Summer is just ahead. That means the days are longer and it’s time to get active. If the thought of picking up that tennis racquet or trying on those hiking boots makes you dread achy knees and shoulders, start thinking about how what you eat can help protect your joints and other moving parts.
Obesity and age also contribute to the degeneration of joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease where the body’s defenses attack itself, in this instance, cartilage surrounding the joints. Unlike osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis presents in both sides of the body—both knees, both hips, etc. RA is thought to be caused by a combination of factors including genetics, environmental conditions and hormones.
The good news is that there are many foods that can help prevent or slow the progress of arthritis, all of which are delicious and lend themselves to tasty, healthful meals:
Omega-3 fatty acids – Found in wild salmon (fresh or canned) and other oily fish such as sardines, mackerel and trout. Almonds, flaxseeds, walnuts and olive oil are also good sources.
Broccoli – The family of cruciferous vegetables includes broccoli (see my Tofu & Vegetable Stir Fry), cauliflower and the beautiful romanesco.
Olive Oil – Olive oil’s anti-inflammatory properties are attributed to oleic acid, which contains polyphenols and omega-3 fatty acids, both of which are antioxidants.
Ginger and Turmeric –Useful for soothing nausea and migraines, ginger contains compounds called gingerols which act very much like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Turmeric is in the ginger family and is also high in antioxidants. It’s also one of the most potent anti-inflammatories available. NOTE: Ginger acts as a blood thinner, which could interact with blood thinning medication. Check with your physician before adding ginger to your diet.
Vitamin C – Rather than popping supplements which can irritate the stomach and in high doses aggravate symptoms of arthritis, get your vitamin C from antioxidant-packed food sources such as kidney beans, oranges, papaya, bell peppers, mangos, and pineapple.
Cherries, blackberries, raspberries, grapes, and eggplant – The intense reddish color of these fruits indicates the presence of anthocyanidins, which are potent antioxidants and free radical fighters. Studies associate these foods with cardiovascular health, but these same properties have been shown that they may help reduce arthritis inflammation as well.
Sweet peppers, squash, pumpkin, orange sweet potatoes, papayas, tangerines, collard greens, and apricots – All these foods contain considerable amounts of beta-cryptoxanthin, a powerful antioxidant related to beta-carotene found in carrots. Beta-cryptoxanthin is converted to vitamin A in the body and may help prevent inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
A big part of keeping joints healthy is as simple as eating right and making moderate daily exercise a habit. Aim for a diet high in fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes while minimizing intake of red meat, dairy, saturated fats and simple sugars. You’ll find plenty of delicious recipes with these ingredients in my new cookbook, The AGE BEAUTIFULLY Cookbook, which is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.