Be it due to old age, sport-related injury, or genes, joint pain has plagued millions of otherwise healthy people. While there is no foolproof way to prevent these conditions, there are ways to improve its overall health and promote rebuilding. This includes good exercise, a healthy lifestyle, and a well-balanced diet.
Below is a comprehensive list of foods you may want to take for their properties that promote joint health and rebuild cartilage.
What is a Joint and a Cartilage?
Try to move your body. The structures that enable movement and provide cushion and lubrication between two or more bones are called joints. Examples of these are your knee and elbow joints. Cartilage is a connective tissue that reduces friction in a joint by lining the bones.
Joint wear and tear naturally happen as people age. Joint damage can also occur in physically active individuals. In both cases, the cartilage that lines the bones thin out and which may cause pain and friction. This is especially true in weight-bearing joints such as knees.
Below are foods that are recommended to help strengthen joints and build new cartilage.
Grains, Nuts, and Seeds
Most nuts and seeds like almonds and walnuts are good sources of protein. Aside from this, they also contain manganese, which helps glucosamine work more efficiently. Chia seeds are rich in magnesium and calcium, both of which are known to promote healthy bones. Magnesium is also vital in cartilage maintenance and helps support muscle and nerve function and heart rhythm.
Sesame seeds and Brazil nuts are excellent sources of magnesium, which are essential in better absorption of hyaluronic acid. Pomegranate seeds contain flavonol, which has anti-inflammatory properties that may help protect cartilage from damage.
Brown rice is packed with hyaluronic acid, an essential substance for joint lubrication. Whole grains such as oatmeals have also been found to be good in counteracting inflammation.
Vitamins C is important for cellular healing and collagen formation. Collagen is a protein that is an important component of connective tissues such as muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints. Many fruits, such as oranges, guava, pineapple, lemon, and strawberries, contain high amounts of vitamin C.
Blueberries, strawberries, oranges, and cherries contain a lot of polyphenols. These are protective compounds that are found in plants that act as natural pain killers for joint pains. Aside from this, berries such as blueberries and strawberries contain anthocyanins, which act are anti-inflammatory compounds. Cherries also contain compounds that help with inflammation and was found to help reduce gout flareups.1
Aside from its anti-inflammatory properties and being an antioxidant, research2 has found that pomegranate extract has a protective effect that inhibits osteoarthritis. Apples are also a good source of antioxidants and contain quercetin, a natural antihistamine that helps build collagen. Papayas and pineapples contain similar enzymes that are anti-inflammatory and helps in pain reduction.
Bananas and avocadoes are rich in potassium, which have been noted to lessen arthritic pain3. Avocadoes are also famous for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. A study even found anti-inflammatory and vascular health benefits when it is eaten with hamburgers4.
Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout, herring, and anchovies are good protein sources. They are full of omega-3 fatty acids, specifically, the long-chain EPA and DHA, proven by studies5 to counter symptoms of osteoarthritis and have anti-inflammatory properties.
Aside from this, sardines, salmon, tuna, and mackerel also contain Vitamin D, which is necessary for calcium absorption and bone growth. Cook these using gentle methods such as poaching or baking to preserve their oils.
Most dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, collards, parsley, and spring greens, contain vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, and beta-carotene. They also have high levels of folate and B12, which help slow down cartilage deterioration.
Other greens like collard greens, okra, and broccoli are good sources of calcium. Carrots, sweet potato, and spinach contain vitamin A.
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and brussel sprouts, have a compound named sulforaphane, which protects joints from damage by reducing substances in your body (cytokines) that cause inflammation. Brussel sprouts also contain high amounts of vitamin K, which is essential for joint and bone health.
Legumes such as peanuts, peas, and beans are rich in lysine, an amino acid essential in cartilage regeneration. They are also rich in manganese. Legumes also help replenish collagen, which is critical in cartilage building.
Other vegetables such as leeks, onions, and garlic contain compounds that are both pain-fighting and anti-inflammatory. Onions, especially the red variants, contain a compound called quercetin, which is anti-inflammatory. Also, garlic contains the compound allicin, which was found to relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
Spices such as turmeric, red bell pepper, red pepper, cinnamon, cayenne, and rosemary contain anti-inflammatory properties. Red bell peppers teem with vitamin C, which was already mentioned to be essential for forming collagen, a crucial component in joints. Red bell peppers contain vitamins A, C, and K and phytonutrients, which act as antioxidants.
Drinking plenty of water not only helps flush out toxins. Patients with osteoarthritis will benefit from drinking more water since drinking water before meals promote weight loss. Also, water intake keeps joints lubricated.
Milk was also found to be beneficial. A study done in Boston found that drinking low-fat milk helped delay knee osteoarthritis progression in women6.
Generally, teas such as oolong and black teas contain antioxidants. Green tea has compounds like polyphenols and catechins, which prevents collagen and cartilage breakdown. Also, wine contains a compound called resveratrol, a type of polyphenol, which has anti-inflammatory properties.
Commonly used oils such as coconut oil and olive oils contain rich essential oils that help battle inflammation and pain. Aside from its anti-inflammatory properties, olive oils contain omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin K. Coconut oil helps hydrate tissues and protect against viruses and bacteria.
Supplementing activity and lifestyle change with a well-balanced diet is key to improving joint health. Aside from taking over the counter supplements, which may be costly, foods rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties can also be found in daily staples such as grains, fruits, and vegetables.