It's the most common cause of disability in the U.S., and shoppers could use a little guidance from their supermarkets in finding the right foods to fight the aches and pains of arthritis.
Arthritis, an inflammation of the joints, affects nearly 350 million people worldwide. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is the most common cause for disability in the United States limiting the activities of nearly 21 million adults across the nation. It can be caused by a variety of things including autoimmune disease, overuse or wear and tear, a broken bone or an infection.
Low protein diets high in complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables are advised, along with foods that are known to decrease inflammation. For some, avoiding dairy and wheat also helps, in conjunction with exercise that does not stress the joints. Weight loss, for some, is also important, as reducing the weight carried on the joint relieves pressure and allows an increase of blood to the area bringing healing relief.
Those who suffer from arthritis are familiar with the pains, cracks and pops that define the condition, but small dietary changes can yield big rewards in managing the disease. Food can’t cure the condition, but it can sure help with pain management and more.
In the supermarket, there are many nutrients readily found in some of our favorite foods that have been studied to successfully decrease the markers of inflammation. First up, omega-3 fatty acids which can be found in fatty fish, such as salmon, sardines, and cod, walnuts, flaxseeds, chia and hemp seeds as well as soybeans, brussel sprouts, and cabbage. Omega-3s help decrease the production of inflammatory chemicals and help inhibit enzymes that act as a trigger. At least one gram of omega-3s a day is necessary. (4oz salmon has 1.5 grams, ¼ cup walnuts has 2.27 grams, 2tbs flaxseeds 3.5 grams.)
Other potential anti-artiritic nutrients include vitamins C and D, folic acid, quercetin and lycopene. Vitamin C is found in most fruit and vegetables and helps to build collagen a major component of cartilage. Vitamin D can be obtained through exposure to sunlight, fortified milk, or naturally in sardines and butter. Folic acid is found in spinach, asparagus, lentils, fortified breads and more. Quercetin found in onions and leeks is an antioxidant that may inhibit inflammatory chemicals, much like ibuprofen. Lycopene is found in tomatoes, watermelon and guavas. Acai and pomegranate are also being studied for their anti-inflammatory effects.
Oleocanthal found in olive oil is also known to fight inflammation. About three tablespoons of extra virgin has been found to act like one-tenth of a dose of ibuprofen; sure it’s small but making a few small changes in your diet can make big changes to the way you feel. Tart cherries have also been studied for their pain relieving properties.
Eating to combat arthritis includes choosing from a variety of fresh (or frozen) fruits and vegetables, fatty fish, limited lean meat (preferably grass fed), whole grains and legumes and keeping processed foods and sweet foods to a minimum. Experimenting with fresh herbs and spices can also boost anti-inflammatory response and make food more tasty and delicious.
With so many Americans suffering from this disease, supermarkets have a great opportunity to reach out and assist these shoppers by offering guidance and information on these foods that can potentially offer relief from arthritis. Here's an idea: offer a once a month weekend coffee chat with the store's dietitian educating shoppers on ways to naturally fight arthritis.