Arthritis is a widespread condition that causes pain and inflammation in a joint. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in the UK. It affects the smooth cartilage lining of the joint, which makes movement more difficult than usual, leading to pain and stiffness. Although there is no cure for arthritis, there are many treatments that can slow it down. Eating certain fruits have been proven to alleviate symptoms.
According to the Arthritis Foundation (AF), fruits are packed with antioxidants, fibre, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that provide a host of health benefits. “Some have components that may help lower the inflammation that often affects people with arthritis and is linked to other serious conditions, such as heart disease and stroke.”
The health body recommends the following six fruits to reduce the risk of an inflammation:
“Tart cherries get their rich red colour and many of their powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits from the flavonoid anthocyanin. These properties make tart cherries a popular research subject, and some investigators compare the effects to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs),” explained the AF.
One study found that drinking tart cherry juice two times per day for three weeks resulted in considerable reductions in vital inflammation markers, especially for participants who had the highest inflammation levels at the start of the study.
Strawberries are naturally low in sugar and have more vitamin C per serving than an orange. Vitamin C can lower risk for gout, high blood pressure and cholesterol problems, explained the AF.
Research has also shown that women who ate 16 or more strawberries a week had lower C-reactive protein (CRP) – a measure of body-wide inflammation linked to arthritis flares and heart disease.
As the AF reports, scientists suspect it’s anthocyanin, along with other phytochemicals, that gives strawberries their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant health benefits. These berries are also a good source of folic acid, which the arthritis medication methotrexate can deplete.
“People taking the drug often need folic acid supplements to help prevent side effects. You may still need a capsule supplement, but strawberries help increase your intake while providing other benefits,” added the health site.
Like strawberries, these berries are among the highest in vitamin C and anthocyanin. Animal studies have shown extracts from the fruit reduce inflammation and osteoarthritis symptoms, explained the AF.
“Raspberries have amazing anti-inflammatory properties that may alleviate symptoms of arthritis,” added nutritionist Dr Josh Axe.
He added: “That’s why raspberries make a great addition to any arthritis diet plan.”
According to the AF: “The rich, creamy texture of this fruit comes in part from its high content of anti-inflammatory monounsaturated fat, Avocados are also rich in the carotenoid lutein. Unlike most fruits, avocados are a good source of vitamin E, a micronutrient with anti-inflammatory effects.”
Despite the fruit’s relatively high calorie content, research has found that regular avocado eaters tend to weigh less and have smaller waists. Their high fibre and fat content may help people control cravings, said Mitzi Dulan, a dietician and team sports nutritionist.
Watermelons are high in the carotenoid beta-cryptoxanthin, which can reduce the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, according to studies that followed people’s dietary habits over time, said the AF.
According to nutritionist Victoria Jarzabkowski: “The lycopene in watermelon makes it an anti-inflammatory fruit.”
Lycopene may also help protect against certain cancers and lower heart attack risk, said Dulan.
“Grapes, both white and darker-coloured varieties, are a great source of beneficial antioxidants and other polyphenols,” said Dulan.
She added: “Fresh red and black grapes also contain resveratrol, the heart-healthy compound found in red wine that contributes to cardiovascular health by improving the function of blood vessels.”
Resveratrol is also a potent anti-inflammatory. Studies show this bioactive compound acts on the same cellular targets as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. “Researchers are studying its potential for improving symptoms of osteoarthritis, as well as for other chronic diseases linked to ageing,” explained the AF.
According to the NHS, exercise can also help to treat osteoarthritis: “Your physical activity should include a combination of exercises to strengthen your muscles and exercises to improve your general fitness.”
Exercise keeps people active, builds up muscle, and strengthening the joints usually helps to improve symptoms, explained the NHS.
It also helps people to lose weight. Obesity often makes osteoarthritis worse as it can place some of the joints under increased strain, said the health body.
“If you’re overweight, try to lose weight by doing more physical activity and eating a healthier diet.
People should consult their doctor first about fitting exercise into their treatment plan. What types of exercises are best for person depends on their type of arthritis and which joints are involved, cautioned Mayo Clinic.
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