Foods for joint health help strengthen your bones, so you can live and move in a way that makes you happiest. Prevent letting an unhealthy diet, illness, injury, or your age take joint health away from you by giving these foods a try!
Foods for Joint Health for Sturdier Bones
The Causes of Joint Pain
Joints are nature’s hinges. They let us bend, twist, and move in all the intricate ways that make our lives enjoyable, from rock climbing to dancing.
Unfortunately, when the joints are damaged due to an illness or injury, each movement is filled with pain. This discomfort and restriction of the joints can be caused by many things, including strains, sprains, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis, gout, and other injuries.
Joint or arthritis pain is a hidden epidemic, affecting one-third of all adults, and the immobility and aches only get worse as we age. This is why we need to consume foods for joint health and stronger bones.
Non-Food Tips to Improve Joint Health
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to keep joint or knee pain, inflammation, and arthritis at bay. Our weight and activity levels play large roles in our joint health.
1. Lose Weight If You’re Overweight
If you’re overweight, that extra baggage compresses the joints and can do heavy damage to the cartilage while limiting your ability to keep the joints lubricated. Work on losing any extra pounds if you want to have healthier joints, especially in the knees and back.
When moving results in pain, it’s easy to stop being active, but that decision only makes things worse. Those who are even moderately active have better joints than those who are less active.
Joints require movement to be healthy. Disuse causes the joints to stiffen and the tissues attached to them to weaken.
That means muscles, tendons, and ligaments deteriorate as we allow the pain to keep us from moving. Low-impact exercise is a good way to keep your joints moving, strong, and well-maintained.
Focus on exercises like walking, cycling, swimming, and yoga to ease your pain, keep your tissues strong, and lubricate those joints.
(Note: Finding exercises for your arthritis can be rough. Join Sunwarrior's Fitness Challenge for specific workout and meal plans. )
2. Get Some Sun
A few minutes of sunlight a day supplies you with all the Vitamin D you need. This vitamin aids your body in absorbing calcium, which plays an important role in overall bone health.
Vitamin D is also essential for fighting inflammation, communication between nerves, and muscle movement. One study revealed that the lack of Vitamin D is common in people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
One major issue of not having enough supply of this vitamin is osteoporosis or having weak and brittle bones. This condition can increase your risk of bone pain and fractures as you age.
Vitamin D also lowers the risk of developing arthritis and many other diseases including obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Take a walk outside as much as you can to get the maximum benefits of this vitamin.
3. Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated is another way to reduce the risk of injury and keep the joints well-lubricated. The amount of water you drink can significantly affect your joint health.
When your joints hurt because of the flu, gout, arthritis, or chronic dehydration. Increasing water intake may not treat painful joints directly, but it can assist your body in handling the underlying causes of the pain.
Aside from lubricating your joints, water can help your body maintain good blood volume so that nutrients flow through your blood to your joints. Drinking water also helps waste materials move out of your bones and joints.
Drink plenty of clean water, at least 8 glasses a day, and eat fresh fruits. There are also many foods for joint health that can ease pain, reduce inflammation, and increase your mobility.
Good Foods for Joint Health
1. Garlic, Leeks, and Onions
These are all related to one another and contain a powerful sulfur compound that fights inflammation and pain. These foods for joint health help flavor food so we can use less sodium.
High levels of sodium intake have been linked to arthritis as well as high blood pressure.
Apples contain quercetin, which helps build collagen, a main component of cartilage. They are a crisp, delicious way to keep the skin, cartilage, and bones young and healthy.
These nuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin E, and manganese. Omega-3 reduces inflammation.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects the body from damage. Manganese helps glucosamine work quicker and more effectively as it repairs the joints.
The seeds of this quick-growing plant are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and essential amino acids the body needs to repair muscles, ligaments, tendons, and cartilage.
5. Purslane, Sacha Inchi, and Pineapple
Purslane is considered a weed by most people, but it is one of the best plant sources of omega-3 you can find. Purslane grows easily and can be found in many ethnic grocery stores.
Sacha inchi oil is another good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapple, has anti-inflammatory effects and helps reduce pain. It’s great for sprains, bruises, and cuts, too.
This fruit is rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and enzymes similar to pineapple.
Vitamin C reduces the likelihood of developing arthritis, and Vitamin A acts as another antioxidant to reduce damage.
7. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The first pressings of the olive fruit are the richest in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids to reduce inflammation and pain.
8. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is rich in essential oils that reduce inflammation, and pain, hydrate tissues, and protect against viruses, bacteria, and fungi that cause damage to your body. It can be used both internally and topically.
9. Red Bell Pepper
All peppers are rich in Vitamin C, but the red bell pepper is one of the best. It also contains plenty of Vitamins A and K along with phytonutrients that act as antioxidants.
Vitamin C is known to reduce pain. Red bell peppers also have a touch of capsaicin, a chili pepper compound, which depletes pain compounds in nerve cells.
These fiber-rich fruits are great for weight loss, leaving you feeling fuller longer. These natural foods for joint health are also a great source of potassium.
Potassium has been linked to joint health, and a deficiency can result in arthritis.
This mild fruit is often added to savory foods or used in guacamole but is also full of powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Avocado is also another good source of potassium and omega fatty acids.
This spice, commonly used in curry, has a secret. Curcumin, the component that gives this spice its bright yellow color, is a potent anti-inflammatory being studied for its ability to combat heart disease, arthritis, and cancer.
Ginger is related to turmeric and carries many of the same anti-inflammatory and pain-fighting properties. It is often used for nausea, but ginger can do so much more.
These greens are rich in Vitamin C and manganese for pain management and tissue repair. They also contain copper that helps build collagen for cartilage and ligaments.
Most fresh fruits and leafy greens help ease joint pain. They supply water to keep joints and muscles hydrated.
They are also full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Most of the benefits of these natural anti-inflammatory foods are only available when we eat them raw.
This keeps the antioxidants and enzymes intact so our bodies can put them to use.
Supplements for Healthy Joints
Your joints are made up of types 1 and 2 collagen. Type 1 collagen is the most abundant and makes up the bones, tendons, ligaments, skin, and arteries.
Type 2 is constructed from chondrocytes, a liquid-like filling in your cartilage.
An important thing to note is you can’t simply take a collagen supplement and expect your joints to heal. Collagen is worthless without the presence of Vitamin C in your body.
That’s why you should always eat plenty of fruits and vegetables in your plant-based diet.
Collagen itself is difficult for the body to absorb and digest, plus it is derived from the bones, hooves, and hides of animals.
That's why we created a Plant-Based Collagen Builder that has all the amino acids, protein peptides, and essential vitamins to help your body create and absorb collagen.
Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential part of cell membranes throughout your body and affect the functionality of your cell receptors. Omega fatty acids help protect the joints by reducing inflammation.
Not only do healthy omegas help your joints, but they also help with eye and heart health, depression, anxiety, and improve brain and heart function.
We now offer a Vegan Omega-3 supplement with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) from algae. They also contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), chlorophyll, and polar lipids, which transport the essential fatty acids to the intestinal walls and bloodstream.
DHA Definition: An omega-3 fatty acid and a component of the tissues of the brain. It can positively affect brain neurotransmitters that can help brain cells communicate with each other.
EPA Definition: An omega-3 fatty acid commonly found in coldwater fish, such as tuna and salmon. It is used for many fish oil supplements, along with DHA, to help prevent heart disease.
ALA Definition: An omega-3 fatty acid needed for human development and growth.
We skipped the krill and fish and have gone straight to a sustainable source of algae, grown in salt water in the desert, so we don't harm our oceans.
Here’s why algae is the better choice for getting omega-3 DHA + EPA over fish and krill oil:
- Algae contain the same DHA and EPA that fish does.
- Algae are the original source of omega-3 DHA and EPA.
- Algae don’t contain any heavy metals or toxins that fish have from pollutants.
- Algae are a more environmentally-friendly choice.
- Eating algae doesn’t wreck the ocean’s ecosystem because it can be harvested from ponds.
- Fish isn’t heart-healthy contrary to some studies.
- More doctors are recommending algae over fish for essential omega-3 fatty acids.
- Algae contain other nutrients besides omega-3 that support vision, brain, and joint health.
Foods to Avoid for Joint Health
There are also many things you should avoid to keep your joints in tip-top shape. Keep an eye out for foods that slow you down and limit your movement.
1. Red Meat
Too much protein (especially the more acidic animal proteins) is actually bad for you and can deal damage to the joints. There are certain cuts of red meat that possess high amounts of saturated fat that can worsen inflammation in the body.
Red meat also has omega-6 fatty acids that may contribute to inflammation if there is high intake. Stick to plant foods as much as possible for your protein intake, such as the following:
- Beet greens
- Turnip greens
- Lima beans
- Mung beans
- Broccoli raab
- Brussels sprouts
- Green peas
- Yellow sweet corn
Dairy is a known allergen that causes inflammation and arthritis symptoms. Many people have cured arthritis by simply cutting dairy products from their well-balanced diet.
This stimulating ingredient dehydrates you and pulls minerals from the body, including calcium which is important for bone health. A cup of your morning coffee can give you a significant amount of caffeine (around 100 mg).
It's the same amount you may also get from consuming many types of energy drinks.
If you want to quit drinking coffee, for example, to help improve joint health, you can slowly reduce your morning coffee to a half cup until you can start your day without it.
Caffeine has also been linked to joint pain.
4. Trans Fats
These processed vegetable fats are much more damaging than saturated fats. They cause weight gain and inflammation and carry free radicals that harm cellular structures and DNA.
They have been linked to cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
Another allergen, soy can cause inflammation and other problems. Chia seeds, flax, and hempseed are better sources of quality protein and essential fats.
6. Processed Foods
In general, processed foods are full of sodium, sugar, trans fats, and cell-damaging free radicals. They also contain chemicals like phthalates, bisphenol A (BPA), and synthetics linked to cancers, excessive weight gain, behavioral changes, and many other diseases.
Prolonged use of processed foods increases the sensitivity of the body to allergens and chemicals, resulting in auto-immune responses and chronic inflammation.
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Consuming foods for joint health and avoiding those that may worsen joint pain and inflammation are the best ways to improve the health of your joints and your bones, in general. It’s only a matter of making changes to your lifestyle to make sure you’re caring for your joints and bones properly.
Read more tips on joint health!
What other foods for joint health do you like eating? Tell us in the comments section below.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on June 30, 2018, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.