels; high blood sugar alone causes inflammation, but intense swinging from extremities in blood sugar levels cause even more inflammation than a sustained blood sugar level.
Sugar is one of the most well-known inflammatory foods and excess consumption can lead to a number of serious health conditions. Limiting your intake may not only help your joint pain but it can also prevent energy crashes and fatigue. Sugar has many names so watch out for any words ending ‘ose’ like fructose or sucrose.
• Fruit yoghurts
• Fizzy drinks
• Cookies, cakes and sweets
• Energy drinks
• Canned soup
• Fruit juices
Saturated fats trigger adipose (fat tissue) inflammation. Saturated fats can increase the risk of strokes and heart disease as well as overall inflammation in the body. Research has found that saturated fats can weaken the cartilage in joints, particularly weight-bearing joints such as the hip and knees, and bring on osteoarthritis-like symptoms.11
Use of animal fat, butter and palm oil in the long term were found to weaken cartilage the most. Small amounts of saturated fats can be incorporated into a healthy diet although they shouldn’t make up more than 10% of your daily intake.
• Processed meats
Omega-6 Fatty Acids
While omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for our joints, excess omega-6 fatty acids can have the opposite effect. The body needs a healthy balance of both and excess omega-6 can make the body produce pro-inflammatory chemicals.
Omega-6 fatty acids can be found in oils like vegetable and sunflower oils and, while they shouldn’t be avoided completely, it is important to be aware of your intake and the effect they can have on the body.
Some foods can increase inflammation and discomfort, whilst others can actually reduce it and relieve pain. Discover which foods you should eat fewer of (some might surprise you) and what you should eat more of instead, when suffering from muscle & joint pain.
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Being side-lined by muscle or joint pain isn’t fun – especially if you lead a particularly busy or active lifestyle! Luckily our Muscles & Joints Advisor Earle Logan is here to provide you with regular updates, tips and advice on back pain, strains, joint pain and muscle pain.