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 inflammation associated with arthritis and other serious conditions, such as heart disease and stroke.
All fruits have health benefits, but some have more disease-fighting properties than others. Berries, for example are among some of the best fruits for arthritis. They are loaded with antioxidants, such ascorbic acid (a form of vitamin C) and anthocyanins and carotenoids, which give berries their deep color. These compounds also help rid the body of free radicals that promote inflammation and 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 dietitian and team sports nutritionist for the Kansas City Royals. Aim for five or more servings a day of fruit to your diet, which can help manage weight since most are low in calories.
The fruits below boast some of the best benefits for people with arthritis and related conditions.
Tart cherries get their dark red color and many of their powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits from the flavonoid anthocyanin. Some researchers compare the anti-inflammatory properties of cherries to non-steroidal 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 (OA) and lower the risk of flares in those with gout. In addition, recent studies suggest tart cherries may improve the quality and duration of sleep.
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 is anthocyanin, along with other phytochemicals, that gives strawberries their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant health benefits. Strawberries are also a good source of folic acid, which the arthritis medication methotrexate can deplete. People taking methotrexate often need folic acid supplements to help prevent side effects, but eating strawberries is still beneficial.
Like strawberries, these berries are among the highest in vitamin C and anthocyanin. Animal studies have shown extracts from the fruit reduce inflammation and OA symptoms. Other research shows that the fruit’s bioactive compounds lower system-wide inflammation and, when a regular part of the diet, help prevent numerous chronic conditions, such as heart disease, stroke and type-2 diabetes.
The rich, creamy texture of this fruit comes in part from its high concentration 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 OA.
Studies also show eating avocados daily increases “good” HDL cholesterol and lowers “bad” LDL cholesterol. 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.
Studies show that eating watermelon reduces the inflammatory marker CRP. It’s also high in the carotenoid beta-cryptoxanthin, which can reduce the risk of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). It’s also packed with lycopene, an antioxidant that may help protect against certain cancers and lower heart attack risk, says Dulan. One cup has about 40 percent 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.
Both white and darker-colored varieties of grapes are a great source of beneficial antioxidants and other polyphenols. “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,” says Dulan.
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 OA, as well as for other chronic diseases linked to aging.
TheBUZZ : Bromelain in pineapples can minimize joint pain and inflammation?
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Bromelain can decrease inflammation that is associated with joint pain, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and other inflammatory diseases.
WHAT WE KNOW
Bromelain is a mixture of protein-digesting enzymes found in pineapples. Pineapple has been used for centuries in Central and South America to treat indigestion and reduce inflammation. Bromelain, which is derived from the stem and juice of the pineapple, was first isolated from the pineapple plant in the late 1800s when it was approved to treat swelling and inflammation following surgery.
How does it decrease inflammation? Bromelain minimizes the ignition of the molecules associated with activating the inflammatory process in the body. However, the mechanisms are currently not completely understood and it’s thought to be multifaceted. Also, current studies include concentrated amounts of bromelain, either injected or taken orally.
Currently, we have not seen published studies that document specific changes in inflammation following consumption of the pineapples (versus supplementation with the purified extract).
HOW DO WE KNOW THIS?
A study published in Clinical Immunology examined biopsies of patients diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (Chron’s disease or ulcerative colitis) who were treated with bromelain serum. The study found that bromelain decreased activity of inflammatory mediators and could potentially provide anti-inflammatory treatment for patients suffering from IBD, however, further investigation is needed.¹
Another study published in Phytomedicine found that bromelain may be effective in alleviating the physical symptoms of mild knee pain and improving the quality of life of individuals suffering from the condition. While this study found positive associations between bromelain and the decrease in knee pain, larger randomized, controlled clinical trails are needed to justify this correlation.²
Both studies, along with other studies in the literature, expressed a need for further investigation of the anti-inflammatory effects of bromelain.
Do not start supplementing with bromelain if you have any sort of inflammatory problem! Like any supplement, you should consult with your doctor before taking it! Currently there is no conclusive evidence linking bromelain to decreased inflammation. For now, if you’re experiencing joint pain or GI discomfort, eat a balanced diet—rich in fruits and veggies—and get regular physical activity!
If you have IBD …
- Read our article on GI discomfort.
- Get your fiber! Fiber in fruits and veggies can prevent constipation and therefore can be used as a preventative measure against flare-ups and discomfort.
If you have joint pain …
- Watch your weight. It helps to maintain a healthy weight, which takes tension off of the joints.
- Get your vitamins and minerals! Fruits and vegetables provide vitamins and minerals that are needed for proper functioning of all body organs—including bones!
Bromelain is only one of the beneficial nutrients found in pineapples, which also provide vitamin C (helps promote collagen formation and improve iron absorption, among other functions) and manganese (supports metabolism and bone density). Check out our Top 10 Ways to Enjoy Pineapples!
¹ Onken, J., P. Greer P., B. Calingaert, L. Hale. “Bromelain Treatment Decreases Secretion of Pro-Inflammatory Cytokines and Chemokines by Colon Biopsies in Vitro.” Clinical Immunology (2008): 126: 345-52.
² Walker, A., R. Bundy, S. Hicks, et al. “Bromelain Reduces Mild Acute Knee Pain and Improves Well-Being in a Dose-Dependent Fashion in an Open Study of Otherwise Healthy Adults.” Phytomedicine (2002): 9: 681-86.
Is Pineapple Juice Good for Arthritis Pain?
In addition to packing vitamins and minerals that your body needs daily, pineapples are a storehouse for bromelain. This plant enzyme or phytochemical appears to ease joint inflammation and might help decrease the amount of pain that you experience from arthritis. Along with its sweet goodness, the pineapple is a go-to fruit that may help you maintain your mobility in spite of arthritis. Consult your doctor before using pineapple in any form to treat a health condition.
Arthritis and Joint Pain
Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the most prevalent causes of arthritis joint pain. Osteoarthritis affects the majority of sufferers. Common symptoms include inflammation, swelling and stiffness in joints. Over time, both forms of arthritis commonly cause degradation of the affected joints. Sufferers may experience erosion of the synovial membrane in joints and loss of cartilage.
Bromelain is not exclusively found in pineapples, but fresh pineapple juice is a source that you should not overlook when you have concerns about arthritis pain 3. Bromelain is an enzyme that occurs naturally in fresh pineapples. Cooked pineapple has one-half to two-thirds less. The stem is the main source of bromelain in pineapples. The flesh also contains this enzyme.
Bromelain in pineapple juice might provide a dietary alternative or complementary treatment for arthritis pain relief, according to Arthritis Today 3. However, the evidence for this use of pineapple juice is largely anecdotal. Scientific research has focused on bromelain supplements, instead of naturally occurring bromelain from pineapple juice. Bromelain may reduce both inflammation and swelling in joints. These are the main causes of joint pain. Once the swelling and inflammation subside, your mobility may improve and your joints may be better able to withstand the weight of your body and the stress of movement and flexion.
Pineapple Juice Vitamin Bonus
The antioxidant vitamin C in pineapple juice can play an important role in the repair of collagen, or the protein in connective tissues that keep joints functioning properly, according to WholeHealthMD.com. Drinking pineapple juice also helps you increase your intake of the antioxidant vitamin A, which may help with arthritis pain. Antioxidants help your body to repair cell and joint damage caused by free radicals. These unbounded molecules that result from normal cell processes can cause deterioration of your tissues.
A 1-cup serving of pineapple juice contains 25 mg of vitamin C, or 42 percent of the daily value. Although this serving of pineapple juice contributes less than 10 percent of the daily value for vitamin A, it contains 12 international units, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture 2.
Eat These 8 Foods to Help Beat RA Inflammation
The most troubling symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis — pain, stiffness, and swelling — stem from the same source: inflammation. Research hasn’t yet established that changing your diet will definitely reduce the severity of those rheumatoid arthritis (RA) symptoms, but some findings suggest that it may indeed help.
There’s some evidence that diets high in polyunsaturated fatty acids and plant fiber — think omega-3 fatty acids and lots of fruits and vegetables — may decrease the risk of the disease. It’s also thought that both fiber and polyunsaturated fatty acids can lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), which is an indicator of joint inflammation.
Researchers theorize that fiber in particular is beneficial, but it may be that the phytonutrients in fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and grains contribute to lessening it. Studies have also found that regularly eating fish high in omega-3s, such as salmon, herring, mackerel, trout, and tuna, may decrease swollen joints and tenderness.
Although the compounds in many foods are said to improve RA symptoms, more research is needed to determine just how much of those compounds would have to be eaten to derive the benefit.
What scientists know for sure is that there are important links between your stomach and inflammation, and that Western diets, with their emphasis on the fast, cheap, and highly flavorful, create the conditions for diseases like RA to flourish.
It’s certain, for starters, that obesity is a risk for inflammatory conditions. Body fat generates substances that generate inflammation, and the more fat there is, the more inflamed the body will be. In addition, the foods that lead to obesity — ones high in fat, sugar, salt, and processed ingredients — are known to increase inflammation.
Also, scientists are increasingly finding out more about the ways that intestinal bacterial imbalances, which may result from high-fat low-nutrient diets, contribute to these conditions.
That said, changing your diet probably won’t reduce inflammation enough for you to forgo other RA management treatments. But it can help reduce the amount of medication needed and the side effects of the medication, says Lona Sandon, PhD, RDN, an assistant professor in the department of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, who is also an RA patient. And, Dr. Sandon adds, eating well has never been known to make any condition worse.
Read on to find out what foods could help ease your symptoms and keep you healthy.
Could Carrots Be a Tool in Fighting Arthritis Inflammation?
The study found that the purple carrots contain 28 times more anthocyanins, which are the antioxidants responsible for the purple-red pigment in rasberries and blueberries. The rats in the study were given a high-fat, high-carbohydrate diet for 16 weeks to “mirror the effects of an unhealthy Western Diet.”
According to the study abstract, the “High-carbohydrate, high-fat diet-fed rats developed hypertension, cardiac fibrosis, increased cardiac stiffness, endothelial dysfunction, impaired glucose tolerance, increased abdominal fat deposition, altered plasma lipid profile, liver fibrosis and increased plasma liver enzymes together with increased plasma markers of oxidative stress and inflammation as well as increased inflammatory cell infiltration.”
As the rat’s health began to deteriorate, the team began to incorporate purple carrot juice and their health began to improve.
The authors wrote, “Purple carrot juice attenuated or reversed all changes while β-carotene did not reduce oxidative stress, cardiac stiffness or hepatic fat deposition.” The juice also improved “glucose tolerance as well as cardiovascular and hepatic structure and function.”
The study will be published in the British Journal of Nutrition and is titled, “Comparison of purple carrot juice and β-carotene in a high-carbohydrate, high-fat diet-fed rat model of the metabolic syndrome.” The research was performed by researchers from the School of Biomedical Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane.
TheBUZZ Cruciferous vegetables lower inflammation?
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Eating cruciferous vegetables such as green cabbage, broccoli, kale, and cauliflower provides anti-inflammatory benefits.
HOW DO WE KNOW THIS
Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee examined the food intake of 1,005 healthy, middle-aged Chinese women who filled out questionnaires about their diet as part of the Shanghai Women’s Healthy Study. (Because Asian populations are known to consume large amounts of cruciferous vegetables and other plant-based foods, these questionnaires provided a unique opportunity for researchers to analyze the potential health properties of these foods.)
The findings from this study show that participants who reported eating the most cruciferous vegetables (1.5 cups per day) had substantially less inflammation than those who ate the fewest. The women who consumed the most cruciferous vegetables had, on average, 13%-25% lower levels of three (3) important inflammatory markers in their blood.*
Fruits and vegetables are rich in the key nutrients, antioxidant vitamins, and phytochemicals needed for overall good health and disease prevention. Cruciferous vegetables such as green cabbage, broccoli, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, kale, and cauliflower provide anti-inflammatory benefits which can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases.
5 Ways Cruciferous Vegetables May Fight Inflammation
- Fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains contain phytochemicals which provide anti-inflammatory protection.
- Certain fruits and vegetables can help ease inflammation, stiffness, and muscle soreness.
- The bromelain in pineapple may minimize joint pain and inflammation.
- Eating cherries may reduce the pain of rheumatoid arthritis.
- Compounds in celery, peppers, and carrots potentially reduce age-associated inflammation in the brain, which can result in better cognitive health.
To get the most out of your diet, enjoy a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables and fill half your plate with these healthy foods. One great combination of colorful cruciferous vegetables is green and orange (broccoli and sweet potato, Brussels sprouts and carrots, or cauliflower and carrots).
Recipes with Lots of Fruits & Veggies
* Jiang, Yu, Sheng-Hui, Xiao-Ou Shu, et.al. “Cruciferous Vegetable Intake Is Inversely Correlated with Circulating Levels of Proinflammatory Markers in Women.” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 17 March 2014 (10.1016/j.jand.2013.12.019). Accessed March 31, 2014. View Abstract