Every week, evidence grows that diet plays a huge, underestimated role in fighting arthritis. But which foods to choose?
It’s not easy to say, with so much advice out there and so many healthy ingredients to choose from. Celebrity voices – cashing in on the discussion – make it harder still. But when I work with my dietitian colleague to develop meal plans for people, like me, with arthritis, I ask these questions:
How strong is the evidence this food has anti-inflammatory properties?
For me ‘someone told me at the shops’ or ‘I read it on a blog’ is not good enough. I look at evidence-based scientific studies, from around the world.
How easy is this food to find and does it fit into the lifestyle of a regular person?
If you can’t buy it at Woolies or Coles and add it to a dozen well-loved dishes, I’m not interested. If a food is too hard to find or expensive, people will give up. Of course it must taste yummy too!
Guided by these questions, here are the top five anti-inflammatory foods every person with arthritis should embrace.
1. Spicy cinnamon
Few foods are researched as much as cinnamon. Why? Because it benefits almost every health condition on the planet. Anti-inflammatory. Anti-oxidant. Anti-microbial. Anti-cancer. It even lowers blood sugar levels and improves circulation.
Cinnamon is great because you can start the day with a good dose. Sprinkle it on muesli in summer, porridge in winter. Dust it over toast – it goes well with jam or peanut butter. Add it to your morning hot brew or smoothie as a healthier sweetener.
2. Sassy salmon
The studies on salmon show it contains docosahexaenoic and eicosapentaenoic acids. Sorry…? Just know these powerful omega-3s have strong anti-inflammatory properties, proven to reduce the pain of arthritis. Salmon is also rich in vitamins A, B12, D and E, iodine, selenium, calcium, zinc and iron, in case you had any doubts.
Salmon is an all-day wonder and partner to many meals. It’s also conveniently available cooked, smoked, tinned, frozen and fresh. At breakfast, serve with organic eggs and wholegrain toast. For lunch, add to a big green salad with a lemon dressing. At dinner time, a salmon steak is delicious with roasted veggies or green beans.
3. Nutty walnuts
Nuts in general, unsalted and unsweetened, are laced with health benefits. Walnuts are especially bountiful, linked with reduction of both inflammation and cholesterol.
Walnuts are best munched in place of less healthy snacks at break times. Replacing choccie bars or bag of chips for walnuts is a simple but powerful move you can make to improve your health.
4. Sweetheart sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes topped the charts when a team of European scientists tested over 100 foods for their anti-inflammatory properties. It might seem a dull character, but it’s health benefits, including richness in vitamins A and C, are dazzling.
How many times a week do you eat potatoes? Simply substitute your regular spud for nutrient rich sweet potatoes and count the health benefits. Delicious mashed with pumpkin as a side, roasted with other veggies or sautéed and added to a salad, sweet potatoes are as versatile as a pair of black leggings.
5. Green tea with envy
Enough of food, what about something to drink? Green tea is rich in polyphenols proven to be anti-inflammatory, and relieves countless other conditions, like cancer and heart disease. Other teas can only look on, jealously.
Green tea is ideal hot as a substitute for coffee and black tea. Or cold to replace sugary soft drinks or juices. Avoid mass-produced iced teas; they are loaded with processed sugar. Instead, I make a jug of green tea, lemon and honey to leave in the fridge (try cold steeping over night).
If you love these five and want more, check out this top ten list of anti-inflammatory foods. I’d love to hear any recipe or serving suggestions you have – the possibilities are endless.
Tell us, will you be adding any of these items to your next shopping list? Have you tried them before?