Best Drinks for Arthritis
Get recommendations for staying hydrating to support overall health.
There’s an old saying – you are what you eat. But what you drink, and how much you drink, can have an enormous effect on your body and health, too.
Start every day with a glass of water before you eat any food, since most people wake up a bit dehydrated, says Sonya Angelone, a dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It’s also best to stick with water throughout the day, she says. The typical recommendation is eight glasses a day. In general, avoid soda since it can be full of sugar, aspartame and phosphoric acid. The latter can negatively affect your body’s ability to absorb calcium.
Water can get a bit boring, but there are other ways to stay healthy and hydrated. These recommendations can help you understand the benefits and drawbacks of popular beverages.
Tea is one of the most-studied drinks when it comes to its benefits for arthritis patients. Green, black and white teas are all rich in polyphenols – compounds from plants that have strong anti-inflammatory effects. You’ll find the highest polyphenol levels in green and white teas. Green tea is generally viewed as the most beneficial of all because its active ingredient is a polyphenol known as epigallocatechin 3-gallate (EGCG). EGCG has been shown to be as much as 100 times stronger in antioxidant activity than vitamins C and E. Studies have shown it also helps preserve cartilage and bone, although there are no widespread controlled trials of it in people with arthritis.
Tips: Green, white and black teas do usually contain caffeine, so you may still want to keep your consumption moderate and don’t drink it before bed. You can add lemon or other sweeteners like honey to flavor your tea, but don’t add too much to keep calories and sugar levels low.
Research shows coffee also has antioxidant polyphenols. That means coffee can help fight free radicals in the body, which cause cell damage. Other research suggests coffee may have a protective effect against gout as well. The link between coffee and increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoporosis is debatable. Some studies say coffee increases the risk, while others do not.
Tips: In general, the best rule of thumb is to drink coffee in moderation – no more than one or two cups of coffee a day. Watch your caffeine intake and be mindful of coffee and espresso drinks that are full of whipped cream and syrups that cause calories and sugar levels to skyrocket.
Some claim that dairy-free is the way to go for arthritis, but the jury is still out when it comes to linking dairy consumption and inflammation. Like coffee, some studies show dairy can be inflammatory, while other studies show it helps reduce inflammation. For the most part, the benefits of avoiding dairy are highly individual, and there is not enough research to suggest that people with arthritis should ditch milk.
Tips: Drinking milk, which is a good source of calcium, vitamin D and protein, may help prevent gout and fight the progression of osteoarthritis (OA). Make sure you opt for low-fat milk to avoid consuming extra calories and saturated fat.
Orange, tomato, pineapple and carrot juices are all high in the antioxidant, vitamin C, which can neutralize free radicals that lead to inflammation. Tart cherry juice has been shown to protect against gout flares and reduce OA symptoms.
Tips: Be sensible when drinking juice: it’s delicious, but also high in sugar and calories. Check with your doctor if you’re a fan of grapefruit juice because it can inactivate or alter the effect of many medications.
Many dietitians prefer smoothies over juices because they require using the whole fruit or vegetable– giving you the added bonus of fiber, which helps clean out arteries and fight constipation. Colorful fruits and vegetables are also high in antioxidants. Adding berries or leafy greens like spinach or kale can give you big doses of vitamins and nutrients.
Tips: Smoothies containing yogurt are full of good bacteria (probiotics) as well as vitamins. Also, adding a fermented beverage like kefir can boost probiotic content, which can decrease inflammation in your body. Make sure you’re choosing a low- or no-sugar yogurt or kefir.
Red wine has a compound in it called resveratrol, which has well-established anti-inflammatory effects. Some studies show wine consumption is associated with a reduced risk of knee OA, and moderate drinking is also associated with a reduced risk of RA. But many experts question the strength of these studies and argue it’s hard to distinguish confounding factors in this research. Other research shows that alcohol has detrimental effects on arthritis.
Tips: Overall, experts agree there aren’t enough health benefits in alcohol to start drinking if you don’t already do it. But if you do enjoy an occasional adult beverage, drink it in moderation, says Beth McDonald, a nutritionist at the Department of Integrative Medicine at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in New York City. The general recommendation is one drink a day (of alcohol) for women, two for men. Any more than that squanders any benefit and can actually promote inflammation, she says.
If there’s a magical elixir to drink, it’s water. Hydration is vital for flushing toxins out of your body, which can help fight inflammation. Adequate water intake can help keep your joints well lubricated and prevent gout attacks. Drinking water before a meal can also help you eat less, promoting weight loss.
Tips: Don’t bother wasting money on enhanced waters. The added amount of nutrients, electrolytes or antioxidants is generally miniscule.
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