The 10 Best Superfoods for Joint Pain Relief

The 10 Best Superfoods for Joint Pain Relief

Death and taxes, loneliness and self-criticism, opposing thumbs and a love of ice cream. These are just a few things that most people share. You can add joint pain to the list of similarities. And if you feel like an anomaly because you happen to be pain free now, just wait a while.

More than 58 million people in the United States suffer from joint pain — 24% of the population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Arthritis is the common denominator. There are different forms of arthritis, but osteoarthritis is the big problem, usually an accident that occurs with age. It causes by far the most joint pain.

Luckily, there’s something you can do every day to reduce joint pain: eat healthier. “Osteoarthritis (OA) is generally associated with being overweight,” says the medical review board member Julie Upton, MS, RD, a Registered Dietitian. “Losing weight can help you manage your osteoarthritis.”

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease characterized by deterioration of the cushioning cartilage in the joints. Being overweight can put extra pressure on joints, particularly knee and hip joints, often resulting in bone rubbing against bone, causing pain, swelling, and stiffness.

Another common type of arthritis can also trigger debilitating pain – rheumatoid arthritis (RA). RA is an autoimmune disease, meaning your immune system mistakenly releases chemicals to attack the lining of your joints. Although distinct from OA, RA-induced pain can also be alleviated through diet, particularly by reducing the chronic inflammation caused by this faulty immune response.

“The dietary recommendation for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis is essentially the same balanced, high-fiber, plate-based diet that regularly includes seafood,” says the registered dietitian Elizabeth Ward, MS, RNco-author of The Menopause Meal Plan, a natural guide to managing hormones, health and happiness. “Body fat is pro-inflammatory. By eating this way, people may find that they lose eight while maintaining muscle, which supports joints, takes pressure off load-bearing joints, and reduces overall inflammation and joint pain.”

These are the superfoods you should be eating more of to ease your pain from joint pain. Read on, and to learn more don’t miss The Most Important Eating Habits for Arthritis.

Apples, broccoli and citrus fruits

Salad with broccoli and green apple

Salad with broccoli and green apple

To relieve joint pain, you can’t go wrong by filling your plate with more produce. “Fruits and vegetables are powerhouses that are high in antioxidants that reduce inflammation in joints and muscles,” says Ward. “They also provide fiber to keep you fuller longer and help maintain your blood sugar levels better than foods high in simple sugars.” Eat at least two cups of fruit and three cups of vegetables a day.

RELATED: Surprising Side Effects of Not Enough Vegetables, Science Says

berries and pomegranates

Some of the fruits with the highest levels of bioactive compounds with anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects include blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and pomegranates. Also, certain fruit polyphenols, including quercetin and citrus flavonoids, have been shown to specifically relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, according to the journal Food & function.

fat fish

Eating salmon, sardines, mackerel, canned light tuna, or other fatty fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids a few times a week may help reduce rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. Studies show that a higher omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid ratio suppresses inflammation in people with RA. Omega-6 fatty acids are pro-inflammatory polyunsaturated fatty acids that we typically get in excess of from the fried and processed foods and meats found in the standard American diet.


Turmeric powder and root

Turmeric powder and root

Typically used in curries and other Southeast Asian foods, the yellowish-orange spice turmeric has been used to relieve joint pain for thousands of years. The active ingredient in the spice is curcumin, a polyphenol with anti-inflammatory properties that has shown potential for relieving osteoarthritis pain. A meta-analysis of studies in the Medicinal Food Journal found that taking about 1,000 milligrams of curcumin daily reduced pain as well as over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen, diclofenac, and glucosamine.

full grain

A disease marker in people with RA is C-reactive protein (CRP), which can be detected with a simple blood test Archive of Internal Medicine. Elevated levels indicate inflammation in your body that is making joint pain worse. But eating more whole grains, like 100% whole grain breads, quinoa, brown rice, and oats, can lower CRP levels, says the Arthritis Foundation.


A recent study in advances in nutrition supports the long-held belief that alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-derived omega-3 fatty acid, provides cardioprotective and cognitive benefits just like fish oil. One of the reasons for this benefit is ALA’s anti-inflammatory effects, which also reduce CRP and inflamed joints in OA and RA patients. One of the best sources of ALA is walnuts.

A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition who analyzed the diets of 5,000 participants in the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study found that greater consumption of nuts (including walnuts) was associated with lower levels of the inflammatory biomarker CRP. Find out why walnuts are the #1 healthiest nut to eat as you age.

olive oil

olive oil

olive oil

“Extra virgin olive oil is one of the best fats to add to your diet because it can help control cholesterol and provides beneficial antioxidants,” says Upton. The heart-healthy monounsaturated fat also contains a polyphenolic compound called oleocanthal, which works like ibuprofen in relieving pain, according to a study in the
International Journal of Molecular Science.

RELATED: Cooking with olive oil reduces risk of deadly diseases, new study says

A word about gout

Gout is a specific type of arthritis that causes pain, swelling, and tenderness, usually in the joint of the big toe. In gout, joint pain is the result of excess uric acid in the blood, which can be due to the body producing too much uric acid or not eliminating it properly. The body reacts to purines produced by the body or from eating purine-rich foods such as beef, chicken, turkey, seafood and all types of alcoholic beverages. “It’s impossible to completely avoid purines, so people with gout should work with a registered dietitian to develop a diet that’s right for them,” says Ward.

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