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While physical therapy and medications are important for treating and managing osteoarthritis, the right diet is also needed. This is because certain foods will feed your muscles and bones and keep them strong, so that they can better support your joints and decrease their continued wear and tear. This can also mean less pain and trauma when you move the joints; in turn, they can rest and heal more easily. In addition keeping a healthy diet can aid in weight loss goals or maintenance; a healthy weight will put less stress on your joints.
Foods can help to add moisture and hydration to your system, which will keep those stiff and painful joints supple. Other foods have anti-inflammatory properties, to help tone down that inflammation and soreness around the joints.
Because blood brings with it healing oxygen and helpful vitamins, trace minerals, amino acids, and other nutrients, you want to encourage healthy blood circulation when you have osteoarthritis. Certain foods help to feed and nourish your blood cells and also help your body to produce new red blood cells. Foods that build your immune system will also help your body to stay healthier overall so that your muscles and joints won’t become weakened because of not being rebuilt and repaired as they should. Incorporating all of these food types in your diet is needed to help manage your osteoarthritis and its symptoms.
Fish are full of healthy omega-3 fatty acids that help to lubricate, hydrate, and moisturize swollen and stiff joints. These omega-3 fatty acids also work as an antioxidant, helping to destroy free radicals, or bothersome agents that break down healthy tissue in the body.
The types of fish with the most omega-3 fatty acids include tuna, salmon, and mackerel. It’s usually recommended that you have a 3-4 ounce serving of these types of fish at least three or four times per week when you have osteoarthritis.
Soy has many of the same omega-3 fatty acids that you find in fish, so if you’re not a fan of fish, you can enjoy soy products and get the same benefits. Tofu, made from soybeans, can be used in stir-fry dishes or in soups and stews to give them bulk. You can also switch to soy milk and other dairy products. Plain soybeans can also be cooked and then served as a side dish, just as you would cook and prepare any other bean dish.
If you want to lubricate, nourish, and hydrate your joints, you’ll need oils in your system. This doesn’t mean saturated fats that don’t break down in your digestive system and which get absorbed into your bloodstream and clog your arteries, but light and healthy oils that are easier to digest. Saturated fats include butter and any fat made from dairy products, as well as vegetable oil and coconut oil. Healthy fats that are easy for your body to absorb and which help to hydrate your aching joints include olive oil, safflower oil and sunflower oil.
To include more of these healthy fats in your diet without packing on the pounds, use them sparingly but in place of other fats. For example, you might have olive oil and vinegar as a salad dressing rather than a high-fat, bottled salad dressing. Try dipping your bread into olive oil rather than buttering it at dinnertime, or toss steamed vegetables with olive oil versus adding your standard pat of butter.
Healthy fats can be found in avocados; you can use avocado oil for cooking and for salad dressings as well. Avocados are also very versatile for your everyday eating; make some homemade guacamole as a dip to serve with vegetables or your favorite Mexican dish, or even as a simple side dish to tone down very spicy foods. Avocado slices go great on sandwiches and salads, or can just be eaten on their own.
The oils and fats from nuts are also very healthy, when eaten in moderation. A handful of peanuts or cashews makes for a high-protein snack with healthy fats and oils, and you might also try noshing on walnuts between meals. You can also add nuts of all varieties to a stir-fry dish or to salads for some crunch; mix them into your batter when making cakes, cookies, breads, and muffins, or add some walnuts to your pancake batter for a crunchy taste and texture.
Berries of all varieties are known for their antioxidant properties, helping to bolster your immune system by fighting off damaging free radicals. Each of the colors of different berries are created by different combinations of the vitamins and trace minerals that make up those antioxidants, so for maximum benefit, have a variety of berries. You can mix them into a smoothie for a nice dessert, or add them to baked goods. They make a great dessert on their own, with just a dollop of whipped cream. You can also create your own flavored water by blending your favorite berries with filtered water; it’s much cheaper than buying bottled water, and you can then control the taste.
Raw berries are also a great choice for adding to a variety of dishes, including your morning cereal or oatmeal. Strawberries in a salad can add a nice, sweet taste, and people in some countries actually sweeten their coffee and tea by stirring in fresh blackberries! Along with berries, check out cherries, as these also have a very high concentration of antioxidants. Add them to water or to sweeten your tea, or add a handful to some ice cream for a fresh and cool dessert.
Vitamin D is needed by your body to strengthen your immune system, which can then help your joints to repair and restore themselves. Vitamin D is made by your body when your skin absorbs sunlight, so it can be difficult to get enough of this vitamin during the wintertime, if you’re sensitive to the sun, or if you just don’t get out much during the day. This is why it’s good to look for foods that are fortified with vitamin D, including skim milk and bread.
To build strong bones that will support your damaged joints, you need calcium. You may think that you only get calcium from dairy products, but this isn’t the case; broccoli actually has a high concentration of calcium. This is good for those who are lactose intolerant or trying to watch their weight.
Broccoli is also full of healthy fiber that helps to break down other foods in the body so that you can better absorb their vitamins, trace minerals, and amino acids. This fiber also makes you feel full so you’re less likely to overeat and can more easily stay at a healthy weight; in turn, you avoid the risk of putting added stress on your joints by carrying around extra pounds.
Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that can help keep your arthritis symptoms stay under control. Ginger tea is one of the best ways to get fresh ginger without the sugar that’s added to make gingersnaps or gingerbread. You can also add fresh ginger to your cooking and food prep. To satisfy a sweet tooth, blend pineapple and banana along with some spinach and a generous touch of ginger, along with ice, for a refreshing smoothie. Try ginger in soups and stews and on fish for a nice kick that is also very healthy.
Green tea also has anti-inflammatory properties that can help keep your arthritis symptoms manageable. If you don’t enjoy plain green tea, add some fresh lemon juice, a dollop of honey, or some fruit juice to cut the flavor and still enjoy its health benefits.
Lobster is very high in concentrations of vitamin E, which lubricate and hydrate those stiff and aching joints. Live lobsters are difficult to cook and fresh lobster can be expensive, so look for frozen lobster and add just a small bit to a salad rather than trying to work a full lobster dinner into your budget! Toss lobster with some olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon if the taste is a bit bland for you.
Peanut butter has a high amount of vitamin B3, which can help improve flexibility and reduce inflammation in arthritis patients. The natural oils from peanuts can also help lubricate and hydrate those joints. If you don’t want a plain peanut butter and jelly sandwich, you can add a dollop of peanut butter to carrots or celery for a nice snack, or top your morning toast with it. You might also smear a bit on slices of apple for a lower-calorie treat than caramel apples.
Vitamin C is needed to build a strong immune system. This will ensure your body is strong enough to rebuild the damaged cartilage in your joints that are affected by osteoarthritis, and may mean less risk of suffering more damage to those joints. Oranges may have the highest concentration of vitamin C, but all citrus fruits will be helpful.
If orange juice itself is a bit tart, add it to some ginger ale to sweeten its flavor and tone down the tartness. Make up your own fruit juice by blending filtered water with freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, kiwi, oranges, lemons, limes, and whatever other citrus fruits you love. You might also add some oranges to a salad for a sweet taste, or have some citrus fruit chunks with a bit of whipped cream for a light and healthy dessert.
Bananas are very high in magnesium and potassium, both of which are important for muscle and bone health. Bananas are good on their own but you can also add them to your morning oatmeal or cereal, mash them up for bread or muffins, or add some slices to your pancake or waffle batter. They also make a great ingredient for protein shakes and smoothies, giving them a bit of sweetness along with those vital amino acids.
Beans of all varieties are full of fiber and healthy protein, both of which are needed for healthy muscles and bones that will support your joints. These both also make you feel full for a long time, so you can better control your eating and your overall weight when you fill up on high-fiber, low calorie beans. Make some homemade chili with a variety of red and black beans, or try black bean soup. Black beans also make a great side dish for any meal, or you can add some shredded cheese and sour cream to a bowl of plain black beans for a hot and hearty substitute to soups and stews.
There are certain compounds in garlic and leeks that may stop cartilage-destroying compounds in the human body. Garlic and leeks can also help your digestive system, so you have less bloating and fatigue and can exercise and follow your physical therapy regimen more easily. If garlic and leeks are a bit overpowering for you, add them in small amounts to meat dishes or tomato sauces, or use garlic or onion powder rather than fresh bulbs, as the flavor will be milder.