Exercise and a well-balanced diet can keep your joints moving freely. IBJI’s OrthoHealth program recommends trying an anti-inflammatory diet to help reduce joint inflammation. An anti-inflammatory diet includes omega-3 fats, antioxidant-rich foods, foods high in fiber, and spices that will help reduce inflammation.
Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the production of molecules and substances linked to inflammation. Foods that have omega-3 fats include cold water fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, herring, trout), chia seeds, ground Flaxseed/flaxseed oil, walnuts and omega-3 eggs.
Antioxidant-rich foods: Brightly colored fruits and veggies are rich in antioxidants and have been shown to aid in decreasing inflammation in the body and protect our cells from free radicals which cause damage. Antioxidants, like vitamin C, help your body make collagen, which is part of your cartilage, tendons and ligaments. It cushions your joints and holds them together.
These include cherries, blueberries, blackberries, and pomegranates. Citrus fruits (such as grapefruit and oranges), tomatoes, red peppers and pineapple are packed with vitamin C.
Dark, leafy greens, like kale, are rich in antioxidants like vitamin C and beta-carotene. Some of these greens are also excellent sources of calcium, which helps keep your bones strong. Other dark, leafy greens to try are spinach, broccoli and bok choy.
Spices, like turmeric, are rich in the chemical curcumin. Curcumin extract works similar to ibuprofen for easing pain. Other spices with similar effects are curry, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, oregano, rosemary, cayenne and black pepper.
Foods high in fiber: Increasing fiber has also been shown to help decrease inflammation in the body, decreasing joint pain. You should aim to get 25–30 grams of fiber a day; legumes (beans), nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables, whole grains. Remember, when increasing fiber, be sure to increase water intake as well.
Foods to Avoid
Avoid eating fried and processed foods, trans-fats and charred meat, which can increase inflammation.
- Processed foods: Chips, cookies, crackers, hot dogs, sausages, frozen entrees
- Trans-fats (partially hydrogenated oil): Pre-made baked goods, shortening, fried foods, packaged snacks, some stick margarines
- Simple carbohydrates (NO FIBER): White breads, bagels, English muffins, instant white rice, sugary cereals
- Added sugars: Soda, fruit drinks, donuts/pastries
- Large portions of animal-based proteins
If you need help finding a diet that supports your joint health, enroll in IBJI’s OrthoHealth program. Not only can our dietitians help find a diet that works for you, they can also help you manage stress, sleep and improve your movement.
Kelsey Koziel is a Marketing Communications and Public Relations Specialist at Illinois Bone & Joint Institute.
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