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Dietary changes & arthritis

Its good for your health to make good decisions. It also happens to be a good time of the year to make some positive changes. What you put on your plate can have a huge impact on your health (obesity, diabetes, heart, cholesterol, blood pressure, joints). Making some changes to your diet can really help your health, and your joints.

Although diet changes can’t cure arthritis, people have found that symptoms improve as a result of changing what they eat. There are many foods out there that have been proven to reduce arthritic joint pain, and they often combine to make a nice tasty meal too!

Start off by asking yourself 2 simple questions:

  1. Am I a healthy weight

  2. Is my diet balanced, giving me enough of the important vitamins & minerals

Being overweight increases the strain on joints, and excess fat causes inflammation in the body. This can contribute to painful joints, especially affecting the back and lower limb joints. E.G The pressure in your knee joint is around 5-6 times your body weight when walking, easing the load by reducing weight can help reduce pain and improve function.

Essential vitamins and minerals for bone health:

Calcium – helps maintain healthy bones, deficiency in calcium increases the risk of osteoporosis. The best sources include milk (skimmed and semi-skimmed over full fat), cheese, yoghurt, fish with bones, broccoli, soya beans & drinks, and nuts.

Vitamin D – needed for the body to absorb and process calcium. Associated with bone and cartilage health. Known as the sunshine vitamin, as it is produced by the body when we are basking in the sun…so here in England it’s not surprising that many people have low levels in blood tests. It’s difficult to get through food, but some foods can provide us with vitamin D, including oily fish, egg yolks, mushrooms, cod liver oil – otherwise you can get your fix through vitamin D supplements.

Iron – the body can store iron, but can’t produce it. It is an important mineral to prevent anaemia. Meats are a good source of iron, and you can also get it from spinach, beans, peas, lentils, quinoa, nuts & seeds, wheats and brown rice.

Deficiency in vitamins and minerals is associated with a quicker onset of arthritis, if you feel you lack a lot of the above mentioned foods, start introducing them into your diet! To make these foods even more appealing, they’re often cheap! The most nutritionally dense foods are often the cheapest on the shelf. These are often bright and colourful, packed with flavour, and should make up the bulk of your plate.

A lot of the components mentioned above are featured heavily in the Mediterranean diet. This is the most well-studied diet and as well as being good for your joints it has been found to reduce mortality, heart disease, and also has an effect on Alzheimer’s – pretty powerful stuff! It focuses on plant-based sources of protein and fibre, such as nuts and legumes, good-quality fat and a limit on meat intake, all of which helps to reduce inflammation.

Food for thought:

Eating more fish

Fish provides us with omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties. At a cellular level they quieten leukocytes and cytokines, cells responsible for inflammation.

  • Salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, herring, anchovies, scallops

  • Supplements available

  • 3-6oz serving 2-4 times a week

  • Higher consumption not recommended due to high intake of mercury

Nuts & Seeds

Eating 1-2 handful of nuts a day is thought to be enough. Nuts and seeds are a good source of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which help lower cholesterol and reduce heart disease risks, an added bonus is they can also help keep inflammation under control.

  • Walnuts, peanuts, almonds, pistachios, flaxseed, chia seeds

Fruits & Veg

You know how much you should be eating…

Loaded with antioxidants that act as the body’s natural defence system. The brighter the colour the better!

  • Cherries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, oranges, broccoli, spinach, kale.

  • Beans also found to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds

  • Red, black, kidney, chickpeas

Spice it up

Different herbs and spices have also been found to suppress inflammation, and add some flavour to your dishes!

  • rosemary, turmeric, ginger, sage, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, cloves, garlic

Fill up on fibre

Recommended that adults eat 30g of fibre a day

Exchanging white rice for brown, and eating wholemeal breads, wholegrain cereals provides plenty of fibre, which can help maintain weight and reduce inflammatory levels.

  • Brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, bulgur wheat, wholewheat pasta

Other tips:

  • Eat less saturated fats

  • reduce biscuits, cakes, chocolates (special occasion only)

  • Choose lean cuts of meat, trim off excess fat

  • Eat more fish and poultry when having meat

  • Use olive oil over other oils (contains oleocanthal that helps

lower inflammation). [Extra virgin olive oil contains more nutrients]

  • Use low fat dairy products

  • Grill instead of fry

  • Snack on fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds

Dietary changes are just one of the positive changes you should look to make this year, also consider how much you sleep, exercise, and how you manage stress.

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