News | Published June 9, 2014 | Written by Bonnie Lepro, MS, RD, LDN, chief clinical dietitian, nutrition & culinary services, Mount Nittany Medical Center

Super foods to help fight arthritis pain

If you struggle with arthritis pain, then you know just how detrimental stiff, aching joints can be to your daily activities. Fortunately, you can help reduce the inflammation and swelling that comes with arthritis by changing some of the foods you eat.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, the ultimate arthritis diet is one based on the principles of the Mediterranean diet. This diet is often recommended to lower the risk of heart disease and blood pressure, but it can also alleviate the inflammation which is common in arthritis. The Mediterranean diet also promotes weight loss, which can further help reduce joint pain. This diet encourages eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes, fish (instead of red meat), olive oil (instead of butter) and using herbs or spices (instead of salt) to flavor foods.

  • FISH  - 3 to 4 ounces twice per week

Some types of fish are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which help lower inflammatory proteins such as CRP (C-reactive protein).  CRP is an indicator of inflammation in the body. 

Best choices are salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, anchovies, scallops and other cold-water fishes. Fish oil supplements are available as well as other food sources of omega-3 fatty acids such as walnuts and flax seeds.

  • NUTS & SEEDS - 1.5 ounces per day

These are high in heart-healthy, monounsaturated fats and vitamin B6. Research has indicated that low levels of vitamin B6 are related to higher levels of CRP. Nuts and seeds are also a good source of protein and fiber, both of which have a satisfying effect on the appetite. 

Best choices are walnuts, almonds, pistachios and pine nuts.

  • FRUITS & VEGETABLES - 5 to 9 servings per day

These provide a variety of antioxidants, which act to neutralize free radicals (unstable molecules) in the body that can damage cells. The darker the color of the fruit or vegetable the higher content of antioxidant it tends to have. 

Best choices are blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, cherries, spinach, broccoli, kale, eggplant and bell peppers. 

  • OLIVE OIL – 2 to 3 tablespoons per day

Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fat and antioxidants called polyphenols, particularly one named oleocanthal. This polyphenol inhibits enzymes in the inflammatory process and helps to reduce pain sensitivity, similar to ibuprofen. 

       Best choices are olives and extra virgin olive oil, which is less refined and processed, so it retains more nutrients. 

  • BEANS – 1 cup twice per week 

Beans provide fiber, which helps to lower CRP, as well as antioxidants and protein.  Protein is important to help prevent muscle shrinkage due to age or inactivity. Strong muscles can make it easier to keep joints moving. Beans also provide folic acid as well as many immune-supporting minerals such as magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc.

Best sources are red beans, small red kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, garbanzo beans and black-eyed peas.

Although the addition of these foods to your diet won’t cure arthritis, these super foods can help you ease the inflammation and help slow the progression of the disease.