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Best Foods and Drinks for Osteoarthritis Diet

14th June 2021

Here is a list of the must-have foods and drinks for an Osteoarthritis diet, backed by science as usual.

As we explored in our previous article by Nutritional Therapist Tanya Clarke, a healthy diet is crucial if you are battling osteoarthritis. Not only does it help to alleviate the symptoms, such as inflammation, but it also prevents you from damaging your foot and knee further (e.g., because of added pressure from gaining weight). With a pile of information online, it can be challenging to decide what to include exactly in your OA diet. Here is a recap of the most beneficial foods for osteoarthritis.

Fish

Sardines by rockyeda, Original Source

Thanks to their anti-inflammatory properties, omega-3 fatty acids inhibit the activity of enzymes that break down your cartilage. A cross-sectional study revealed that the patients with a higher Omega-3 consumption experienced improved joint functionality and greater pain relief [1].

When it comes to Omega-3, many experts emphasize the benefits of oily fish. The ones with high omega-3 content include salmon, sardines, mackerel, anchovies, herring, and tuna. Experts recommend that you eat 85-115 kg fish per week.

On a side note, if you don’t like fish, you can also use flaxseed oil, chia seeds, and walnut for your Omega-3 intake.

Low-fat dairy

Improving your muscle and bone strength is very important during OA treatment. In particular, dairy products like milk, cheese, and yoghurt contain large amounts of calcium essential in bone hardness and skeletal integrity. They are also rich in Vitamin-D, which enhances calcium absorption in the guts. That’s why you should consider including dairy products in your diet.

Since managing your weight is also essential, you should always opt for low-fat or fat-free options.

Green Leafy Vegetables

Besides Vitamin D, Vitamin K also plays a huge role in the mineralisation of cartilage and bone marrow. Without sufficient Vitamin K, the body can activate proteins that limit calcification in the bone. Indeed, Vitamin K deficiency has been strongly associated with osteoarthritis in the knee and the hand [2].

One way to ensure sufficient Vitamin K intake is to consume green leafy vegetables. These include but are not limited to spinach, kale, Swiss chard, lettuce, parsley, and Brussels sprouts.

These vegetables are rich in Vitamin C, so they also contribute to collagen production, the building blocks of your bones and muscles.

Broccoli

Fresh Broccoli by liz west, Original Source

Broccoli, packed with various vitamins and antioxidants, is one of the top remedies for an OA diet.

Broccoli stands out for its exceptionally high sulforaphane content. A growing body of evidence demonstrated the role of sulforaphane in reducing and reversing cartilage destruction. According to these studies, it reduced the expression of enzymes that degrade the cartilage extracellular matrix (EM) [3][4].

Broccoli is also rich in quercetin, another antioxidant involved in the treatment of OA inflammation. The anti-inflammatory effects of quercetin were illustrated in an animal study, where its treatment reduced the oxidative stress and destruction of the cartilage EM in rabbit models [5].

Last but not least, broccoli is abundant in vitamin K and vitamin C, vital components for skeletal health.

Spices

The anti-inflammatory properties of spices made them promising candidates for osteoarthritis research. In a recent clinical trial, extracts from turmeric, ginger, and black pepper showed pain-relieving effects in OA similar to Naproxen [6].

Turmeric is particularly recommended by experts, as studies proved the role of curcumin - its main component - in suppressing inflammation, boosting collagen production, and maintaining cartilage balance.

While thorough research is necessary to understand how these spices benefit the cartilage, adding them to your meals and beverages, such as curries and smoothies, can help overcome joint-pain and inflammation.

Green Tea

Speaking of beverages, dieticians highly recommend adding green tea to an OA diet because of its diverse polyphenol profile. Polyphenols are organic compounds in plants that possess potential antioxidant features.

Research suggests that one particular polyphenol in green tea called Epigallocatechin 3-gallate (EGCG) could improve joint function, reduce pain, and slow osteoarthritis progression [7].

Dark Berries

Dark berries like cherries, blueberry, blackberry, and raspberry are known for preventing gout attacks. Feet and knee gouts result from the accumulation of crystallised uric acid in joints, which causes inflammation.

Several clinical studies and surveys found that dark berries potentially reduced excess uric acid in the body. Besides, cherries also demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties in OA by decreasing the activity of inflammation-causing C-reactive proteins [8].

The key player is the antioxidant pigment anthocyanin, responsible for the dark red or purple colors of these fruits. Among dark berries, tart cherries have the highest anthocyanin content, especially Montmorency and Balaton, rather than sweeter cherries like Bing.

[1] Sibille, Kimberly T et al. “Omega-6: Omega-3 PUFA Ratio, Pain, Functioning, and Distress in Adults With Knee Pain.” The Clinical journal of pain vol. 34,2 (2018): 182-189. doi:10.1097/AJP.0000000000000517

[2] Misra, Devyani, et al. "Vitamin K deficiency is associated with incident knee osteoarthritis." The American journal of medicine 126.3 (2013): 243-248.

[3] Davidson, Rose K., et al. "Sulforaphane represses matrix‐degrading proteases and protects cartilage from destruction in vitro and in vivo." Arthritis & Rheumatism 65.12 (2013): 3130-3140.

[4] Javaheri, Behzad, et al. "Stable sulforaphane protects against gait anomalies and modifies bone microarchitecture in the spontaneous STR/Ort model of osteoarthritis." Bone 103 (2017): 308-317.

[5] Wei, Bing, et al. "Protective effects of quercetin against inflammation and oxidative stress in a rabbit model of knee osteoarthritis." Drug development research 80.3 (2019): 360-367.

[6] Heidari‐Beni, Motahar, et al. "Herbal formulation “turmeric extract, black pepper, and ginger” versus Naproxen for chronic knee osteoarthritis: A randomized, double‐blind, controlled clinical trial." Phytotherapy Research 34.8 (2020): 2067-2073.

[7] Leong, Daniel J., et al. "Green tea polyphenol treatment is chondroprotective, anti-inflammatory and palliative in a mouse posttraumatic osteoarthritis model." Arthritis research & therapy 16.6 (2014): 1-11.

[8] Schumacher, H. R., et al. "Randomized double-blind crossover study of the efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in treatment of osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee." Osteoarthritis and cartilage 21.8 (2013): 1035-1041.

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