If you experience achy, stiff joints, your diet may play a role in the pain that you feel. Some common foods that may be in your diet right now are known to cause inflammation, making joint pain and stiffness worse. But there are other foods that can actually combat inflammation. It’s not just a food trend: plant-based foods for better joints can help to relieve pain and even improve your joint function.
Ready to get started? Let’s look at which foods to shop for and which foods to avoid. By restructuring your diet and adding more whole food, nutrient dense options, you can enjoy multiple health benefits.
How foods affect joint health
What you eat can have a direct correlation on your joint health. If you have conditions such as arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis or fibromyalgia, then you experience more pain when your joints are inflamed. Some foods are known to increase inflammation because of the amounts or types of fats that they contain.
Major inflammation triggers include:
- Meat and dairy
- Wheat and refined grains, like those found in white bread and white rice
- Processed foods
In addition to removing inflammation-causing foods from your diet, it may be a good idea to undergo allergy testing. If you test positive for food allergies, then an elimination diet can help you to identify any foods that are prompting inflammation in your body.
Plant-based foods for better joints
A plant-based diet has been proven to reduce inflammation in the body. Certain plant-based foods have lower amounts of fats. Many have optimal ratios of omega-6 to omega-3 fats. These healthy fats are beneficial for your body and don’t contribute to inflammation.
As an added bonus, plant-based diets often promote weight loss. Because you’re not eating meat or other animal-based foods, you don’t need to worry so much about portion control. These diet changes may result in weight loss on their own. The added good news is that plant foods can lead to feeling less pain and you feeling more inspired to be active. That is likely to lead to further weight loss. For arthritis patients this is especially good news: having less weight on irritated joints helps to relieve pain and contributes to overall joint health.
Other benefits to eating a plant-based diet? People who eat a plant-based diet often have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. They are also at less risk of some of the most fatal diseases in the United States, including heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Plant-based options abound
If you want to maximize your joint health through your diet, consider these plant-based foods.
- Cooked vegetables: Green, yellow, and orange vegetables like spinach, string beans, sweet potatoes, broccoli, chard and asparagus are considered pain-safe foods.
- Fruits: Cherries, pears, strawberries, prunes, and cranberries all offer anti-inflammatory benefits. They can be consumed either cooked or dried.
- Extra virgin olive oil: Extra virgin olive oil contains a number of compounds that act as anti-inflammatories. One compound, oleocanthal, has anti-inflammatory properties that are similar to ibuprofen.
- Brown rice: Not only is brown rice gluten-free, but it can be used as a non-inflammatory substitute for white rice in many different recipes.
- Turmeric: Turmeric originates from a plant grown in India and Indonesia and contains a chemical called curcumin. Turmeric and curcumin have anti-inflammatory properties. You can add turmeric to foods, or take it in capsules as a supplement. Black pepper increases the effectiveness of turmeric, so try to pair the two together in dishes.
- Garlic: Not only does garlic add plenty of flavor to any dish, but it can also fight inflammation. Garlic contains diallyl disulfide, a compound that fights inflammation and reduces your pain, in turn. Fresh garlic is best, since preservatives in bottled garlic may reduce its potency.
- Ginger: Ginger contains chemicals called gingerol and shogaol that block inflammation pathways in your body, reducing inflammation. It’s best to use fresh ginger. You can even boil ginger root in tea for an inflammation-fighting drink.
Supplementing the plant-based diet
It’s easy to see the many benefits of opting for a diet rich in the top plant-based foods for better joints. You may decide to simply cut back on foods that aggravate inflammation while increasing your intake of the above plant-based foods. In some cases, though, you might decide to go vegan or vegetarian. Or even try a gluten free vegan diet.
Vegan and vegetarian diets indeed have plenty of benefits, but one of the main myths is that they are inherently low in B12. But that doesn’t have to be the case. It can be quite easy to find B12 fortified plant-based foods or supplements. Recent evidence shows that “a daily dose of the smallest available tablet of B12 is more than sufficient.”
Talk to your doctor about individualized B12 and other vitamin and mineral recommendations based on your diet and your health history.
Want to know more about plant-based healthy living? Watch the video below:
Tips for transitioning to plant-based foods
Incorporating the above fruits and vegetables into your diet doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing decision. In fact, making a sudden transition to a vegetarian or vegan diet can be difficult, and may even set you up for failure. Try these tips:
- Focus on incorporating one or more of the healthy foods above into your diet each day.
- Remove processed foods from your diet one week or one month at a time.
- Incorporate plant-based meats into meals. The plant-based food industry is booming, and plant-based meats have never been healthier, more accessible or more affordable.
- Reframe your thinking about vegetables, grains, fruits and other plant-based foods. They aren’t sides to animal products at meals; they can be the focus of meals.
Each time you make a meal, choose to make an effort to eat mainly foods that combat inflammatory effects. With some time, you’re likely to notice reduced inflammation in the body as well as more comfortable joints.
What plant-based foods are you most excited to try?
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