Osteoarthritis Diet: Eating Right
Combat your knee pain with these quick and easy recipes.
Osteoarthritis Treatment on Your Plate
If you're dealing with osteoarthritis (OA) of the knees, here’s some good news: research published in Nutrition Research says that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables has been shown to help reduce inflammation and pain in your joints.
Click through this slideshow to learn how food can help your OA.
How Food Helps
Inflammation produces free radicals, the cell-damaging molecules that are formed in response to toxins and natural bodily processes. The synovium (the cushion between knee joints) is as prone to free radical damage as the skin, eyes, or any other body tissue.
Antioxidants protect the body from free radicals Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Clinical Rheumatology has shown that certain antioxidants may help prevent arthritis, slow its progression, and relieve pain. Being at a healthy weight is a critical component to managing OA of the knees.
The Importance of Losing Weight
Avoiding extra fat doesn’t just take weight off your knees. Body fat is metabolically active, capable of producing hormones and chemicals that actually increase levels of inflammation.
Try these calorie-controlling strategies:
- Dine in instead of out.
- Eat smaller portions.
- Don’t buy high-calorie foods.
Try eating soups as a starter to control hunger. We recommend hearty vegetable lentil soup.
The antioxidant vitamin C is necessary for cartilage development. A lack of vitamin C can lead to weakened cartilage and increase osteoarthritis symptoms.
Include these items in your shopping cart:
- tropical fruits like papaya, guava, and pineapple
- citrus like oranges and grapefruit
- cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, and kale
- bell peppers
Try: Spicy stuffed tomatoes
Research is mixed about vitamin D, but some studies in Arthritis and Rheumatism show that vitamin D can help prevent the breakdown of cartilage, and decrease the risk of joint space narrowing.
Enjoy these vitamin D-rich foods:
- seafood like wild-caught salmon, cod, sardines, and shrimp
- fortified milk
Look for other Vitamin D (and calcium) fortified foods such as orange juice, breakfast cereals, tofu, and yogurt.
Try: Southwest salmon fillets
Beta-carotene is another powerful antioxidant that helps destroy free radicals before they can cause excessive damage to joints. Beta-carotene is easy to identify because it gives fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, their bright orange color. Other excellent sources include:
- cruciferous veggies like kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, collard greens, mustard greens, and chard
- sweet potatoes
- winter squash
- greens like Romaine lettuce and spinach
- peppermint leaves
Try: Sweet potato pudding
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The healthiest fats for people with osteoarthritis (or other inflammatory disorders) are omega-3 fatty acids. While some foods increase levels of inflammation in the body, omega-3's actually work to decrease inflammation by suppressing the production of cytokines and enzymes that breakdown cartilage.
Foods with the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acids are:
- salmon (wild, fresh or canned)
- mackerel (not king)
- rainbow trout
- Pacific oysters
- omega-3-fortified eggs
- flaxseed (ground andoil)
Try: Multigrain banana and walnut pancakes
Bioflavonoids such quercetin and anthocyanidins are both forms of antioxidants. The anti-inflammatory effects of quercetin may be similar to those of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (such as aspirin and ibuprofen). Good sources of quercetin include:
- onions (red, yellow, white)
- cherry tomatoes
- black currants
- cocoa powder
- green tea
- apples (with skin)
Try: Garlic broccolini
Some spices have anti-inflammatory effects, too. Among the most promising are ginger and turmeric. Grate fresh ginger into stir fries, add to salad dressings, sip ginger tea, and add to high-fiber, low-fat muffins.
Turmeric (sometimes called curcumin) is a mustard-yellow spice from Asia that’s the main ingredient in yellow curry. Scientific studies cited in the Journal of Natural Products have shown that turmeric may help arthritis by suppressing inflammatory body chemicals.
Try: Chicken curry with coconut milk
Find More Recipes
It’s clear that the best strategy for keeping knee osteoarthritis symptoms at bay is to lose weight if you’re overweight, color your plate with fruits and vegetables, enjoy fish, nuts, and healthy oils, and keep your body in motion. Use Healthline’s healthy recipe index to find more recipes to help your OA.
Your knees (and your waistline) will thank you.