Arthritis can be a debilitating disease that leaves an affected individual with limited mobility, soreness, fatigue, and can even affect sleep patterns. Today, there are over one hundred different types of arthritis and the most common variation is osteoarthritis, which affects the mobility of the hips and knees as well as the hands. Reports indicate osteoarthritis affects almost four percent of the world's population. There are many ways to manage osteoarthritis, along with many other forms of the condition (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, another common kind), including medications and other serious medical interventions. What many individuals may forget or not realize, however, is food can be quite powerful when it comes to dealing with arthritis.
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Research has found individuals who consume fish on a regular basis typically have a much lower risk of developing arthritis in the first place. Fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon, trout, and even canned tuna or sardines provide valuable nutrients, fats, and oils for humans. The main essential fatty acid found in fish is omega-3, which has been proven to help mitigate the severity of inflammation and swelling in individuals dealing with arthritis. Fish is also the only known dietary source of vitamin D, which arthritis patients are often quite deficient in. Thus, it stands to reason if they consume fish, they can help increase their levels of vitamin D and potentially manage their condition better as a result.
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Soy, a crop originating in Asia, is rich in protein and amino acids, also containing anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties within. It can be eaten in bean form, made into soybean oil, or even found in soy milk, yogurt, butter, or nuts. Adult osteoarthritis patients can greatly benefit from including soy in their diet, since they, like fish, are quite high in omega-3 fatty acids. Soybeans also contain lots of protein, are low in fat, and contain fiber, which makes them an overall healthy inclusion to most diets. However, individuals with arthritis should still not go over the recommended daily amount, which is twenty to eighty grams of soy protein, as too much soy can have negative consequences. Those with rheumatoid arthritis should also be sure to avoid consuming too much soy.
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There are many, many beneficial oils that will help arthritis patients manage their pain and swelling. Oils provide essential fatty acids, aiding with muscle recovery and regeneration, as well as the ability to help individuals absorb what they need from other foods. Avocado, canola, grapeseed, and olive oil are all beneficial for arthritis patients, who will only need to take about one teaspoon per day to get what they need out of it. These oils are healthy enough to add to salads, smoothies, or even a straight spoonful for those inclined to consume oils this way. These oils also promote healthier cholesterol levels and heart health, so even individuals who do not have arthritis can benefit from a certain amount of these oils in their regular diet.
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A 2013 study published in the Osteoarthritis and Cartilage medical journal studied participants with arthritis who drank tart cherry juice. The patients who drank the juice all had marked improvements in their mobility, stiffness, and pain. This was due to them being exposed to more anthocyanin, which is the ingredient in cherries that gives them their red color. Anthocyanin from food is widely used around the world to aid with joint pain and swelling and this study only provides further proof to the notion it is helpful. Thus, arthritis patients who really want to reduce their joint pain and stiffness and as a result, increase their mobility, should look at including cherries in their diet. They can, of course, eat the actual fruit, but as is clear, tart cherry juice will fit the bill as well. Individuals just need to be sure they are drinking real cherry juice and not a sugary cocktail, or they will not see the improvement in their arthritis.
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Individuals dealing with arthritis should be consuming broccoli regularly. Not only does this super vegetable help prevent swelling, inflammation, and pain, but it is also rich in vitamins A, C, and K, which all help repair cell damage within the body. In addition to these, broccoli is said to contain a compound known as sulforaphane, which studies have indicated may be quite powerful in slowing the progression of osteoarthritis or even preventing its development. Broccoli also happens to contain a fair amount of calcium, which helps build strong bones, which can only help an individual suffering from arthritis. Broccoli is easily added to a diet and will compliment salads, stir-frys, and smoothies.
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Garlic is one of the easiest and tastiest flavor enhancers for food. It can be infused with everything from pasta to meat to help give any meal a richer, more complex taste. Garlic also contains diallyl disulfide. This compound, also found in leeks and onions, has anti-inflammatory properties. It reduces the effects of inflammation-causing cytokines in the body. Because of this, consuming garlic helps individuals fight inflammation, cartilage damage, and pain due to arthritis. The best option for arthritis patients is fresh garlic picked up in the produce aisle of the grocery store. Bottled garlic might have added preservatives, and the factory processing can reduce the strength of the diallyl disulfide.
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Ginger is another common spice proven to have beneficial effects in reducing the severity of arthritis symptoms. The plant contains shogaol and gingerol, two chemicals that block the pathway of inflammation throughout the body. In addition to anti-inflammatory chemicals, there have been some studies indicating ginger is helpful in the reduction of osteoarthritis symptoms. That said, other studies haven't found distinct osteoarthritis benefits. Ginger can be used in savory and sweet dishes alike. Like garlic, individuals should pick ginger up fresh from the grocery store. Another way to use ginger is to create ginger tea by boiling a one or two-inch piece of ginger in water for between thirty and sixty minutes.
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Spinach is just one of many dark, leafy vegetables, along with the previously mentioned broccoli, that can help arthritis patients manage their condition. Spinach and other dark, leafy vegetables have high levels of antioxidants including vitamins K, C, and A, which protect the body from the process of oxidization. When an individual's metabolism goes through the normal process of energy production, it creates free radicals, which are harmful byproducts that cause damage to cells. Antioxidants protect the cells from free radical damage. In addition, they have calcium, which helps preserve overall bone health.
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Walnuts have measured health benefits for individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. Those with this condition have double the risk of developing heart disease as other healthy adults. Other types of arthritis can also increase an individual's risk of heart disease. Researchers have found consuming nuts reduces heart disease risk, and walnuts perform better than any other nuts for this purpose. The majority of nuts have high amounts of unsaturated fat, antioxidants, and fiber, but walnuts are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These acids lower a number of cardiovascular health risks. One study showed the daily consumption of walnuts led to lower overall blood pressure, including the blood pressure response to common stressors. Some researchers have found data indicating omega-3 fatty acids from fish oils can reduce joint pain related to rheumatoid arthritis, but there isn't adequate data yet regarding if the omega-3s in walnuts have the same effects.
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Studies have shown green tea contains a compound that can help with managing arthritis symptoms. The drink is high in antioxidants, which help protect cells from damage. But researchers have also begun to test epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). This compound naturally occurs in green tea. When given to mice with symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, the compound seemed to reduce overall ankle swelling. The effects of EGCG haven't been widely tested on human populations yet, but researchers are in the process of conducting more studies. Green tea also contains polyphenols, compounds that reduce inflammation and boost overall immune system health. If researchers find EGCG is an effective arthritis treatment, green tea may be a viable alternative to current treatments that cause long-term immune system damage.