Eating healthy foods — which include fruits and veggies bursting with vibrant flavour, whole grains packed with energy, luxurious oils and tasty lean proteins — is a delicious way of managing arthritis. Why? Nutrients help your body move, grow and heal properly; maintaining a healthy weight keeps strain off your joints; and many foods work to suppress painful inflammation. If you have a type of arthritis called gout, reducing your intake of alcohol, salt, sugar, shellfish, red meat and foods high in fructose like bananas and pineapples can help cut the risk of an attack and slow damage to joints.
Many people with arthritis can feel overwhelmed about food choices and nutrition, says Oakville, Ontario registered dietitian Sandra Saville. If you’re feeling daunted, remember that the main thing is to eat a wide variety of healthy foods and make choices that make sense for your life, so you’re more likely to stick with your new healthier approach. Read on to learn more about making healthy eating a bigger, more delectable part of your life.
Aspire to the plate
A typical healthy plate looks like this: half filled with veggies, one quarter with protein, one quarter with a quality carbohydrate. If that seems daunting, gradually swap out so-so choices and make better substitutions. Add one piece of fruit to your lunch every day this week; try a new whole grain next week; use rosemary or oregano instead of salt in a favourite main course.
Do the DASH
The DASH diet was originally designed to combat hypertension, but it turns out it’s a good snapshot of healthy eating for most of us. Starring roles go to fresh, lean unprocessed foods like vegetables, fruits, low-fat or no-fat dairy products, whole grains, lean meats, fish, poultry, beans and nuts. It limits red meat, sodium and sugars and red meats. The overall result is that you avoid foods that promote inflammation and eat more foods that are known to suppress inflammation. It’s also a good choice for people with rheumatoid arthritis who are at higher risk for stroke, heart attack and congestive heart failure, because it works to lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
Make a move to Mediterranean
The Mediterranean diet — that is, the foods and eating style most often seen in Mediterranean countries like southern Italy, Spain and Greece in the 1940s and 50s — focusses on plant-based foods like whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, and nuts. Instead of butter, reach for healthy fats like canola oil and olive oil, and use herbs and spices instead of salt for flavouring. Eat meals with friends and family, savour red meat just a few times a month and eat fish and poultry at least twice a week. Research shows that this approach is associated with reduced swelling and pain in inflamed joints, not to mention a reduced risk of heart disease and some cancers. Like the DASH diet, this approach avoids foods that promote inflammation and is heavy on foods that quell inflammation (antioxidants in vegetables and monounsaturated fats in nuts, for example, both fight inflammation.)