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Diet and Health: You Are What You Eat

Your diet can have a significant impact on your health, but did you know it can also affect the level of your knee pain? Whether you’re suffering from chronic knee issues, or you’re an active athlete who puts a strain on their knees, it’s important to consume the best foods to keep your knees healthy and avoid pain.

The best foods for your knees can help sprains, arthritis, stiffness, and sports injuries. Read on to find out what you should be consuming to give your knees the support they need, as well as a few other tips on how to keep your knees healthy.

Fiber: The Solution on Your Plate (and Good for Your Palate, Too!)

High Fiber Foods and Their Benefits

High Fiber Foods and Their Benefits by Urbanwired1 Flickr

The key to alleviating and even avoiding knee pain might be closer than you think! Just look down at your plate. Are you eating enough fiber?

New research in the journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases has shown that people with fiber-rich diets have a reduced risk of knee osteoarthritis. This is huge, as two separate studies consistently showed that higher total fiber intake was related to lower risk, with statistically significant results!

The first study, Osteoarthritis Initiative, examined nearly 5,000 participants; and the second study, the Framingham Offspring, examined more than 1,200. Both studies concluded that the more fiber you eat, the less likely you are to experience knee pain, and the less likely you are to be diagnosed with knee arthritis.

Keep in mind that correlation does not imply causation, and the studies did not prove that fiber heals knee pain, only that something is going on with the nutrients that are almost certainly good for you.

The Studies

In the Osteoarthritis Initiative study, people who consumed 20 grams (g) of fiber daily were 30% less likely to have symptoms of knee arthritis. Moreover, 19% were less likely to report worsening pain in their knees for four years compared to those who ate the least fiber or just under 9 g per day.

In the Framingham study, people who ate about nearly 26 grams of fiber each day were 61% less likely to experience symptomatic knee arthritis than those who ate the least, or just under 14g.

Additionally, 19% were less likely to report worsening pain in their knees over the course of four years compared to those who ate the least fiber or just under 9 g per day.

In the Framingham study, people who ate about nearly 26 grams of fiber each day were 61% less likely to experience symptomatic knee arthritis than those who ate the least, or just under 14g.

How Does It Work?

While we’re not exactly sure, researchers believe that fiber helps protect your knees in a couple of ways.

First, it reduces the levels of C-reactive protein(CRP), a protein that has been repeatedly correlated with inflammation. Second, fiber increases satiety, which makes you feel fuller and therefore prevents you from overeating.

Computer generated image of C reactive protein

Computer-generated image of C reactive protein

So, you should focus on getting more fiber in your diet, as the best foods for your knees include loads of them. This can be achieved through fibrous vegetables (more on that below), as well as minimally processed cereals and whole-grain products.

Inflammation and Your Knees

Knee injuries cause inflammation, which in turn causes pain. Chronic knee pain might be due to several conditions that also cause inflammation directly or indirectly. These conditions may include arthritis, gout, tendonitis, bursitis, and several other – itis conditions.

So, by eating the best foods that reduce inflammation, you more or less help your knees stay healthy and pain-free!

Anti-inflammatory Foods

Yes, that’s indeed a thing, and if you suffer from knee inflammation, you should seriously consider introducing one or more of the best foods below in your daily diet. Numerous fresh and ‘raw’ products have been proven to reduce inflammation related pain.

Cruciferous Vegetables: Cabbage, leaks, broccoli

Cruciferous Vegetables Such as Cabbage, Leeks, Broccoli, Zucchini, Turnips

These best foods include:

  • Eggs
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Fresh fruits
  • Walnuts
  • Oily fish, such as Salmon, Tuna, Halibut
  • Walnuts
  • Fish oil
  • Spices
  • Herbs
  • Green tea

Usually, if you are eating lots of fruits and vegetables and avoiding processed or junk food, you will get enough fiber. How many of these best foods do you eat on a daily basis?

If you think you are not getting enough fiber, you can buy special formulations such as the Garden of Life.

Green tea, herbs, and spices such as turmeric and ginger have all been proven to have anti-inflammatory effects and can be consumed with many of the aforementioned products.

When it comes to vegetables, all fresh produce helps. Cruciferous vegetables (including broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and kale) are the best foods for your knees. They have a high concentration of antioxidants, vitamins, and – you guessed it – fiber.

Inflammatory Foods to Avoid

On the other hand, you might consider cutting back on some types of foods if you’re suffering from temporary or chronic knee pain.

Generally speaking, highly processed foods have been shown to more or less increase or somehow contribute to inflammation. These foods are so-called ‘Comfort Foods’; they’re enjoyable, of course, but please consume them in moderation. If you can manage to largely eliminate them from your diet, you’ll be better off, in the long run.

cookies, cake, ice cream pizza popcorn

Try not to eat all those foods you love–cookies, cakes, pizza, popcorn, chips: These are high carbohydrate, high calorie sugary, trans fat foods. You’ll save yourself from many future health problems

Such Non-beneficial Foods Include:

  • Chips
  • Pastries
  • High-sugar snacks
  • Candy bars
  • Sugary cereals
  • Cold cuts / processed meat
  • Alcoholic beverages

Also, some people have an adverse reaction to dairy products, and few suffer from celiac disease, which makes gluten-rich foods dangerous to them as they can contribute to the symptoms of arthritis.

As a rule of thumb, if you suffer from chronic inflammation, it’s best to keep your diet as simple as possible. Focus on healthy proteins, carbs, and fats, and cut back on processed foods, such as sugar and refined grains. Also, it’s a great idea to cut back on alcohol, as it may encourage risky behavior if you’re injury-prone.

Child holding an apple

If your child wants something sweet, give him or her a piece of fruit such as an apple, not a donut

Side Note: As a child, my mom fed me mostly the ‘good foods,’ and even though I wanted a dessert every night, she refused. I attribute my overall good health, normal blood pressure, normal blood sugar, and stable weight to that good foundation.

On the other hand, I see obese parents feeding their kids candy and sweets all the time. That has resulted in skyrocketing rates of obesity and diabetes. Point being, as a parent or grandparents, instill good eating habits in your children and grandchildren.

The Mediterranean Diet

People seeking healthy diet info sooner or later come across the Mediterranean diet, which has been proven to combine some of the best foods that offer various health benefits, including anti-inflammation and knee pain relief.

Often dubbed “The World’s Healthiest Diet”, the Mediterranean Diet consists of abundant fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and olive oil, and almost no processed foods and sugar. The Mediterranean diet includes plenty of wild fish, specific dairy products (yogurt, feta cheese), and low levels of red meat. It even consists of some alcohol in the form of a glass of wine a few times each week!

So, how do you go about adopting the Mediterranean diet to help your knee pain? It’s simple! First, phase out margarine and butter for olive oil when possible. Olive oil is excellent for all salads and some recipes, but some foods (such as cakes) just need their butter to work.

Then, replace most of your red meat consumption with fish or chicken, boost your vegetable and fruit consumption. If you need to eat some pasta, opt for whole-grain instead of white.

You can supplement your diet by snacking on nuts and fresh fruits instead of sugary treats. This is how to keep a diet that’s in line with the Mediterranean standards, and it also includes most foods that can help alleviate knee pain.

The Obesity Link

It might be obvious, but it can’t be overstated that obesity increases knee pain. Whether you’re suffering from a chronic knee condition or just a temporary injury, carrying around extra weight can’t be good for your knees.

If you’re carrying extra weight, your knees bear the load, which can cause several of the nastier conditions mentioned before and is generally contribute to chronic knee pain. Apart from chronic conditions, there are two main reasons for knee pain: injury and simply wear and tear over time. Both of these reasons can be aggravated by excess weight, which puts unnecessary pressure on your knees.

The good news is that all the best foods that help reduce inflammation and alleviate knee pain are also considered excellent for a healthy lifestyle that might empower you to lose weight. So, by eating the best foods to lose weight, you also help your knees!

Some knee conditions may occur simultaneously. While the best foods will help you manage pain, they won’t heal your underlying issue.

If you suspect that you are suffering from one or more of the conditions mentioned above, talk to your doctor ASAP! Most of them are treatable. It’s easier if you address the issue early on before your knee condition becomes permanent.

Foods to Help Build Cartilage

Now that we have taken a good look at how we can ultimately heal knee pain with a better and more balanced diet, let’s see how our diet can help us build cartilage and which foods help to accomplish that.

  • Legumes. Since inflammation is one of the key causes of cartilage breakdown, it only makes sense to avoid it whenever possible. Legumes are a good food option for this because of their high protein content. They help replenish collagen that is necessary to rebuild cartilage.
  • Oranges. Collagen is a protein that is also needed to make Vitamin C, another primary component of cartilage. Oranges have a good amount of Vitamin C, which goes a long way in promoting the building up of collagen to promote cellular healing.
  • Pomegranates. This fruit is an antioxidant and also contains anti-inflammatory properties. Research from the Case Western Reserve University has shown that they can help your body produce substances that can ultimately protect cartilage.
  • Brown Rice. This is a food that contains hyaluronic acid, which is used in a lot of joint treatments. It helps to lubricate the joints and absorbs shock to the joints.
  • Nuts. To maximize the amount of hyaluronic acid in your diet, your body also needs magnesium so that it can absorb as much as possible from the foods you are eating. Almonds, Brazil nuts, and sesame seeds are all excellent sources of magnesium.

When you use these foods and the others we have discussed here as part of a bigger plan that includes more comprehensive treatment options, you will find that you can help counteract some issues you are experiencing as the result of cartilage degeneration.

Foods to Increase Lubrication in the Knees

To help increase lubrication in the knees through nutrition, there are several foods to consider adding as a part of your healthy and well-balanced diet.

Some of these foods include salmon, trout, olive oil, nuts, avocados are all high in omega-3s. When you combine these foods with glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin, they can all work together to help increase lubrication while also decreasing inflammation. All of this will work wonders when it comes to pain relief as well.

Will Fish Oil Help Knee Pain?

Fish oil is a supplement that is packed full of omega-3 fatty acids as well and comes with its own set of benefits. Along with providing benefits to your cognitive function, it has also been found to provide benefits for your knee joints. However, to avoid the side effects that come along with it, you want to consume no more than 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per day.

Conclusion: The Best Foods for Healthy Knees

Unless you suffer from something serious that requires immediate medical attention and surgery, most knee pain issues can be alleviated by eating healthily.

To sum it up, the best foods for your knee pain are not processed, have high fiber concentration, and are in the Mediterranean diet. Inflammatory conditions aggravate knee pain, and therefore, foods known to increase inflammation will also increase your knee pain.

On the other hand, anti-inflammatory foods will help reduce your knee pain, and some of the best foods include spices such as turmeric and cruciferous vegetables (i.e., broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and kale).

Eating these ‘good’ foods in moderation while avoiding overly processed products will also help you lose weight (if you are overweight), and this will also help with your knee pain indirectly.

So, what do you think? Sounds easy? Regardless of your age and the underlying reason for your knee pain, there are ways to make it better.

Finally, keep in mind that there are numerous tried and tested products that help protect your knees and/or help relieve knee pain.

For starters, Get this free eBook.

20 Superfoods to lose weight Book cover

20 Superfoods to lose weight and live longer

You’ll most likely learn at least one important thing you didn’t know before you read it.

Thanks for reading!