Posted on: June 21, 2020 at 9:02 pm

Much of the conversation surrounding fitness and health focuses on muscles and organs, but what have you done lately to support your tendons, ligaments, and joints? The health of these tissues is very important to the overall function of your body, and keeping them healthy becomes increasingly important as you age.

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As you get older, your ligaments and tendons become weaker and less flexible, causing your knees and other joints to become damaged and achy. Adequate nutrition, however, can support the growth and repair of these tissues, and can even help prevent knee and joint pain.

Continue reading to learn how nutrition can support healthy joints, and for a delicious smoothie for joint pain and everyday support.

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Joint Nutrition

There are various foods, ingredients, and nutraceuticals that can help to maintain joint tissue and decrease inflammation that causes pain. Here are some of those.

Protein

More specifically, collagen. Collagen helps maintain your cartilage, which is the tissue that protects your joints. As you age, your cartilage tends to break down over time, so it is important to eat in such a way that helps to rebuild and repair damaged cartilage.

Research has shown that a collagen supplement may accumulate in cartilage and stimulate your tissues to make more collagen, which could lead to lower inflammation, support for your joints, and a reduction in pain [1].

In a study in which adults took two grams of collagen every day for 70 days, participants noticed a significant reduction in joint pain and had an easier time engaging in physical activities than those who did not [2].

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Collagen can be found in various animal products. Foods high in the amino acids lysine and proline are also important as they are key components in collagen.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that fights molecules that trigger inflammation, and research suggests that it may protect against the development of joint-related health issues including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis [3][4].

The research regarding osteoarthritis is somewhat mixed, although it appears that lower doses (100 milligrams per kilogram of body weight) are beneficial, while high dosages may have the opposite effect. For this reason, ensuring adequate vitamin C intake through food is the best way to support your health [3]. If you do plan to supplement, the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) is 2000mg. This is the maximum daily intake unlikely to cause adverse health effects.

Vitamin C is not only beneficial as an antioxidant, but it is also a cofactor in collagen synthesis and plays a role in fighting infection that is linked to inflammation [5].

Read: 10 Arthritis Exercises That Will Help Sore, Swollen, Cracking Joints Go Away

Omega-3’s

There are two types of omega-3’s, EPA and DHA. Both can reduce inflammation that causes swelling and pain [6].

There are a variety of food sources of omega-3’s, including walnuts, flaxseeds, salmon, and fish oil supplements [6,7]. For the purposes of a smoothie, plant-based sources typically work best particularly when it comes to taste, however, a fish oil supplement may be the most effective at reducing pain caused by inflammation. Animal sources of omega 3’s typically contain preformed EPA and DHA, which are ideal for inflammation. Plant sources on the other hand contain ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), which has a poor conversion rate to EPA and DHA . Always make sure to check with your doctor before taking an omega-3 supplement for arthritis.

Zinc

Zinc is a component of many enzymes and proteins that are needed for tissue repair and growth [8]. Many foods that are high in zinc are animal products, such as meat, fish, and shellfish, however there are some plant-based sources of the mineral.

Pulses, seeds, nuts, and whole grains also provide a good amount of zinc, all of which are more easily incorporated in a smoothie, and are suitable for those who are following a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle [9]. One notable food are pumpkin seeds. They’re rich in magnesium, iron, and of course, zinc.

Spices

Both cinnamon and turmeric have powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, and you don’t need that much to reap the benefits. Just two grams per day, or about half a teaspoon, will have a positive impact on your health, and they can be added to smoothies, soups, salad dressings, and more.

As Christine Gerbstadt, MD, RD, author of Doctor’s Detox Diet says, why would you take a supplement and not just eat the spice?

“The two grams per day …is less than I sprinkle on my toast, into my tea or yogurt, or add to sauces such as curry and others,” she said [10].

Cherries

Research has shown that tart cherry juice can reduce pain and inflammation caused by osteoarthritis, and can reduce the need to take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), which can be harmful [11].

Although cherries get a lot of attention when it comes to fighting inflammation, there are plenty of other fruits, like blueberries, cranberries, and pomegranates that also provide similar benefits.

Read: 5 Best Exercises to Stave off the Effects of Aging If You’re Over 40

A Smoothie for Joint Pain

There are countless ways people can approach joint health, and adequate nutrition is one of those. A smoothie is a convenient, easy way to get as much nutrition as possible into one meal. The following recipe is easy to make, delicious and includes many of the ingredients mentioned above to keep your joints healthy and as pain-free as possible.

Pineapple Cherry Joint Nourishing Smoothie Recipe 

Water or Unsweetened Plant-Based Milk – 1 cup

Pineapple Chunks – 1/2 Cup 

Cherries – 1/2 Cup 

Hydrolyzed Collagen – 1 scoop 

Flax Powder – 2 tbsp 

True Cinnamon (Ceylon cinnamon) – 1 tsp* 

Ground pumpkin seeds or pumpkin seed butter – 1 tbsp 

Additional Options

If you want to give this smoothie a litte extra anti-inflammatory powder you can try adding the following:

Everyone’s level if sweet is different. If you find this smoothie needs something extra, add a sweetener to taste. Raw honey, coconut sugar or maple syrup work. If you’re looking to limit sugar, liquid stevia or monk fruit sweetener are good options.

Directions: 

1. Add water or plant-based milk, fruit, flax meal, and pumpkin seeds to a high-speed blender 
2. Blend until smooth 
3a. Add collagen, blend until smooth 
3b. If using algae or fish oil, add at the end gently blend in.
4. Serve and Enjoy 

Notes:

Depending on the consistency you enjoy, you may need to add a little more liquid.

* Important Note When Purchasing Cinnamon.

Ceylon cinnamon is important to use because it is low in coumarin, a liver toxic substance found in cheaper cinnamons (i.e. cassia cinnamon) [12]. You may find Ceylon cinnamon listed as true cinnamon or cinnamomum zeylanicum.

Eat for Joint Health

It is important to remember when eating for joint health that what you don’t eat matters just as much as what you do.  

As much as possible, avoid processed foods, too many omega-6 fatty acids (found in meats and vegetable oils), sugar and sugar alternatives, fried foods, refined carbohydrates, high-fat dairy, and alcohol [13].

Joint pain can be debilitating and prevent you from doing the activities that you enjoy. Eating a diet that supports your joints can reduce pain and inflammation and get you back to participating in all of the activities that you love to do.

Keep Reading: How to Rebuild Worn Down Cartilage and Feel Like Your Joints Are New Again

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Brittany Hambleton
Team Writer
Brittany is a freelance writer and editor with a Bachelor of Science in Foods and Nutrition and a writer’s certificate from the University of Western Ontario. She enjoyed a stint as a personal trainer and is an avid runner. Brittany loves to combine running and traveling, and has run numerous races across North America and Europe. She also loves chocolate more than anything else… the darker, the better!

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