Best Fruits for Arthritis
Pick these fruits for a bowlful of anti-inflammatory benefits.
Fruits are naturally sweet and many offer a substantial dose of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. 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 vast variety of fruits means you have lots of great options for a healthful boost. Many berries, for example, are loaded with antioxidants, such ascorbic acid (a form of vitamin C) and anthocyanins and carotenoids, which give soft berries their deep colors. These compounds help rid the body of free radicals that promote inflammation and they help prevent heart disease and certain cancers.
Whatever your favorite fruit, try to choose seasonal, locally grown produce, says Mitzi Dulan, a Kansas City-based dietician and team sports nutritionist for the Kansas City Royals. Although frozen fruits retain some of their nutrients, buy fresh for the best taste and highest concentration of beneficial compounds.
“Adding fresh fruit to the diet – five or more servings a day is the current recommendation – can help people manage their weight, as most are low in calories for their volume,” says Dulan.
Tart cherries. Tart cherries get their rich red color 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).
Studies, which often use the concentrated juice of Montmorency cherries, have found tart cherries may relieve joint pain in people with osteoarthritis and lower the risk of flares in those with gout. In addition, Dulan notes, recent studies suggest tart cherries may improve the quality and duration of sleep.
Strawberries. 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. 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 with cherries, 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.
Red Raspberries. 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. Other research shows the fruit’s bioactive compounds lower system-wide inflammation and, when a regular part of the diet, help prevent a number of chronic conditions, such as heart disease, stroke and type-2 diabetes.
Avocado. 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. Diets high in these compounds are linked to decreased risk of the joint damage seen in early osteoarthritis.
Studies also show eating avocados daily increases “good” HDL cholesterol and lowers its “bad” LDL counterpart. 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 fiber and fat content may help people control cravings, Dulan says.
Watermelon. Watermelon is another fruit with anti-inflammatory action; studies show it reduces CRP. It’s 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. It leads the fruit pack in lycopene, an antioxidant that may help protect against certain cancers and lower heart attack risk, says Dulan.
Once cup has about 40% more lycopene than raw tomatoes, the next richest raw food source. Watermelon is also ninety-two percent water, which makes it great for hydration and weight management. One cup of watermelon has about 40 calories – plus about a third of your recommended daily allowance of vitamins A and C.
Grapes. “Grapes, both white and darker-colored varieties, are a great source of beneficial antioxidants and other polyphenols,” says Dulan. “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 NSAIDs. Researchers are studying its potential for improving symptoms of osteoarthritis, as well as for other chronic diseases linked to aging.