Diet can play an important part in managing arthritis. Our Consultant Dietitian Nona Ozerianskaya from BMI Hendon Hospital and BMI The Clementine Churchill Hospital offers advice on managing arthritis symptoms through diet, and also shares her recipe for healthy joints.
- What is arthritis?
Arthritis is inflammation in and around the joints. Some of the main types include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis - this is an autoimmune disorder that produces inflammatory joint symptoms throughout the body.
- Osteoarthritis - this is a degenerative condition that is the result of increased wear and tear on joints.
Diet and arthritis
While there is no special diet or ‘miracle food’ that can get rid of arthritis, everyone can benefit from a healthy lifestyle. Opting for a Mediterranean-style diet high in omega-3 fatty acid with plenty of fruit and vegetables can help to improve symptoms. It’s also important to keep your weight within a healthy range and to exercise regularly.
If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you may benefit from an increased intake of omega-3 fats, as they have anti-inflammatory properties. Omega-3 may also help to reduce joint swelling, pain and duration of stiffness in the morning1
Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids are oily fish such as sardines, mackerel, herring, halibut, salmon, and omega-3 eggs.
For vegan and vegetarian diets, a good source of omega-3 includes flaxseed oil, walnuts and chia seeds2. Although these foods are rich in omega-3, they are precursors of omega-3 and not an equivalent substitute to the amount found in oily fish3.
What causes joint pain?
Joint pain can be caused from a number of things, but it’s usually a result of arthritis or an injury.
The pain you feel may only last a few weeks, however if your pain persists for more than three months, it’s considered chronic. If you’re experiencing persistent joint pain that isn’t getting better, it’s important to make an appointment with your doctor.
- Top tips for managing arthritis
- Try to maintain a diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, protein rich foods, dairy, nuts, pulses, cereals and grains, and healthy fats on daily basis.
- Keep your plate as colourful as possible by including different fruit and vegetables.
- Avoid sugary food, pastries, biscuits and cakes especially if they are made with margarine (partially hydrogenated fat).
- Avoid deep fried and processed foods as they are also high in trans fatty acid.
- Keep well hydrated. You should try to have up to 1.5-2l fluids a day. If you are on fluid restriction please discuss it with your doctor.
- Try to keep your body mass index in the healthy range, as excess body weight increases stress on joints, especially weight-bearing joints like knees and hips.
- Make sure to keep fit by being physically active and try strengthening muscles around painful joints.
- If you are overweight, losing weight could be difficult due to restricted mobility, but this can be achieved with good guidance from a dietician.
- Have your vitamin D levels checked and take supplements if it is low.
- Keep your intake of alcohol and caffeine in moderation, as both can impair hydration.
- Meditation and yoga can help to manage your symptoms and mood.
Should I avoid certain foods if I have arthritis?
You should avoid cutting out whole food groups from your diet. The symptoms of arthritis, particularly the inflammatory types, can change for no apparent reason, so it’s important not to assume that an improvement in your symptoms is wholly due to what you eat.
Some people worry that eating certain foods, such as citrus fruits and nightshade vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers), may increase their painful symptoms. However, there is no need to cut these foods out of your diet. They offer important nutrients and contain an antioxidant which may slow down the progression of arthritis4.
It’s important to remember that we all can respond differently to trigger foods. If you believe that certain foods are making your symptoms worse, it’s best to speak to your doctor or dietitian first before cutting them out of your diet.
Diet alone won’t get rid of joint pain, but you may find that some foods are more helpful then others when managing your symptoms.
To enjoy a joint-healthy dinner, try this delicious oily fish and roasted vegetables recipe…
Mackerel with garlic and lemon
- 1 x raw whole mackerel
- 1 x clove of garlic
- ¼ of a sliced leek
- A few chopped cherry tomatoes
- ½ x lemon
- A dash of rice vinegar
- A handful of chopped parsley
- Preheat oven to 200c (180c fan, gas mark 6)
- Prepare the mackerel by removing any bones and then place in a shallow dish
- Combine the lemon juice, rice vinegar, leek, cherry tomatoes and finely chopped garlic
- Drizzle the mixture over the mackerel and make sure it’s fully coated
- Let the fish marinade in the mixture for 15 minutes
- Place the mackerel on the top of vegetables and cook for 15-20 minutes or until fish has cooked through
- Once fully cooked, sprinkle with parsley
Turmeric roasted vegetables
Serves 1 as a side dish or light lunch
- 1 x chopped carrot
- ½ x cauliflower cut into small florets
- 2 slices diced butternut squash or small sweet potato cut into chunks
- ¼ x chopped red onion
- 1 tsp turmeric
- Pinch of black pepper
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- 1 x crushed garlic clove
- 1 tsp dried ginger
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Preheat your oven to 180c (160c fan, gas mark 4)
- In a medium sized bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice and spices
- Add vegetables into the bowl and coat in the mix ( you can use any vegetables you have in your fridge)
- Spread over a large baking tray and roast for 30 minutes or until vegetables are golden
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