There's truth to the adage "you are what you eat." It's especially relevant when managing inflammation and reducing swelling in your joints. While some foods can make things worse, there are plenty of tasty anti-inflammatory foods that can ease swollen joints, finger pain, and even symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Keep reading to find out what you can put on your plate to keep you moving.
If you haven't started cooking with olive oil yet, now's the time! It's incomparably rich in oleic acid, an omega-9 fatty acid that helps to minimize inflammation. Ditch the vegetable oil for healthier options like olive, grape seed, and avocado oils. Use extra virgin olive oil in cooking and on salads and get your food working faster for you. It's good for your heart and your brain, too.
You asked, we answered
- Do you have to be on medications?- From our Facebook community
Probably. There is a direct correlation between inflammation in the joints and damage. Decreasing inflammation prevents joint deformities, disability, and lowers cardiovascular risk, in addition to preventing pain and joint stiffness. The current goal in RA management is to induce a remission, called “treat to target." Unfortunately, most of the time maintaining a long-term remission requires some medication. Uncontrolled disease activity is also associated with disease in other organs, such rheumatoid lung disease and vasculitis (inflammation in blood vessels). However, there are lifestyle changes that can lower inflammation in RA such as discontinuing cigarette smoking, increasing exercise, getting adequate sleep, stress management, and an anti-inflammatory diet.- Nancy Carteron, MD, FACR
Red meat has earned its bad reputation for a reason. It's higher in cholesterol and salt, which can trigger inflammation. To get your protein, switch to fish — like salmon, snapper, tuna, cod, halibut, and bass —that are high in omega-3 fatty acid, which also helps to reduce inflammation. If you're absolutely craving a steak, opt for grass-fed beef. It's higher in healthy omega acids.
Between meals, try nuts and fruits. Walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, and hazelnuts are all great choices. They’re high in omega-3 fatty acids as well.
You can also try replacing processed snack food with an array of fruits like apples, blueberries, cherries, pineapple, raspberries, and strawberries. According to the Arthritis Foundation, the antioxidants in fresh fruit and veggies help your body fight off free radicals that can cause cellular damage.
Garlic. It tastes so good that we put up with the bad breath afterward. But our powerful little friend also packs a wallop in the healthy-foods department and works great for swollen joints according to the Arthritis Research and Therapy journal. Combine garlic with the herbs listed in the next section for some delicious upgrades to your cooking. And for date night, use some mint leaves to clean up your breath. They'll help your swelling, too.
Herbs have been used for centuries to promote health and healing. Fresh herbs, like basil, thyme, and oregano are delicious choices to use in your cooking, and can be a source of antioxidants. Now, scientists at the University of Pittsburg Medical Center (UPMC) have been able to show that certain herbs like cumin and chili pepper have compounds that fight inflammation and reduce pain.
Thankfully, eating healthy doesn't mean missing out on the sweet stuff. Chocolate — yes, chocolate — that is at least 70 percent pure cocoa is the way to go. Other desserts low in fat and heavy in fruits and nuts mentioned earlier are also great ways to keep inflammation down.
Besides reducing your risk of heart disease and cancer, green tea works like liquid vegetables as it stages an anti-inflammatory fight inside your body, according to researchers at UPMC. Hot or cold, add some lemon juice to perk up the tea's flavor and kick up the antioxidants.
When you make your shopping list, remind yourself that fresh is best because that's when nutrients are at their highest. And keep these healthier choices in mind when dining out too. Skip the carne asada burrito and go for sushi: fish, ginger, and garlic all in one spot
We all should eat healthy, but when our food can help treat swelling and inflammation it makes even more sense to eat healthy. Coupled with other treatments and therapies, a diet rich in omega acids and antioxidants could keep inflammation down so you can start living pain free.