How to Eat Well When You Have Knee Osteoarthritis
Is there such a thing as an osteoarthritis diet? Not really. But by eating certain anti-inflammatory foods—and limiting others—you may help ease the pain, stiffness, and other symptoms of knee osteoarthritis.
Before you get started, talk to your doctor or registered dietitian (RD) for tips on how to eat healthy when you have osteoarthritis. He or she can give you guidance on what to eat to ease the pain and swelling as well as help you maintain a healthy weight (very important because too much weight can put pressure on the knee joints).
Eating well can help you manage—or maintain—your weight. Not everyone with knee osteoarthritis will need to lose weight, but if you are overweight, getting to a healthier weight by eating well can be helpful in managing your osteoarthritis.
Foods to Eat to Help Ease Knee Osteoarthritis Symptoms
Below are some of the foods that may help ease certain osteoarthritis symptoms.
Fruits and vegetables: These superfoods contain vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (natural chemicals found in some plant foods) to help you combat joint pain and swelling. The more colorful the better. Fill your breakfast, lunch, and dinner plates with as much color as you can—taste the rainbow. Red grapes, blueberries, carrots, and spinach are some examples of fruits and veggies that may have anti-inflammatory benefits.1 Eat fruits and/or veggies at every meal.
Omega-3 fatty acids: Fish, such as salmon, and other foods with omega-3 fatty acids (essential fatty acids that can help reduce inflammation and pain) can help ease sore, achy joints. If you're not a fan of fish, you can eat walnuts, flaxseed, and olive oil, or take an omega-3 supplement to get the same benefits. Eat a serving of omega-3s at least once a day.
Vitamin D: Foods with vitamin D, such as eggs, mushrooms, and fortified foods (eg, fortified orange juice and breakfast cereals), can help you manage OA-related pain. Try to work in vitamin D more than once a day, or take a daily vitamin D supplement.
Spices: Ginger, turmeric, dried chili peppers, and cinnamon can help ease knee OA symptoms: They may have anti-inflammatory effects on the body, helping to reduce swelling and stiffness. An added bonus is that these spices are brimming with flavor without adding any calories. When possible, sprinkle them in at every meal.
Foods to Limit with Knee Osteoarthritis
Some foods can exacerbate pain and other OA symptoms. It's actually a good idea to limit these foods—regardless of whether you have knee OA.
Aspartame: This man-made sweetener contains certain chemicals that can increase pain perception. They do this by triggering neurons in your brain. Aspartame can be found in all types of foods—from soft drinks to ice cream to seemingly healthier foods like yogurt.
Processed foods: Eating enough foods that contain monosodium glutamate (MSG) or nitrates may eventually lead to inflammation. MSG is found in some frozen dinners, and nitrates can be found in hot dogs.
Trans fats and saturated fats: Think packaged baked goods and fast food French fries: These foods can promote inflammation—not to mention clog your arteries.
Should You Take Supplements for Knee Osteoarthritis?
Of course, the best way to get all of your key nutrients is from what you eat, but if your diet is lacking in any way, you may need to take a supplement.
Below are a couple of the supplements you may want to add to your diet to give your nutrition levels a boost. Before you consider taking any vitamins or minerals, however, talk it over with your doctor or RD. He or she will let you know how much you need to take and whether it will interact with medications or other supplements you're already taking.
In addition to omega-3 and vitamin D supplements, here are a couple of other supplements that may be worthwhile to add to your osteoarthritis diet.
Glucosamine and chondroitin: When taken together, these 2 supplements may help to relieve osteoarthritis symptoms, including pain, swelling, and stiffness. However, the results of some studies on glucosamine and chondroitin have been mixed.3,4,5 Although glucosamine can help re-build cartilage, and chondroitin helps keep cartilage healthy, the jury is still out on these supplements.
Instead of eating a strict anti-inflammatory diet for knee osteoarthritis, try eating a well-balanced diet—one that supports eating healthy foods and maintaining a healthy weight.