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Eating for Healthy Joints
A joint is a connection where two or more bones come together (hip, knee, shoulder). Cartilage cushions the joints so the bones do not rub together. As we age, carry too much weight or develop an injury, a strain is put on our joints which may result in inflammation. This inflammation is what causes pain and stiffness. Physical activity plays a major role in maintaining healthy joints. What we eat may also be important in protecting joints, reducing stiffness and inflammation.
KEY Nutrients for Healthy Joints
- Vitamin D – is optimal for bone and joint health, helps absorb calcium and may reduce inflammation. There are few good food sources other than salmon and vitamin-D fortified foods.
- Calcium – builds strong bones. Nonfat dairy products including yogurt along with broccoli and kale are good sources.
- Antioxidants – Vitamin C, Beta-Carotene and Vitamin E may be beneficial. Citrus fruit, strawberries, bell pepper, orange colored produce and flaxseed are good sources of these antioxidants.
- Vitamin K – focus on food not supplements. Dark green leafy vegetables are rich in vitamin K. If you take blood-thinning medication, keep a consistent level of vitamin-K in your diet.
- Fats – fatty acids in fats may reduce or increase inflammation. Omega 3’s tend to reduce inflammation and are found mainly in fish such as salmon, herring and trout, likewise flaxseed is a good source. Adversely, omega 6’s may increase inflammation. These fats are found in vegetable oils and processed foods.
- Protein – maintains muscles essential to joint health. Select lean protein with fish more often, at least twice a week.
Putting It All Together
- Maintain a Healthy Body Weight – research shows that with every pound gained, four times more stress is put on the knees.
- Make Smart Food Choices Each Day – focus on colorful vegetables and fruit [6 or more servings] lean protein especially fish [6-8 oz.] non-fat dairy products [2-3 servings], whole grains [3-6 servings], minimize fat, limit sweets and processed foods. Include foods noted under “key nutrients for healthy joints”.
- Water – strive for 8 – 8 ounce glasses daily.
- Keep an Eye on Portions – to achieve calorie balance and maintain a healthy weight.
- Food Not Pills – it may be the whole food versus individual nutrients that provide the benefits. Vitamin D may be the exception, get your blood level for D checked, you may need a supplement.
- Keep Moving – less movement creates stiffness in joints. Change positions often, stretch or go for a short walk.
- Physical Activity – keeps muscles and bones strong and aids in maintaining a healthy weight. Aerobic exercise may reduce joint swelling. Swimming or bicycling are easier on the joints. Check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
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