I've turned to ginger to help soothe my horrible period cramps, and I've limited my dairy intake to ease my sinus congestion. Simply put: I'm all for using food as medicine to prevent and manage aches, pains, and annoying ailments.
While I'm very thankful I don't suffer from any serious joint issues, I do deal with exercise-induced pain in my knees and ankles, so joint health is always top of mind for me. I like working certain foods into my daily diet to help keep my joints in great shape. To learn more about how food affects joint health, I reached out to Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, founder of Real Nutrition and a Daily Harvest nutritionist partner.
Good news: what you eat can play a positive role in your joints' overall health, but in different ways. "Some joint pain comes from inflammation of the joints and the areas around it. By cutting out inflammatory foods and including anti-inflammatory foods in your diet, you can decrease the inflammation around the joints over time, which can then help to decrease the pain associated with joints," Shapiro says. She says some foods can also help build bone density, which can strengthen the bones, and foods can also help strengthen connective tissues that support these joints.
But all of this isn't going to happen instantaneously. Shapiro says you really need to give yourself a good three to six months to feel the difference in your body. "Remember, it takes time for your body to respond, build tissues, build bone density and to promote healing. It also takes consistency to see results," she says.
As for what to eat, Shapiro says the foods and nutrients below are all beneficial for joint health. While these are probably items you already have in your fridge and might even eat on the reg, it's always a good idea to check in with your doctor and get the OK before making major modifications to your diet.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
You can turn to nuts, seeds, and cold water fish, like salmon, for your omega 3 fatty acids, which help to decrease inflammation in the body.
Shapiro says that brassica veggies, also known as cruciferous veggies, can help fight joint inflammation. "These include Brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage! They tend to block enzymes that cause swelling in joints."
Kudos if you already add a serving of berries to your daily breakfast! According to Shapiro, berries, but especially dark-colored berries, have anthocyanins, which are "flavonoids that helps turn off inflammatory markers in the body."
Chop up some pineapple for a sweet midday snack. Shapiro explains that the fruit contains bromelain, which is an enzyme shown to reduce arthritis inflammation and pain.
Root Veggies and Herbs
Add garlic, onion, turmeric, and ginger to your grocery list: "all have anti-inflammatory properties which help to decrease pain associated with joints," Shapiro says.