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Many patient choose to supplement their treatment regimen with changes in diet. This article outline the 14 anti-inflammatory foods that can help reduce inflammation and pain.

Patients with arthritis, a condition marked by joint inflammation, experience significant pain, stiffness and swelling of their joints. While there is currently no cure for arthritis, several treatments — such as medications, physical therapy and surgery — can help alleviate the symptoms of the disease. However, many patients like to supplement their treatment regimen with lifestyle changes such as dietary adjustments and exercise.

Since arthritis is an inflammatory condition, consuming a diet that reduces inflammation is quite popular among arthritis patients (and even people without any particular medical condition). Many people believe that a combination of an anti-inflammatory diet and with traditional treatment is the best and most ideal way of treating arthritis.

Essentially, an anti-inflammatory diet is composed of foods that reduce inflammation while people avoid foods that increase inflammation. Results from the diet are most optimal when the diet is not just followed temporarily but also in the long-term. While the primary purpose of an anti-inflammatory diet is not to lose weight, you may just drop a few pounds or more. This, in turn, is also beneficial in the treatment of arthritis, as extra weight adds more stress to the joints.

However, it is important to keep in mind that studies have not shown a significant correlation between the intake of a specific diet and improvement of symptoms. The Arthritis Foundation does say that following a Mediterranean-style diet can help control inflammation. A Mediterranean diet involves fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants and phytochemicals, which are anti-inflammatory compounds. Furthermore, the Mediterranean diet also involves consuming fish, which are high in the omega-3 fatty acids that have also been shown to fight inflammation.

Unfortunately, most high-quality studies have not investigated whether the consumption of a so-called anti-inflammatory diet actually reduces inflammation. Therefore, the evidence is inconclusive. While there are studies that have been published on the topic, most have focused on specific individual components of a diet rather than a whole diet.

However, most components of an anti-inflammatory diet are considered to be healthy for the average individual and therefore, following an anti-inflammatory diet will likely benefit everyone.

These are 14 anti-inflammatory foods that can help reduce inflammation and pain in patients with arthritis.

1. Three to four servings of fruits every day

Fruits that are high in antioxidants and anthocyanidins are best. You can consume these fruits either fresh or frozen. Fruits that are beneficial for fighting inflammation include:

  • Berries (raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries)
  • Oranges
  • Grapefruit
  • Red grapes
  • Plums
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Apples
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Pomegranates

2. Four to five serving of vegetables a day

Vegetables that are high in antioxidants and a compound known as beta-cryptoxanthin are anti-inflammatory. Vegetables can be consumed either raw or cooked. Vegetables that are beneficial for fighting inflammation include:

  • Leafy greens
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Salsa greens
  • Onion
  • Squash
  • Peas
  • Carrots
  • Sweet potato
  • Kale
  • Butternut squash
  • Carrots
  • Pumpkin
  • Mustard greens
  • Winter squash
  • Persimmons
  • Papaya
  • Tangerine
  • Red peppers
  • Corn

3. One to two servings of beans and legumes per day

These include:

  • Anasazi
  • Adzuki
  • Black chickpeas
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Lentils

4. One to three serving a week of pasta

These include:

  • Organic pasta
  • Rice noodles
  • Bean thread noodles
  • Whole wheat noodles
  • Buckwheat noodles

5. Three to five servings per day of whole and cracked grains

These include:

  • Brown rice
  • Basmati rice
  • Wild rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Barley
  • Groats
  • Quinoa
  • Steel-cut oats

6. Five to seven servings a day of healthy fats

These include:

  • Nuts (such as walnuts)
  • Avocados
  • Seeds
  • Cold water fish
  • Whole soy foods
  • Extra virgin olive oil (when cooking)

7. Two to six servings of fish and seafood

These include:

  • Salmon
  • Herring
  • Sardines
  • Black cod

8. One to two servings of whole soy foods a day

These include:

  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Soymilk
  • Edamame (immature soybeans in the pod)
  • Soy nuts

9. Spices

These can be added to any food that you cook. Spices that are particularly beneficial include: 

  • Turmeric
  • Curry powder
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Chili peppers
  • Basil
  • Cinnamon
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme

10. Selenium-rich foods 

These include:

  • Brazil nuts
  • Seafood (tuna, crab, oysters, tilapia, cod, shrimp)
  • Lean beef
  • Turkey
  • Wheat germ
  • Whole grains

11. Drink two to four cups of tea a day, as well large quantities of water

The best teas include:

  • White
  • Green
  • Oolong

12. Multi-vitamins and supplements

You should talk to your doctor to determine which vitamins and supplements are best for you. Doctors often recommend multivitamins, vitamin D and fish oil.

13. One to two glasses of red wine per day

Red wine has anti-oxidants that can help fight inflammation. Again, discuss this with your doctor.

Finally, number 14 is dark chocolate, as it has antioxidants. 

These are the foods that you should try to incorporate in your diet. At the same time, you should also avoid certain foods as they promote inflammation. These include:

  • Processed foods
  • Fast food
  • Foods that are high in trans and saturated fat
  • Simple refined carbohydrates
  • Omega-6 fatty acids

  • Sköldstam, Lars, Linda Hagfors, and Gunnar Johansson. "An experimental study of a Mediterranean diet intervention for patients with rheumatoid arthritis." Annals of the rheumatic diseases 62.3 (2003): 208-214.
  • Hu, Yang, et al. "Mediterranean diet and incidence of rheumatoid arthritis in women." Arthritis care & research 67.5 (2015): 597-606.
  • Hagen, Kåre Birger, et al. "Dietary interventions for rheumatoid arthritis." Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 1 (2009).
  • Photo courtesy of SteadyHealth

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