Healthy nutrition is essential for people with arthritis. But even if you’re a smart eater, misleading or dated headlines might lead you to buy into nutrition misinformation. To help separate fact from fiction, experts share the truth behind some common healthy-eating myths.
You probably already know that diet and arthritis symptoms are inextricably linked. Sugary, high-fat, processed foods may trigger an inflammatory response while those that are rich in anti-inflammatory compounds, such as fruits, vegetables and heart-healthy fats may help quiet symptoms.
“Each organ in the body is responsible for specific functions, but food, stress and everyday living can compromise their ability to do their jobs effectively,” explains Sonya Angelone, MS, RDN, CL, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The organs of people living with arthritis are vulnerable to suboptimal functioning, not only because of the disease itself, but also because of its treatments.
The good news: You can help support each organ system – and stave off other chronic diseases – by amping up your intake of certain foods.
Cook a whole, healthy meal on a single baking sheet for maximum ease and minimal clean-up. Just toss a few ingredients with a little oil and seasonings on a pan and pop the whole thing in the oven. Start with these speedy meals – they are as delicious as they are fuss-free.
Looking for an easy, delicious way to improve your heath and arthritis? It’s all about filling your plate with the right combos. “Many nutrients have a synergistic effect. And what’s terrific is that the foods that contain these nutrients tend to taste great together,” says Joan Salge Blake, a registered dietitian and clinical associate professor at Boston University.
Here are five food duos that can supercharge your diet.
Whether you’re serving them up in a sauce or stringing them for decorations, cranberries are a cheerful holiday staple. The bright berries are packed with antioxidants and fiber, providing cardiovascular and immune support. The problem is that we normally eat these tart berries in super-sweetened products. But by making your own cranberry treats, like these, you can get the nutritional perks without a sugar overload.
By Jess Thomson
Knowing that I’m a cookbook author with culinary school cred, people look forward to eating at our home during the holidays, but it brings a certain amount of pressure. My guests expect interesting, delicious home-cooked food. What they often don’t realize is that, as with many people who have arthritis, the combination of December weather and holiday stress usually means my lupus symptoms flare right when I need my body to cooperate. Holding a knife can be downright painful.
So when I’m trying to fit party prep into my schedule, I make a few rules. First, I plan a menu with tasks I can do ahead, so I’m not spending more than about an hour per day in the kitchen in the days before the party. I pick dishes I can complete before friends arrive. I also buy great basic ingredients, like good extra-virgin olive oil, so the flavor comes from the food instead of from a finicky cooking process. Most important, I try to avoid movements that are harsh on my body, like chopping.
Good-for-you foods provide a vast spectrum of nutrients important to battling arthritis inflammation, strengthening bones, fighting disease and generally helping you feel your best. So why not load up on vitamin and mineral supplements to make sure you’re getting enough of these nutrients? Food trumps supplements for several important reasons:
Are you trying to lose weight to ease pressure on your joints and get healthier overall? Are you having trouble making progress?
It’s not just what you eat, but how you eat that can undermine your weight loss. “Sometimes you feel like you’re doing all of the right things and not seeing results,” says registered dietitian Erin Palinski-Wade, author of Belly Fat Diet for Dummies (John Wiley & Sons, 2012). “The more aware you are of the unexpected things that can sabotage your diet, the more successful you’ll be.”
Watch out for these diet traps.
“Clean eating means different things to different people, and the “eat clean” catchphrase can be misinterpreted. “It implies that anything but the most pristine food is bad for us,” says registered dietitian Kim Larson, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “but none of us eats a perfect diet.” But while the trend and the catchphrase are fairly new, the philosophy is not, and experts generally agree on the basics: Eating a diet of mostly whole, unprocessed foods and avoiding their highly refined, processed counterparts promotes health and well-being and is a good foundation for an arthritis diet. Some interpretations emphasize organic foods, avoiding genetically modified ingredients, eating more frequent, smaller meals, or “detoxing” with so-called “cleanses.” Here are some clean-eating principles dietitians say you can get behind – or skip.
If you’re bypassing organic fruits and vegetables because of their higher prices, you may wonder if you’re shortchanging your health to save money. Even if non-organic produce isn’t doing you any harm, could organic be healthier?
In terms of nutrient quality, a scientific review of 162 studies published in 2009 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found no significant differences between organic and conventionally grown produce.