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Advice on Eating Right with Knee Osteoarthritis

29th April 2020

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By Jenny Tschiesche BSc (Hons) Dip ION BANT from the Lunchbox Doctor

If you suffer from knee osteoarthritis (OA), you will inevitably at some point have had the

discussion with a medical professional about weight loss. This is all well and good but without specific advice on losing weight, it is extremely hard to just click your fingers and start shedding pounds.

Not only that, but weight loss - or shall I say reaching optimal weight - is only part of the story. Eating a diet rich in micronutrients, such as vitamins, minerals and good fats, is extremely important in terms of reducing inflammation.

Let’s focus on those micronutrients first because by focusing on a diet rich in micronutrients weight loss can often follow naturally.

Types of Micronutrients Useful for Knee Osteoarthritis Sufferers

Micronutrients to focus on include:

Vitamin C

This vitamin is an antioxidant that is necessary for cartilage development. A lack of vitamin C can lead to weakened cartilage and increased OA symptoms. Try to include two portions of any of the following each day:

  • Tropical fruits, such as papaya and pineapple
  • Citrus fruits, such as oranges, tangerines and grapefruit
  • Other fruits, such as strawberries, raspberries and kiwi
  • Cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower, broccoli and kale
  • Peppers and tomatoes

Vitamin D

Although the research is mixed where vitamin D is concerned, some studies have shown that it can help to prevent the breakdown of cartilage and decrease the risk of joint space narrowing.

While absorbing 20 minutes of sunlight before applying sunscreen is your best source of vitamin D, you can also enjoy these vitamin D–rich foods:

  • Seafood, such as wild-caught salmon, cod, sardines, and shrimp
  • Fortified milk (dairy and plant-based)
  • Eggs

Also, look for foods fortified with vitamin D and calcium, such as:

  • Orange juice
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Tofu
  • Yogurt

Beta Carotene

This powerful antioxidant helps destroy free radicals before they can cause excessive damage to joints. Beta carotene is what gives fruits and vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, their bright colour.

Try to include any two portions of the following each day:

  • Cruciferous vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts
  • Greens, such as romaine lettuce and spinach
  • Sweet potatoes, butternut squash and carrots
  • Herbs, such as parsley or mint
  • Fruit, such as apricots, peaches and nectarines
  • Tomatoes


The healthiest fats for people with OA are omega-3 fatty acids. While some foods increase levels of inflammation in the body, omega-3s actually work to decrease it by suppressing the production of cytokines and enzymes that break down cartilage.

Foods with the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acids include:

  • Salmon, either wild, fresh or canned
  • Herring
  • Mackerel, but not king mackerel
  • Sardines
  • Anchovies
  • Rainbow trout

You can also enjoy:

  • Omega-3-fortified eggs
  • Ground flax seed and flaxseed oil
  • Walnuts and sesame seeds
  • Krill oil


These are plant-based chemicals with health-giving properties. Examples include quercetin and anthocyanidins, which are both antioxidants. They also have anti-inflammatory effects.

Dietary sources include:

  • Onions
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Blueberries
  • Blackcurrants
  • Cocoa powder
  • Green tea
  • Apricots
  • Apples with the skin


Some spices have anti-inflammatory effects, too. Among the most promising are ginger and turmeric. Grate fresh ginger into stir-fries or salad dressings, or sip ginger tea.

Turmeric is a mustard-yellow spice from Asia that’s the main ingredient in curry. A study cited in the journal Alternative Medicine Review has shown that curcumin may help osteoarthritis by suppressing inflammatory body chemicals. Curcumin is a major active component of turmeric. It is best paired with black pepper to increase the benefits.

Weight Loss Tips

If you are carrying extra weight, then reducing your weight can help relieve osteoarthritis by reducing the production of proteins associated with swelling and by simply putting less pressure on your joints.

These steps can help you along your weight loss journey:

1. Be accountable - it may be that you share your weight loss journey with a friend, loved one or an online community. Time and time again studies show that those who feel accountable to others do better in achieving their goals.

2. Work with a reputable expert such as a BANT-registered nutritional therapist. These experts can design a weight loss plan to suit your personal needs.

3. Be prepared - budgeting for slightly different foods is important. This is a time to prioritise investing in your health.

4. Get planning - have the necessary materials for meal planning. There are a range of tools, both online and offline, to help you meal plan effectively.

5. Be resilient - there will be some ups and downs so don’t beat yourself up for gaining a little weight or not losing as much as you thought you would. This is a slow-burn process. If it happens too quickly, it won’t be sustainable.

6. Congratulate yourself when you reach your mini-goals at each stage in your weight loss journey.

Visit the Lunchbox Doctor website for more nutritional advice.

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