Your diet can have a big 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
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 a 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 there’s something going on with the nutrients that are almost certainly good for you.
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 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 the 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 14 g.
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 In the Framingham study, people who ate the 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 14 g.
In the Framingham study, people who ate the 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 14 g.
But 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.
So, you should focus on getting more fiber in your diet, as the best foods for your knees apparently 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!
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.
These best foods include:
- Red meat
- Fresh vegetables
- Fresh fruits
- Fish oil
- Green tea
Normally, 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?
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. This doesn’t mean that they are “bad” foods, but that you should consume them in moderation.
Such non-beneficial foods include:
- 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 also a great idea to cut back on alcohol, as it may encourage risky behavior if you’re injury-prone.
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 basically 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 includes 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 great 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.
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!
A reason to exercise
If you are overweight, you should get a consultation with your doctor, and discuss the correlation between your extra weight and your knee problems. Your doctor might prescribe you with specific medication, or refer you to some kind of exercise program that will not cause knee injury.
In addition to healthy eating, you should consider mild exercise if you are overweight and suffer from knee pain. Now, even if you are on the heavier side, you can still walk outside and try to be more active to help lose weight.
Make a habit out of walking around and playing actively, and study the types of exercises you can safely do without aggravating your knee pain. Weight loss is inexpensive, and in the long run, it can save you from knee surgery.
However, be sure to discuss what types of activities will be safe for you with your doctor. Different levels of obesity require different workout regimes and might impact your knees in different ways. Whatever you decide, be sensible and don’t overdo it!
Temporary Knee Pain vs. Chronic Knee Pain
Throughout the article, we mentioned temporary knee pain and chronic knee pain, so it’s important to keep that distinction in mind. Temporary knee pain is different from chronic knee pain. While athletes often experience temporary knee pain, there are certain conditions that just won’t go away without treatment.
Even so, there are ways to manage chronic knee pain but don’t hesitate to visit your orthopedist to discuss treatment options.
Know your symptoms:
The injuries, conditions, and diseases that can cause knee pain include:
- Osteoarthritis: inflammation and joint degeneration
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): a chronic autoimmune inflammatory condition
- Tendonitis: front knee pain that worsens with climbing or walking up inclined surfaces
- Bursitis: knee inflammation
- Kneecap Dislocation
- Meniscus: knee cartilage rupture
- Torn Knee Ligaments
- Chondromalacia Patella: damaged cartilage under the kneecap
- Gout: a type of arthritis caused by buildup of uric acid
- Baker’s cyst: a buildup of the fluid that lubricates the knee joint
- Various bone tumors (relatively rare)
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.
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.
In some cases, dietary supplements might help, but keep in mind that anything you can get from supplements you can also get from a good and balanced diet.
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.
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