Eating Right For Your Arthritis: Which foods may ease your symptoms?

Unfortunately there is no diet which can completely control the symptoms of arthritis or halt its progression. However, a healthy, well balanced diet is not only vital for our health and well-being, it will also give our bodies the best chance of possibly reducing some of the symptoms associated with arthritis.

But what is a healthy diet? And what foods may help to alleviate the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis?

A Healthy Diet

There is an overwhelming amount of information available regarding what makes up a healthy diet. In Australia, the Australian Dietary Guidelines have been developed to help us understand what makes up a healthy diet.

The Australian Dietary Guidelines

There are five key food groups within the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

In addition to these key food groups, the Guidelines also promote five principal recommendations for healthy eating.  These include (click here to read the Guidelines in full):

  1. To achieve and maintain a healthy weight, be physically active and choose amounts of nutritious foods and drinks to meet your energy needs.
  2. Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from the five key food groups.
  3. Limit intake of foods containing saturated fat, added salt, added sugars and alcohol.
  4. Encourage, support and promote breastfeeding.
  5. Care for your food; prepare and store it safely.

Cholesterol, the good and the bad

Cholesterol is a type of fat that travels around in our blood. Most of the cholesterol in our body is produced in the liver, with the rest coming from the fats we eat. Cholesterol plays many important roles in our body, it helps structure cells and is needed to produce some of our body’s hormones. However, not all cholesterol is good, and too much cholesterol in our blood can lead to health issues.

Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is often referred to as ‘bad cholesterol’.  LDLs are large cholesterol particles that the body often struggles to break down. LDLs often lodge themselves in our blood vessels causing vessel blockages, hardening and breakages. This in turn can lead to numerous cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack and stroke.

High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is commonly referred to as 'good cholesterol'. HDL particles are small and travel around the body picking up LDLs and taking them back to the liver where they’re processed and removed from the body.

Facts and fats

Not all fats are bad. In fact, some fats can be beneficial for your health and may even help reduce inflammation. The different types of fat also contain varying levels of HDL and LDL cholesterol.

Polyunsaturated fats: these fats are high in HDL cholesterol and are vital sources of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to be of benefit to those with rheumatoid arthritis. It is these fatty acids which may assist in reducing inflammation and have been shown to reduce some inflammatory markers in the blood.

Monounsaturated fats: are high in HDL cholesterol and are a good source of Vitamin E. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that may help assist your body’s immune system. 

Saturated Fats : are normally quite high in LDL cholesterol. Saturated fats are those that occur naturally in many foods and are commonly found in animal products, such as meat and dairy.

Trans Fats: high in LDL cholesterol, these fats can occur both naturally and artificially. Naturally occurring Trans fats are usually found in the gut of the animal, whilst artificial trans fats are created by industrial processes and are found in many processed foods.

Both Saturated fats and Trans fats are associated with increased levels of heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

Inflammatory Forms of Arthritis

Research suggests that incorporating foods which are high in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and fibre may help to alleviate some of the symptoms associated with inflammatory forms of arthritis. These foods commonly form part of a Mediterranean-style diet of fish, olive oil, fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds and beans. This diet has been analyzed in small studies for its impact on RA symptoms. Results showed some improvements in pain, morning stiffness, disease activity and physical function.

Osteoarthritis

Having a balanced, nutritious diet is an important part of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. That's good news for your joints.

Experts have long known that milk is good for bones, but its effect on joints was less clear. A study reported in Arthritis Care & Research in 2015 showed that women with knee OA who drank milk regularly had less OA progression than those who didn’t. But high cheese consumption appeared to make OA worse.

An earlier study published in Arthritis & Rheumatism in 2013, revealed that a compound called sulforaphane, found in Brussels sprouts and cabbage but especially in broccoli, could be key in slowing the progress of OA and the destruction of joint cartilage.

A 2010 study in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders reported that people who regularly eat foods from the alium family – like garlic, onions and leeks, showed fewer signs of early OA. Researchers think the compound diallyl disulphine found in these foods may limit cartilage-damaging enzymes in human cells – making it a great choice if you have OA.

By Michele Andwele - Eat Right for Your Type of Arthritis

Learn about the foods that may help ease pain and inflammation and slow disease activity.

https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/your-heart/know-your-risks/blood-cholesterol

https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/healthy-eating/food-and-nutrition/fats-and-cholesterol/saturated-and-trans-fat

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