Beneficial Foods for People with Arthritis
The Better Life Experts | September 3, 2009

Considerable research has been conducted over the years into the link between diet and arthritis. While there is no definitive connection between food and flare-ups, certain foods can help to reduce the pain, inflammation and possible progression of arthritis in general, with particular emphasis on inflammatory arthritis rather than osteoarthritis. People will react individually to specific foods, so there are no hard and fast rules with regard to foods and reduction in the inflammatory process.

Most of the foods detailed in the list below are part of a well-balanced diet, so it is worth introducing or re-introducing them into your meal plans:

Apples: Contain magnesium which may help to decrease fibromyalgia symptoms.

Berries: Contain antioxidants that can reduce inflammation. Blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, raspberries and strawberries contain fiber, folic acid, magnesium, potassium and vitamin C. Individuals taking methotrexate (which is used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis) should take a folic acid supplement as well as eat their berries in order to make new cells.

Cherries: Another anti-inflammatory food, they contain fiber, vitamin A and C.

Citrus Fruits: Rich in vitamin C, which may protect against the development of inflammatory arthritis, oranges, lemons, lime, kiwi and grapefruit, contain fiber, folic acid, magnesium and potassium. Note: Grapefruit and grapefruit juice may interfere with the action of some rheumatic drugs (such as ciclosporin) as well as other medications. Your physician and/or pharmacist should warn you of these possible interactions when certain medications are prescribed.

Cruciferous Vegetables: People with rheumatoid arthritis have an increased risk for developing heart disease. Vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and brussel sprouts in are beneficial for the heart and should be eaten in sufficient quantities to be effective. Cruciferous vegetables also contain fiber, folic acid and vitamin A, C and K. Because some arthritis medications can cause constipation, eating fiber is especially important for healthy intestines.

Dairy: Milk, cheese and yogurt are high in calcium, which is important for healthy bones. Dairy products also contain high levels of folic acid, magnesium and vitamins. Note: Choose non-fat or skim selections of dairy products because the full fat varieties are high in saturated fat which can increase inflammation.

Green Leafy Vegetables: High in calcium, kale, mustard greens, okra and swiss chard are good for the heart as well as being great sources of iron.

Nuts: Contain omega-3 fats, which can help to ease stiffness and reduce inflammation, pecans, walnuts and hazelnuts are also high in antioxidants. Brazil nuts are also high in selenium which may act as an immune booster. Note: Nuts are high in fat, so consume them in moderation.

Oily Fish: Salmon, mackerel, sardines, etc. contain oils that help to fight inflammation, reduce joint pain and lessen stiffness.

Peas, Beans and Lentils: Great sources of iron, which help to prevent anemia, these foods also contain fiber, folic acid and other minerals.

Whole Grains: Whole-wheat sources of bread and pasta as well as brown rice contain fiber and magnesium which is important for healthy bones.

Be aware that many myths abound regarding the role of foods in the treatment of arthritis for which there is little to no scientific evidence. Because excluding foods completely may cause nutritional deficiencies, always check with your physician before trying elimination diets. And, remember that not everyone will react to the same foods in a similar way.

One popular myth promotes the elimination of acidic fruits (lemons, oranges, grapefruit, etc.) as well as nightshade vegetables (peppers, eggplant, tomatoes) as a means of reducing symptoms of arthritis, but there is no scientific evidence to support this claim. Because these foods are so nutrient rich and low in calories, excluding them from your diet is probably not a good idea. Yet another dietary myth claims that dairy products cause arthritis, and again, there is no scientific evidence to support this claim. The fat in dairy products can increase inflammation, but is probably not a causal factor in getting arthritis.

Some myths link red meat with the development of rheumatoid arthritis. This is a false claim (according to current scientific research). However, watch the intake of inflammatory saturated fats and choose lean versions of red meat if you choose to eat certain animal proteins.

Other claims regarding the use of cider vinegar and honey as cures for arthritis are equally unproven. If there is no scientific evidence to back up claims, then they are likely untrue. Stay tuned and we will keep you informed on the latest claims as they are presented.

Our next newsletter will discuss the role of supplements for people who have arthritis.
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