How Can You Protect Against Arthritis?

According to the Arthritis Foundation, nearly one out of three Americans has arthritis. Of these 66 million adults suffering from this severely debilitating autoimmune disease, 43 million have been diagnosed with arthritis and another 23 million live with chronic joint symptoms that have not been doctor-diagnosed. In fact, arthritis is one of the leading causes of disability among Americans over the age of 15.

However, research shows us that for arthritis protection and relief one may need look no further than the neighborhood grocery store. A study from the University of Manchester’s Medical School discovered that antioxidants called carotenoids, found in brightly colored yellow/orange/red fruits and vegetables, may reduce the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory disorders.  According to this study and many others, increasing your intake of certain fruits and veggies is a sound way to protect against and fight arthritis. Here are the top 10 fruits and vegetables to consider:

  • Berries: Berries are all great sources of antioxidants and vitamin C. Blueberries have been ranked #1 in terms of antioxidant concentrations, but cranberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries are good choices, too.
  • Kiwi: One kiwi provides almost double the vitamin C of an orange, according to the California Kiwifruit Commission. Vitamin C is associated with a reduced risk of arthritis. This happens to be my favorite Vitamin C “go-to” fruit!
  • Apples: Cornell University researchers found that apples contain antioxidants that fight inflammation (along with allergies, cancer and viruses).
  • Parsley: The most popular herb world-wide, parsley is an excellent source of two vital nutrients that are important for the prevention of many diseases: Vitamin C and A (notably through its concentration of the pro-vitamin A carotenoid, beta-carotene).
  • Carrots: They’re rich in vitamin A and carotenoids but also of a wide variety of antioxidants and other health-supporting nutrients, providing both cardiovascular benefits and anti-cancer benefits.
  • Broccoli: Another vegetable renound for its beta-carotene content, broccoli is also a rich source of vitamin C and calcium and has a strong, positive impact on the body’s detoxification system.
  • Pineapple: Pineapple is rich in the enzyme bromelain, a powerful and natural anti-inflammatory agent which also aids digestion.
  • Beans: “The protein in beans helps to replace body proteins broken down by inflammation,” says Denise Cedar, a Salem, Oregon-based dietitian. Beans are also a super high source of fiber which aids od detoxification and elimination.
  • Tomatoes: Tomatoes are an excellent source of the antioxidant lycopene, which has been found to help fight degenerative diseases (and reduce the risk of prostate and other cancers). Cooked tomatoes (tomato sauce or paste) are best when it comes to lycopene absorption.
  • Sweet Potatoes: These are loaded with antioxidant vitamins A, C and E. One half-cup serving provides twice the Recommended Daily Amount of vitamin E which helps inflammation symptoms but also works wonders for the heart!
  • Tart Cherries: This amazing little fruit has significant anti-inflammatory properties, not to mention retains a super-high ranking on the ORAC scale. A number of new scientific studies are emerging which support what many arthritis sufferers have known for a while. Also, tart cherries seem to have a measurable effect on pain. If you can’t find the whole fruit, opt for a tart cherry supplement, typically found in most health food stores.

In addition to increasing your intake of anti-inflammatory fruits and vegetables, as suggested above, it’s equally important to reduce your overall intake of pro-inflammatory foods as follows:

  • Sugar: If you have any level of chronic inflammation, then reducing your sugar intake is an absolute must!
  • Toxic Fats: Cut out all trans fat (hydrogenated vegetables oils) containing foods; commercially produced baked goods such as cookies, crackers and chips.  Replace margarine with real butter, olive oil and coconut oil. Dump the Jiff Peanut Butter and go for the real deal instead. Eliminate all fast food – there are very few fast food restaurants which do not use trans fats in their cooking and preparation methods. Be very selective when dining out…most major chain, sit-down restaurants use trans fats, as well.
  • Food Chemicals/Fillers/Preservatives/Artificial Flavors&Colors/Flavor Enhancers: Contained in most processed food items (including bread), toxic chemicals and additives perpetuate chronic inflammation symptoms. Cut out processed junk!
  • White Stuff: Sugar falls into this category as well, however, decreasing your intake of refined carbs will do a body good.  Cut out all items made with white flour and white rice. Some even suggest eliminating all gluten-containing ingredients which includes not only white flour, but also whole wheat flour, as well as barley and rye (and their respective derivatives).
  • Dairy: Cutting out cows milk products, including cheese and yogurt, can provide a lot of benefit to those who suffer with chronic inflammation and autoimmune disease. If you do consume dairy, go for raw dairy as unpasteurized dairy products do not seem to cause the same type of inflammatory response as compared with traditional, pasteurized dairy products. If you cannot find raw dairy, at a minimum, purchase organic dairy only; produced without antibiotics or hormones and preferably from cows who are able to roam pastures consuming only a grass-based diet.
  • GMO Products: You may not realize it, but even the “natural” ingredients found in many processed food items are genetically modified. Be aware of the top 4 GMO ingredients: Soy, Corn, Canola and Cottonseed. if you stil purchase processed food items, look for those products which are specifically labeled as “Non-GMO“.
  • The Dirty Dozen: You don’t have to buy all of your fruits and vegetables organic, however, there are 12 fruits and veggies in which it is highly suggested you do.  The Dirty Dozen is a list of produce identified to carry the largest pesticide and chemical load compared with all other produce.  If you are going to invest your organic produce budget anywhere, make sure it is for these 12 items.

For those who suffer from autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases caused by chronic internal inflammation, diet modification is absolutely key to symptom reduction! As a society, it is critically important that we move away from the idea that when we become ill, the magical cure is the next best pill marketed by Big Pharma. We are not helpless – we must assume personal responsibility for our health!

Nourish your body – cut out the junk, eat more raw veggies and fruits, drink 3 liters of water a day, exercise 4-5 times a week and soak in some real sunshine – you’ll be amazed at how great you feel!

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