For many years, people have claimed that certain foods in their diet reduced pain and joint inflammation from arthritis. Researchers continue to investigate whether foods and spices actually may play a role in relieving joint pain and, if so, how they work.
“Mostly it’s just healthy eating, with a lot of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds,” says registered dietitian Ruth Frechman, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Fruits, veggies and whole grains are natural inflammation fighters that can also help control your weight. “It’s important to stay at a healthy weight to ease up some of the stress on the joints,” Frechman adds. For every 1 pound of weight you lose, you reduce the load on your knee joint by 4 pounds.
Foods to Try to Ease Arthritis Pain
Remember, there’s no magic food,” stresses Frechman. But growing evidence suggests that following a healthy diet and adding in specific foods and spices could help fight inflammation and joint pain.
- Broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage. These veggies are part of the cruciferous family, and they are full of a compound called sulforaphane, which helps slow cartilage damage in joints due to osteoarthritis, according to a 2013 study involving mice. Admittedly, it’s an early study. But veggies are always a healthy choice. Try adding broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale or cauliflower to your salad or stir-fry.
- Fatty fish. Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, trout and mackerel are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help fight inflammation. Try adding fish to your diet a couple of times a week. If you’re not a big fan of fish, ask your doctor about taking an omega-3 supplement.
- Garlic. Garlic is a member of the allium family—which also includes onions and leeks. These items contain a compound called diallyl disulfide that may help with a number of diseases—including arthritis. “This compound may have some effect in limiting cartilage-damaging enzymes,” says rheumatologist Scott Zashin, MD, clinical professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas.
- Tart cherries. Some people with arthritis have found relief from products made from tart cherries. The ingredient in cherries that helps with joint symptoms is the same one that gives this fruit its red color—anthocyanin. A 2013 study published in Osteoarthritis and Cartilage found that subjects who drank tart cherry juice had improvements in the pain and stiffness of OA.
- Turmeric. One of the best-researched inflammation fighters isn’t a food at all, but a spice. Tumeric contains a compound called curcumin. A 2012 review published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences said that “curcumin could be beneficial in the management of chronic inflammatory-related joint disease,” but authors warned that there is a considerable lack of data regarding side effects and safety. The compound has, however, been used for centuries in India to ward off inflammatory diseases. You’ll find this yellow spice in Indian cuisines—particularly curries.
- Vitamin C. Antioxidants in vitamin C may slow the progression of OA, research finds. A 2011 study from the University of South Florida reported that people who took vitamin C supplements were 11 percent less likely to develop knee OA than those who didn’t take the supplements. You can get vitamin C from strawberries, kiwi, pineapple, or cantaloupe. However, Frechman warns against taking supplements with much higher doses than 65 to 85 milligrams, because in large doses vitamin C can increase the risk of kidney stones.