If you’re dealing with osteoarthritis (OA) of the knees, here’s some good news: research published in the journal Nutrition Research says that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables has been shown to help reduce inflammation and pain in your joints.

Read on to learn about how food can help your OA.

Inflammation produces free radicals, the cell-damaging molecules that are formed in response to toxins and natural bodily processes. The synovium (the cushion between knee joints) is as prone to free radical damage as the skin, eyes, or any other body tissue.

Antioxidants protect the body from free radicals. Older research from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Clinical Rheumatology has shown that certain antioxidants may help prevent arthritis, slow its progression, and relieve pain. Being at a healthy weight is a critical component to managing OA of the knees.

Avoiding extra body fat doesn’t just take weight off your knees. Body fat is metabolically active, so it’s capable of producing hormones and chemicals that actually increase levels of inflammation.

Try these calorie-controlling strategies:

  1. Dine in instead of out.
  2. Eat smaller portions.
  3. Avoid buying high-calorie foods.
  4. Fill up half your plate with produce.

Tip: Try eating soups as a starter to control hunger. We also recommend Ina Garten’s hearty lentil vegetable soup.

The antioxidant vitamin C is necessary for cartilage development. A lack of vitamin C can lead to weakened cartilage and increase OA symptoms.

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Tip: Try Jacques Pépin’s recipe for stuffed tomatoes.

Research is mixed about vitamin D, but some studies in Arthritis and Rheumatology show that vitamin D can help prevent the breakdown of cartilage and decrease the risk of joint space narrowing.

While absorbing sunlight before applying sunscreen is your best source of vitamin D, you can also enjoy these vitamin D-rich foods:

Look for other foods fortified with vitamin D or calcium, such as:

Tip: Check out Bobby Flay’s Southwestern marinated grilled salmon with tomato-red chile chutney.

Beta carotene is another powerful antioxidant that helps destroy free radicals before they can cause excessive damage to joints. Beta carotene is easy to identify because it gives fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, their bright orange color. Other excellent sources include:

Tip: Check out this recipe for sweet potato pudding from Taste of Home.

The healthiest fats for people with OA, or other inflammatory disorders, are omega-3 fatty acids. While some foods increase levels of inflammation in the body, omega-3s actually work to decrease inflammation by suppressing the production of cytokines and enzymes that break down cartilage.

Foods with the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acids are:

Tip: Try whole-wheat banana pancakes from the blog 100 Days of Real Food. Top them with walnuts for extra flavor.

Bioflavonoids such as quercetin and anthocyanidins are both forms of antioxidants. The anti-inflammatory effects of quercetin may be similar to those of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) such as aspirin (Bayer) and ibuprofen (Advil, Midol). Good sources of quercetin include:

Tip: Get the flavorful recipe for garlicky broccolini from Food and Wine.

Some spices have anti-inflammatory effects, too. Among the most promising are ginger and turmeric. Grate fresh ginger into stir fries, add it to salad dressings, sip ginger tea, and add to high-fiber, low-fat muffins.

Turmeric is a mustard-yellow spice from Asia that’s the main ingredient in yellow curry. A study cited in the journal Alternative Medicine Review has shown that curcumin may help osteoarthritis by suppressing inflammatory body chemicals. Curcumin is a major active component of turmeric.

Tip: Make chicken curry with coconut milk using this healthy recipe from the blog SkinnyTaste.

It’s clear that the best strategies for keeping symptoms of OA of the knee at bay are to:

Your knees — and your waistline — will thank you.

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