Millions of people in the US and worldwide struggle with knee osteoarthritis and knee injuries, which can lead to chronic pain, discomfort, and reduced mobility. Depending on the severity of the pain, people with knee problems might even find it difficult to climb stairs, walk around or even just rest comfortably.
However, with the right treatment programs, lifestyle modification, and diet adjustments, you can keep at bay the risk of having to undergo complete knee replacement surgery.
So what are the best foods out there to fight off and relieve knee pain? In this article, you’ll find nutritional advice on which superfoods can reduce swelling and help manage chronic pain in the knees. Let’s dive in!
Before We Start: What Causes Knee Pain?
To find an effective knee pain relief program, you’ll first need to understand the causes of your knee pain. Although you’ll need to obtain an accurate diagnosis for a healthcare professional, some common causes of knee pain include:
- Arthritis and osteoarthritis
- ACL injuries
- Torn ligaments
10 Best Foods To Fight Knee Pain
Understanding what’s causing your knee pain will help you decide on the best treatment for your needs. However, introducing the right foods into your diet can be of great help to reduce inflammation and pain, fight off infections, and keep your immune system strong.
Start by introducing the foods below.
Whole grains, including barley, amaranth, quinoa, brown rice, millet, oats, and bulgur, are an excellent source of essential vitamins and minerals that can help alleviate knee pain. They provide the body with antioxidants, omega-3s, and fiber, which can reduce inflammation and help keep bones strong.
Fruits High in Vitamins C and E
Although adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables are generally beneficial, some fruits are particularly high in pain-fighting and inflammation-relieving compounds, such as Vitamin E and C.
These compounds play a role in regenerating the collagen in the joint and keeping the tissue healthy, which can help in maintaining the knee joint lubricated and protected. Some fruits that are particularly beneficial for knee pain for these reasons include berries (strawberries and blackberries), kiwis, guava, papaya, and oranges.
Green Tea is famously rich in antioxidants such as the epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which can reduce inflammation by hindering the production of some inflammatory chemicals in the body. Because of these properties, introducing green tea into your diet (i.e.: as a substitute for black tea or coffee) can reduce the symptoms of arthritis, prevent cartilage from breaking down, and protect the joints for longer.
Nuts and Seeds
Some nuts and seeds containing healthy fatty acids, which include chia, sunflower, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds, can help reduce knee pain by providing essential omega-3 fatty acids.
Additionally, some nuts such as almonds and walnuts contain alpha-linolenic acids, which are anti-inflammatory agents, and minerals such as magnesium, which is known for its muscle-relaxing benefits.
Dark Leafy Greens
Another great addition to your pain-fighting diet is dark leafy greens, such as spinach, Swiss chard, and kale. These vegetables are packed with minerals such as magnesium and calcium and are rich in key vitamins such as Vitamins A, K, Folate, and Vitamin C.
These compounds protect the body against pro-inflammatory molecules, support the production of collagen, and promote joint flexibility.
Food Rich In Omega-3s
Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, trout, herring, and sardines are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA. These acids have been seen to help with keeping the joints lubricated, fight inflammation, and reduce swelling and pain.
If you are following a plant-based diet, you might still be able to find other foods that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as Chia seeds, Brussels sprouts, hemp seeds, and walnuts. Alternatively, you can resort to nutraceuticals, or knee supplements, that are high in Omega-3s.
Seasonings Such as Garlic and Oregano
An alternative way to make your diet more knee-friendly is to choose your foods’ seasonings carefully. For example, you might choose ingredients such as garlic, cinnamon, and ginger in your next dish, which are rich in antioxidants and can boost immunity.
Studies have also shown that adding oregano and oregano oil to your diet can be highly beneficial thanks to two main compounds present in this plant: carvacrol (a type of antioxidant) and thymol (a compound that protects against toxins and fungal infections).
Root Stalks such as Ginger and Turmeric
Ginger and turmeric are two powerful additions to any person’s diet thanks to their analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and immune system-boosting properties. In particular:
- Ginger offers pain relieving and analgesic properties by blocking pain signals in the brain and reducing inflammation
- Turmeric, thanks to its primary active compound (curcumin), can reduce swelling and pain.
A 2001 study also showed that taking ginger tablets daily can be an effective treatment program for people with knee osteoarthritis.
Legumes and Pulses
Legumes and pulses should always cover a major role in any well-balanced diet. In particular, legumes have a low glycemic index, are rich in protein, and provide plenty of fiber. These properties make legumes satiating, inexpensive, and sustainable.
But, even more importantly, they are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can help fight the inflammation that is causing your knee pain.
Lastly, you should consider adding olive oil to your diet in moderation. Whether it is by adding a teaspoon of olive oil to your salad or substituting butter with olive oil, this substance can provide plenty of analgesic benefits.
Indeed, olive oil contains heart-healthy fats and oleocanthal, which is a substance with properties similar to NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or over-the-counter painkillers).
Foods To Avoid if You Have Knee Pain
If you have been diagnosed with a long-term knee condition such as osteoarthritis, or you have reported an injury, there are some foods that you should avoid to keep inflammation under control and promote the natural healing process of the body.
These foods include:
- Refined grains
- Saturated fats and trans-fats
- Omega-6 fatty acids
- Foods you are allergic or sensitive to
Can the Right Diet Reduce Knee Pain?
Alone, the right diet might help fight inflammation and reduce swelling. What’s more, a more nutritious and balanced eating regime can help people who are obese or overweight lose weight and reduce the pressure on their knees.
However, it is also important to couple adequate diet and lifestyle modifications with therapies for knee pain, such as stem cell therapy and physical therapy. This strategy can help you improve your quality of life, increase your mobility range, and prevent future injuries.
Partner With a Specialist To Address Your Knee Pain
Although the foods above are generally considered a good addition to any person’s diet, don’t underestimate the importance of consulting a specialist to help you manage and treat your condition.