by Jonathan Bender
We are what we eat. And what we eat can have a huge impact on how we feel, including how much our joints hurt us…or not.
Now, you probably know what you shouldn’t eat if you have joint pain.
Foods, especially fried foods with hydrogenated oils, the infamous trans fats.
Animal protein, especially red meat. Foods high in added sugar, which includes most anything in a bag, box, can or jar these years.
These foods increase the inflammation that is a cause of much joint pain, whether you have arthritis, bursitis, gout, or an injury.
So instead of scolding you about your diet, I’d like to share a few things I really enjoy.
Anything with Omega-3 Fatty Acids
You’ve probably heard, eat fatty, cold water fish like salmon, but not everyone likes fish, not even the noble, delicious anchovy.
Your body needs a balance between Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. However, Americans eat too many foods, like red meat, fried food, snack foods, and anything with sunflower oil, that are high in Omega-6s. We don’t eat nearly enough Omega-3s, which help prevent inflammation in the first place, then decrease production of inflammatory chemicals if you do have inflammation.
Walnuts and chia seeds are excellent sources of Omega-3s. A handful of walnuts and a piece of fruit is my go-to snack almost every day. Chia seeds have a neutral flavor that goes with
just about anything, so you can bake with them, add them to your smoothies, and
sprinkle them on your salads.
You’ll get a great recipe with them (along with that weird-but-tasty recipe) at the end of this article.
And cauliflower, cabbage, kale and, my absolute favorite, Brussels sprouts, which I like to cut in half, sprinkle with a little olive oil and salt, then slow-roast so they’re kind of crisp and nutty and caramelized. Then I eat ‘em like potato chips, but much, much, much better.
All these cruciferous vegetables are so packed with phytonutrients and Vitamin C, a potent anti-oxidant, that, according to a study by the famous Mayo Clinic, they actually help prevent arthritis.
If you know you should eat more veggies, but find them kind of bland, or you’re just not used to their taste, some dressing will change your mind.
Olive oil is a great oil that adds a lot of flavor but it’s on the pricy side, so I buy the good stuff—and use it as a flavoring. (The only thing I cook with it is pasta.) I make my own marinades and dressings with some wine or balsamic vinegar, lemon, lime or orange juice, mustard, herbs, garlic—I just mix and match to complement whatever I’m cooking.
When making dressing, a good rule is 3 or 4 parts oil to one part acid, like vinegar or citrus juice. Then I add flavourings like garlic, herbs, mustard, even spices.
And of course, when I make pasta, I make use olive oil. I like to chop some broccoli, or better yet, broccolini, which is like young, tender broccoli with slender stems. Then I boil it very fast, until it just loses its crispness, sauté it in olive oil with a handful of garlic, a can of anchovies and a sprinkle of red pepper, then serve over pasta. It’s a fast, delicious dinner that’s also super healthy.
For regular cooking, I use organic canola oil. It’s so much better for your body than regular canola oil that the higher price is really worth it. That’s money you don’t have to spend on anti-inflammatory drugs that are hard on you.
I never use soy oil, often labeled as “vegetable oil” because it is a known allergen that triggers inflammation. In fact, I try to avoid anything with soy in it. So I don’t eat a lot of processed food and I use butter and occasionally lard for baking.
To be honest, although I’ve had some amazing eggplant, it’s not my favorite vegetable. And it’s a nightshade, so some people are allergic to it. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone being allergic to berries—and most people love them.
What do they have in common? The deep, red-blue-purple skins,
rich in anthocyanidins. These powerful antioxidants have a beneficial effect on
heart health. According to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health,
people whose diets are rich in berries tend to have lower c-reactive protein
levels. C-reactive protein is a marker for inflammation. The lower your CRP levels are, the better off you—and your joints—are.
Like soy, milk is an allergen: it causes an allergic, inflammatory response in many people. That’s usually of the lactose, a sugar than is hard to digest and triggers inflammation in many people. However, milk is also rich in calcium, which is important for bone health, and fortified with Vitamin D, which lowers your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
A great solution is plain yogurt, without “fruit” that’s actually syrup with artificial colors, flavors, and nuggets of stuff that might or might not have been fruit.
Plain yogurt has very little lactose and is loaded with healthy probiotics that can reduce inflammation. You can always dress it up with a splash of vanilla (or almond or hazelnut or…) extract and some fresh fruit.
But I drink plain yogurt just about every day…and while it is an acquired taste, I really enjoy it.
This is my version of salty lassi, an Indian drink. It’s incredibly refreshing in the summer and a great way to get calcium year-round.
- 1 8-ounce cup plain yogurt.
I prefer one with a sour, tangy taste
- 8 ounces cold water (you
may want more or less)
- Pinch salt
- Pinch spices—toasted cumin and mint (an herb) are traditional. I like garam masala, an Indian spice blend, and you can be adventurous with your favorites.
In a mixing bowl or blender, blend all ingredients until frothy. Enjoy.
If you like the idea but not the taste, you can substitute a plain yogurt with a creamy, mild flavor and some fruit. This is a sweet lassi and mango is the traditional Indian fruit.
But What if You’re Vegan?
Or even just want to limit your intake of animal-based foods?
Earlier, I mentioned chia seeds, which really are a superfood. But they aren’t just packed with Omega-3s, calcium, protein, and fiber. Add water and they quickly become creamy and luscious.
Love custard? Don’t want to mess around cooking it? The chia seed comes to your rescue in this indulgent berry and chia seed pudding that serves 2.
- 1 cup unsweetened vegan
milk (I really like coconut)
- 3/4 cup of your choice berries
- 3 tablespoons chia seeds
- 2 tablespoons your choice of natural sweetener (white or brown sugar, honey, maple syrup…) or stevia to taste.
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (or
- dash salt
Stir all ingredients except berries together in a small bowl. Gently fold in ½ cup berries. Divide into serving bowls or glasses, then top with remaining berries. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
Good food can reduce joint pain but it can’t treat the causes. Click here to reduce, even eliminate your joint pain at the source…without drugs, surgery, or expensive cures.
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