Struggling with joint pain and chronic inflammation? Did you know you can reduce inflammation with food? Yep! An anti-inflammatory whole food plant-based (WFPB) diet can help alleviate pain and discomfort, and even heal joint damage. Keep reading for the best (and worst) foods to eat if you're living with joint pain and chronic inflammation.
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Joint pain is one of the most common and painful conditions that affect many people, regardless of age. There are more than a hundred conditions that affect the joints, and many theories to explain why this gradual damage to the tissue happens.
One of the most widely accepted theories is that joint damage is the result of free radicals attacking and destroying healthy tissues, including the joint tissue. Nutrition can play a very important part here. The food you eat has the potential to halt joint damage and help reduce pain. At the same time, the wrong food exacerbates joint pain and increases inflammation.
You're going to want to load up on anti-inflammatory whole food plant-based foods, specifically ones that are high in antioxidants, which inhibit oxidation and help prevent cell destruction.
Vitamins C, E, β-carotene (provitamin A), and selenium are powerful antioxidants.
Vitamin C-rich WFPB foods
- citrus fruits
Vitamin E-rich WFPB foods
Carotenoid WFPB Sources
Studies have also shown that carotenoids are especially effective against free radicals. These are found in yellow and orange fruit and vegetables, like:
- sweet potatoes
Regarding selenium, it’s found in abundance in brazil nuts! Just four brazil nuts per month provide all the selenium our bodies need for optimal function.
Bioflavonoids are another group of antioxidants that can prevent and heal inflammation associated with joint pain and damage. There are more than four thousand types of bioflavonoids (!), and the foods with the highest concentrations include:
- stone fruits, such as cherries and apricots.
Yes, it possible to reduce inflammation with food by eating an abundance of whole plant-based foods. That said, eliminating the foods that cause the problem in the first place is also key. Treating a symptom is not as effective as treating the root problem.
So which foods cause inflammation and joint pain? Studies point to a diet high in saturated fats and added sugars.
If you are trying reduce inflammation with diet and bring a spring back to your step (painlessly), these are some of the best plant-based foods to add to your plate:
Turmeric is high in curcumin, a powerful antioxidant that helps fight inflammation and restore health back to your joints. It has been especially known to help with rheumatoid arthritis.
Berries are naturally low in sugar and high in antioxidants, making them the perfect "something sweet" for anyone struggling with chronic inflammation or joint pain. One of our favorite ways to enjoy berries? In a healthy vegan smoothie!
Grapefruit and citrus fruits, in general, are high in Vitamin C and bioflavonoids that help fight inflammation. Bonus: grapefruits also help protect your skin from sunburn!
Flaxseeds are rich in omega-3s, which are very important for healthy joints. New to flax? Sprinkle flaxseeds on your oatmeal or use them as egg replacers in your baked goods.
5. Chia seeds
Similar to flaxseed, chia seeds are high in omega-3s (that's right – you don't need to eat fish to get this important fatty acid!) and help reduce inflammation in the joints and connective tissue. And they make for a delicious dairy-free breakfast pudding!
Peanuts, almonds, brazil nuts, and walnuts are high in Vitamin E and should be included in your diet if you’re suffering from joint pain. Enjoy them straight up, in nut butter form, or even as vegan taco "meat."
7. Cruciferous vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables are another go-to if you're looking to reduce inflammation with food. Load up on broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, all of which are high in Vitamin C and essential minerals that protect against inflammation and joint tissue damage.
- While chronic inflammation and joint pain is common, it doesn't have to be! You can reduce inflammation with diet!
- The worst foods for inflammation are ones high in refined sugars and saturated fats.
- The best foods to eat if you struggle with inflammation are whole food plant-based ones, high in antioxidant, like turmeric, berries, grapefruit, flax and chia seeds, nuts, and cruciferous veggies.
- Want to reduce inflammation with food but need help getting started? Join the 2-Week Whole Food Plant-Based Detox and Reboot to get plant-based meals delivered from MamaSezz!
Rafaela Michailidou is a Vegan Lifestyle Coach, and a freelance health and wellness content writer, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.