If annoying knee pain has taken a little spring out of your step, incorporating foods good for the joints and cartilage into your diet may provide some relief. With physician-provided guidance, many adults may be able to make progress against osteoarthritis, or knee cartilage erosion.
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Fill up on oily fish, high-antioxidant foods, anti-inflammatory vegetables and specific cartilage-building foods. This targeted diet may help reduce knee inflammation along with joint pain and stiffness.
Foods That Help Regenerate Cartilage
To encourage better knee health, it's important to minimize the rate of cartilage deterioration and take the steps needed for cartilage repair. Fisher-Titus Medical Center points out that consuming certain foods is a step in the right direction. On top of that, it supports your transition to a healthier lifestyle.
Examples of knee cartilage repair food include oily fish, such as sardines and salmon. Consuming these healthy proteins may help decrease joint pain and general morning stiffness due to the omega-3 fatty acids in fish. If you find it difficult to eat the recommended two weekly servings, consider taking omega-3 or krill oil supplements.
Add generous servings of antioxidant-rich vegetables like broccoli, spinach, spring greens and parsley to your diet. These leafy veggies may help slow the rate of cartilage deterioration.
Next, chop up some onions and garlic. Onions (especially red varieties) contain quercetin, an inflammation-reducing antioxidant. Garlic is rich in allicin, a compound that can provide some relief for rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
Eat Fruits, Nuts and Dairy
Fisher-Titus Medical Center also recommends that your knee cartilage repair food plan includes creamy avocados. These tasty fruits are loaded with essential fatty acids and antioxidant-rich oils, both of which help combat joint inflammation and facilitate cartilage repair. Osteoarthritis patients might find this versatile fruit especially helpful.
Beneficial fruits also include grapefruit, which is rich in bioflavonoids and vitamin C. These nutrients team up to strengthen cartilage and fight inflammation. Choose red grapefruit as it contains more antioxidants compared to the yellow variety. These refreshing fruits are also foods good for the joints and cartilage.
Compact little berries pack a big antioxidant punch too. Raspberries, cherries and elderberries contain anthocyanins that help knock down various chemicals associated with inflammation. If you suffer from gout, consider noshing on black cherries, which may help prevent that painful condition.
Add more anti-inflammatory foods, such as extra-virgin olive oil and walnuts, to your meal plan. Brazil nuts are packed with selenium, a mineral that may improve the quality of cartilage protein. Yogurt and kefir are rich in probiotics that may help relieve rheumatoid arthritis joint inflammation.
Spices and teas also have some serious anti-inflammatory benefits. Turmeric is chock-full of curcumin, which is a well-known inflammation fighter. Finally, black, white, green and oolong teas contain an antioxidant that helps block inflammation in arthritic joints.
Build Knee Cartilage Naturally
If you're searching for ways to reduce your knee discomfort, Dr. Lars Richardson, an orthopedic surgeon with Harvard Medical School-linked Massachusetts General Hospital, describes a three-part strategy that may help.
First, he recommends that you drop some weight. If you're packing some extra pounds, each added pound means you're exerting four pounds of pressure on the joints.
To accomplish that goal, follow a well-balanced diet that includes foods good for the joints and cartilage. Engage in low-impact exercise regularly. After you lose those pesky pounds, your joints will experience decreased pressure and pain. Dr. Richardson notes that when your body mass index reaches a healthy range, your knees should feel the benefits.
Next, partner up with a physical therapist to develop a muscle-strengthening program that results in better knee function. Target your body's core muscles along with the hip, quadriceps and hamstrings. With stronger muscles supporting your knees, they won't feel as much stress, and your knee joint will be better stabilized.
Work with your physical therapist to improve your knee's range of motion. By working to straighten your knee and achieving better overall motion, you're likely to experience fewer troublesome symptoms, Dr. Richardson points out.
Read more: Exercises That Improve Muscular Strength
Foods That Help Your Joints
Eating foods good for joints and cartilage may help relieve the symptoms of arthritis and other inflammatory conditions, including osteoarthritis and gout. In some cases, you might even be able to prevent or delay their progression.
Miriam E. Nelson, Ph.D., of Tufts University, states that eating to protect your joints can potentially reduce painful inflammation and annoying stiffness. By adding exercise to a healthy diet, you'll likely lose weight, which also helps ease the stress on your hip and knee joints. Even a small reduction in body weight is a step in the right direction.
Per Dr. Nelson, you should consume one or more servings of fish, nuts, soy and legumes each day. Limit meat, eggs and poultry to two servings daily. Add three servings of vegetables, three servings of fruits and four to nine servings of starches, with at least half from whole grain sources.
Between two and three servings of reduced-fat milk, cheese and yogurt cover the dairy category. Omega-3 oils are very desirable, but you should limit all other oils and fats. It's also advisable to limit your consumption of sugary foods.
Dr. Nelson's recommendations are based on smaller size "servings" rather than heaping portions that often fill diners' plates. Also, making these healthy foods a priority means your plate won't have much room for calorie-packed processed foods that don't provide much nutrition. These principles also provide a good foundation for an osteoarthritis diet.
Penn State Extension provides healthy diet tips that closely mirror Tufts University's guidance. Specifically, it recommends the widely adopted Mediterranean diet. This well-regarded eating plan includes generous amounts of fish, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and olive oil. At the same time, it limits the consumption of poultry, red meat and full-fat dairy products.
If your physician has determined that you need to lose weight, understand that a Mediterranean diet hasn't been designated as a weight loss tool. So, ask your doctor to provide a referral to a registered dietitian or qualified nutritionist.
If you're following an osteoarthritis diet, supplement your eating plan with vitamin D and vitamin K. Getting sufficient amounts of both vitamins help maintain cartilage strength and function.
Besides adopting a joint-focused healthy diet or an osteoarthritis diet, North Dakota State University states that you should drink enough water every day. Water helps lubricate your joints, so don't skimp on the hydration department. If you're a bit older, your body's thirst mechanism slacks off, so keep drinking fluids even if you don't feel thirsty.
Helpful Vitamins for Arthritis
Although there isn't a "best arthritis vitamin" designation, two vitamins are known to strengthen the muscles, joint cartilage and connective tissue, says the Arthritis Foundation. Vitamin C is especially helpful as it helps form and maintain connective tissue and collagen.
Next, magnesium is a multi-tasking mineral, and its benefits begin with a focus on joint cartilage maintenance. It also supports good muscle and nerve function, contributes to bone strength and regulates the heart rhythm.
According to the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center, antioxidants like vitamin E and selenium may benefit patients dealing with rheumatoid arthritis, one of many forms of arthritis. Specifically, these nutrients may reduce free radical damage to the joint linings, which in turn, decreases pain and swelling.
Despite this potential benefit, antioxidants' effectiveness hasn't yet been proven in human clinical trials. Although you'd ideally obtain all of these nutrients through your diet, you might need supplements to compensate for existing deficiencies.
View This Osteoarthritis Snapshot
If you suffer from osteoarthritis, you probably know that this troublesome condition results from deterioration of the cartilage cushioning the bones in your joints, explains the Mayo Clinic. If the cartilage completely wears away, two bones will rub together, which may cause significant discomfort.
Osteoarthritis also does damage to the entire joint. The joint lining becomes inflamed, and there is notable deterioration of the connective tissues that keep the joint's integrity and attach your bones to muscles.
You're more likely to develop osteoarthritis if you're older. Additionally, women are more susceptible than men. If you're overweight, have existing joint injuries or consistent joint stress, each of those factors also increases your risk. Less common risk factors include diabetes, bone deformities and genetic issues.
Over time, osteoarthritis symptoms can worsen, and you may experience chronic pain. In some cases, stiffness and joint pain can affect your ability to move around and function normally.
Low-Carb Osteoarthritis Diet
In an effort to provide knee osteoarthritis patients with a treatment option that didn't involve potentially harmful medications, researchers undertook a controlled randomized pilot study that compared two types of diets. The results were published in the March 2019 issue of Pain Medicine.
The study followed a group of older adults aged 65 to 75 years of age, all of whom were affected by knee osteoarthritis. The study group size was not listed. Over a 12-week period, some participants followed a low-carb diet, while others adhered to a low-fat diet. A third control group continued its regular diet.
Every three weeks, researchers assessed subjects' self-reported pain, functional pain, quality of life and depression. They also analyzed their serum from before and after the diet study to measure oxidative stress.
Over the entire 12-week period, the low-carb diet group experienced decreased pain intensity and discomfort in completing some functional pain tasks, compared with the other two groups. The low-carb diet group also had significantly reduced oxidative stress and functional discomfort.
Researchers concluded that oxidative stress was indeed connected to functional pain. Furthermore, reducing oxidative stress through a low-carb diet could potentially relieve patients' pain and be a viable alternative to opioid medications. Researchers recommended further studies on this subject.
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- Harvard Health Publishing: “Age-Proof Your Knees”
- Fisher-Titus Medical Center: “Improve Your Joint Health With These 12 Superfoods”
- Tufts University: “Eating Right for Healthy Joints”
- North Dakota State University: “Nourish Your Joints”
- Arthritis Foundation: “Vitamin and Mineral Guide”
- Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center: “Nutrition & Rheumatoid Arthritis”
- Mayo Clinic: “Osteoarthritis”
- Penn State Extension: “Arthritis: Status of Nutrition and Exercise Recommendations”
- Oxford Academic: Pain Medicine: “The Effect of Low-Carbohydrate and Low-Fat Diets on Pain in Individuals With Knee Osteoarthritis”