When the weather outside is frightful (like today with highs in the low teens, yikes!), my joints start not to feel so merry even though it’s during the holiday season. Ok, I have to admit: I’ve had bad joints since I was a teenager in high school (no joke). A large part of it can be attributed to sedentary living, since I didn’t work out or participate in sports regularly all throughout high school and college. Although I managed to avoid putting on a lot of weight since I lived at home during college and ate healthy home-cooked meals on most days, the lack of physical activity certainly took a toll on my health. Since not-so-strong joints run in my family anyway, they were aggravated by my unhealthy lifestyle.
I sound like an old person, don’t I? Well, take it as free advice from me: Make working out an essential part of your daily routine, to avoid having creaking joints by the time you’ve reached your 50s…
In addition to staying active, your diet is also extremely important. Your body needs certain nutrients for your joints to function normally. Here are a few of the most important nutrients for healthy joints:
This may be an obvious one to most of you, but have you stopped to ask yourself if you actually drink enough (filtered) water everyday? As basic as this is, most people get so busy and are constantly gorging down caffeine all day (which is quite dehydrating) that they forget to drink the one essential fluid that the body really needs for survival. Staying hydrated is vital for your health in general – but especially for your joints because it ensures that there are sufficient fluid levels in between the joints for lubrication and cushioning.
Cold Water Wild-Caught Fish
This is also no secret nowadays, but a diet containing fish (opt for wild-caught fish from cold clean water) is excellent for your health and for the condition of your joints. Cold water wild fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel and halibut are the best sources of omega 3 fatty acids. Studies have shown that omega-3s can reduce the pain and inflammation of stiff joints in people with arthritis. Check the fish source to make sure the fish is wild-caught and has no mercury, PCBs, or lead.
Green Leafy Vegetables
A plate of salad everyday can really keep the doctor away for a long time. Among the many nutrients and vitamins found in salad, calcium ranks high on the list for nutrients that can lessen the amount of bone loss that occurs with age. Calcium can be found in many veggies, but particularly in kale, broccoli, spinach, parsley, okra, cabbage, bok choy, and turnip greens. So load up your salad plate with interesting vegetables for better joint health. If you need inspiration for interesting salad mixes, check out this post and this one.
Ginger has a ton of health benefits, and it is especially good for joints because of its anti-inflammatory properties. According to WH Foods, a study published in the February 2005 issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine shows that ginger can “suppress the pro-inflammatory compounds (cytokines and chemokines) produced by synoviocytes (cells comprising the synovial lining of the joints), chrondrocytes (cells comprising joint cartilage) and leukocytes (immune cells).” It’s flavor is pretty strong so you’ll probably want to add it to a delicious recipe to get the health benefits without burning your throat. Try this ginger oatmeal recipe for breakfast, or you can always add it to an Asian-inspired fish dish.
Surprise, surprise – turmeric is part of the ginger family (see above) – now that I think about it, it looks very similar to ginger in raw form. Most people think of turmeric as an Indian spice, but a lot of people don’t know that it can be used for medicinal purposes as well. There are actually pills that are sold with just turmeric in them to help with joint pain, but I believe it’s much better to have it in raw form and allow your body to digest it and absorb the nutrients naturally. Although “only animal studies have proven its ability to reduce joint inflammation, the herb has a centuries-long history of being used for inflammation in Ayurveda” (a traditional medical treatment method in India) (Calechman).
This picture of a seaweed salad (recipe by 101cookbooks) is the most appetizing I could find within my Google search. It might not look yummy, but it sure is healthy for your joints. Studies have found that red seaweed especially has a mineral ingredient that could help alleviate pain and stiffness in aching joints, and make physical activity less difficult. Although I’ve never tried to incorporate seaweed into a recipe, I would love to start!
A few other things to consider…
- Lose extra weight. Joints can become painful when they have to bear more weight than they can handle.
- Participate in outdoor activities (without exerting too much effort/pressure on any joints that are painful) – the fresh air, natural scenery, and chance to move your body will be refreshing on many levels.
- Consider stretching periodically (even if you didn’t work out that day). Even alternating between sitting and standing – as opposed to doing just one of them for an entire day – helps to some degree. Whenever you increase your range of motion (gradually of course), your joints and muscles become more flexible and stronger.
- Make sure you have proper posture all day, even if you sit on a desk.
- Avoid wearing high heels or uncomfortable shoes on a regular basis.
- Take warm (but not hot!) showers and get a massage every so often…
I hope these tips for taking care of your joints are helpful! Remember that any habit takes about 3 weeks to solidify and become a natural part of your schedule. Push yourself to take active steps in the right direction and after some time, they will become second nature!
*This post was sponsored by The Outdoor Toy Company.*