kris ulland

Your Nutrition Partner

Arthritis is the leading cause of disability among Americans over age 15.

Joint inflammation is a natural response of the body to a disease or injury, but becomes arthritis when the inflammation persists after the injury or infection. Arthritis usually worsens with age and may even lead to a loss of joint movement.

There are different types of arthritis such as:

  • Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis that occurs when flexible tissue at the ends of bones wears down.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, which means that the immune system malfunctions and attacks the body instead of intruders.
  • Psoriatic arthritis is a form of arthritis that affects some people who have the skin condition psoriasis.
  • Gout or gouty arthritis is a form of arthritis characterized by severe pain, redness, and tenderness in joints.
    Pain and inflammation occur when too much uric acid crystallizes and deposits in the joints.
    Symptoms of gout include severe pain, redness, and swelling in joints, often the big toe. Attacks can come suddenly, often at night.
  • Ankylosing spondylitis is an inflammatory arthritis affecting the spine and large joints.  The condition is more common among men and usually begins in early adulthood.  Symptoms typically appear in early adulthood and include reduced flexibility in the spine.
  • Septic arthritis is an infection in the joint (synovial) fluid and joint tissues. It occurs more often in children than in adults. The infection usually reaches the joints through the bloodstream. In some cases, joints may become infected due to an injection, surgery, or injury.
  • Reactive arthritis is a condition that causes redness and inflammation in various joints in the body, especially the knees, feet, toes, hips and ankles. It usually develops after you’ve had an infection, particularly a sexually transmitted infection or food poisoning.
  • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis is the most common type of arthritis in kids and teens. It typically causes joint pain and inflammation. JIA is arthritis that affects one or more joints for at least 6 weeks in a child age 16 or younger

Arthritis may progress to limit everyday activities such as cooking, bathing, walking and dressing. It affects almost one in five Americans. Arthritis can affect people of any age and gender.

Some of the common symptoms of arthritis are:

  • Joint pain
  • Swelling around the joints
  • Stiffness
  • Warm skin over the joints
  • Redness of the skin over the joints

Although most types of arthritis do not have a known cause. Research has revealed the role of three major factors in certain types of arthritis:

  • Genetic factors cause some types of arthritis to run in families.
  • Physical activity and diet affects arthritis symptoms.
  • The presence of other medical conditions such as infections and chronic diseases such as lupus puts you at risk for arthritis.

Many foods can help fight inflammation and improve joint symptoms. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts and beans but low processed foods and saturated fat, is not only great for overall health, but can also help manage inflammation.

NUTS & SEEDS

Eat 1.5 ounces of nuts daily (one ounce is about a handful). Any nuts will do, but walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios and almonds are especially good.

“Multiple studies confirm the role of nuts in an anti-inflammatory diet,” explains José M. Ordovás, PhD, director of nutrition and genomics at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston. One study found that over a 15-year period, men and women who consumed the most nuts had a 51% lower risk of dying from an inflammatory disease (like RA) compared with those who ate the fewest nuts. Another study found that subjects with lower levels of vitamin B6 – found in most nuts – had higher levels of inflammatory markers.

Nuts are jam-packed with inflammation-fighting monounsaturated fat. And though they’re relatively high in fat and calories, studies show noshing on nuts promotes weight loss because their protein, fiber and monounsaturated fats are satiating. “Just keep in mind that more is not always better,” says Ordovás.

FRUITS & VEGGIES

Aim for nine or more servings daily (one serving equals one cup of most veggies or fruit or two cups of raw leafy greens). Colorful fruits and veggies, the darker or more brilliant the color, the more antioxidants it has. Good ones include blueberries, cherries, spinach, kale and broccoli.

Fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants. These potent chemicals act as the body’s natural defense system, helping to neutralize unstable molecules called free radicals that can damage cells. Research has shown that anthocyanins found in cherries and other red and purple fruits like strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries have an anti-inflammatory effect.

Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits and limes are rich in vitamin C. Research shows getting the right amount of that vitamin aids in preventing inflammatory arthritis and maintaining healthy joints. Other research suggests eating vitamin K-rich veggies like broccoli, spinach, lettuce, kale and cabbage dramatically reduces inflammatory markers in the blood.

OLIVE OIL

Two to three tablespoons daily. Extra virgin olive oil goes through less refining and processing, so it retains more nutrients than standard varieties. And it’s not the only oil with health benefits. Avocado and safflower oils have shown cholesterol-lowering properties, while walnut oil has 10 times the omega-3s that olive oil has.

Olive oil is loaded with heart-healthy fats, as well as oleocanthal, which has properties similar to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). “Oleocanthal inhibits activity of COX enzymes, with a pharmacological action similar to ibuprofen,” says Ordovás. Inhibiting these enzymes dampens the body’s inflammatory processes and reduces pain sensitivity.

BEANS

About one cup, twice a week (or more). Small red beans, red kidney beans and pinto beans rank among the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s top four antioxidant-containing foods (wild blueberries take the number 2 spot).

Beans are loaded with fiber and phytonutrients, which help lower CRP, an indicator of inflammation found in the blood. At high levels, CRP could indicate anything from an infection to RA. In a study scientists analyzed the nutrient content of 10 common bean varieties and identified a host of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds. Beans are also an excellent and inexpensive source of protein and have about 15 grams per cup, which is important for muscle health.

WHOLE GRAINS

Eat a total of six ounces of grains per day; at least three of which should come from whole grains. One ounce of whole grain would be equal to ½ cup cooked brown rice or one slice of whole-wheat bread. Eat foods made with the entire grain kernel like oatmeal, brown rice and quinoa. Some people may need to be careful about which whole grains they eat. Gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains, has been linked to inflammation for people with celiac disease (CD) or gluten sensitivity.

Whole grains contain plenty of filling fiber  which can help you maintain a healthy weight. Some studies have also shown that fiber and fiber-rich foods can lower blood levels of CRP, an inflammatory marker.

NIGHTSHADE VEGETABLES

For some people the solanine in nightshades can cause arthritis pain. Nightshade vegetables, including eggplant, tomatoes, red bell peppers and potatoes, are disease-fighting powerhouses that boast maximum nutrition for minimal calories.

Some experts believe these vegetables contain a potent nutrient mix that helps inhibit arthritis pain. However, many people do report symptom relief when they avoid nightshade vegetables. So, if you notice that your arthritis pain flares after eating them, consider eliminating all nightshade vegetables from your diet for a few weeks to see if it makes a difference. Then slowly add them back into your diet to see if symptoms worsen or stay the same.

Other foods to include in your diet to avoid arthritis pain:

  • Mushrooms are good for arthritis patients as they are rich in nutrients and they retard inflammation. They are the richest vegetarian source of vitamin D, which is important in maintaining healthy bones, muscles, and immunity.
  • Unsweetened cocoa
  • Bananas and plantains
  • Spices such as turmeric, paprika, ginger, and garlic
  • Soy, including soybeans and tofu
  • Green tea

Certain foods may make arthritis worse by contributing to joint inflammation or weight gain or both. Foods to be avoided in arthritis are:

  • Red meat
  • Dairy products
  • Corn, sunflower, safflower, peanut, and soy oils
  • Salt
  • Sugars including sucrose and fructose
  • Fried or grilled foods
  • Alcohol
  • Refined carbohydrates such as biscuits, white bread, and pasta

Olives

Olives are small fruits that grow on olive trees (Olea europaea). They belong to a group of fruit called drupes, or stone fruits, and are related to mangoes, cherries, peaches, almonds, and pistachios.
Olives are very high in vitamin E and other powerful antioxidants. Studies show that they are good for the heart and may protect against osteoporosis and cancer.
Some immature olives are green and turn black when they ripen. Others remain green even when fully ripe.
In the Mediterranean region, 90% of olives are used to make olive oil. 
Numerous studies have shown that consuming olive oil, especially the extra-virgin variety, may reduce the risk of heart disease and mortality in people who have a high risk of this condition.  Oleic acid, the main fatty acid in olives, is associated with improved heart health. It may regulate cholesterol levels and protect LDL (bad) cholesterol from oxidation. Some studies note that olives and olive oil may reduce blood pressure.
Olives contain the compound oleocanthal, which studies have shown can kill cancer cells. Other studies have shown a link between consuming olive oil and reducing the risk of cancers, including breast cancer. Olives and olive oil are commonly consumed in the Mediterranean region, where rates of cancer and other chronic diseases are lower than in other Western countries. Olive’s cancer-fighting may be partly due to their high antioxidant and oleic acid contents. Test-tube studies reveal that these compounds disrupt the life cycle of cancer cells in the breast, colon, and stomach.
The oleocanthal in olives and olive oil is linked to a reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other brain-related diseases. This compound also increases the activity of the drug donepezil, which is used to treat dementia.
Diabetes Prevention Research shows a link between consuming olive oil and preventing type 2 diabetes by helping the body regulate glucose (sugar). Unregulated glucose can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes.
The average olive weighs about 3-5 grams. Olives contain 115-145 calories per 3.5 ounces, or about 59 calories for 10 olives.
Olives are rich in vitamin E and other antioxidants, which may help reduce the risk of health conditions like cancer, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.
Five large black, pitted olives contains:
  • Calories: 25
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 2 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 1 gram
  • Fiber: 1 gram
  • Sugar: 0 grams

Olives provide many health benefits, but they are still relatively high in fat. Canned olives are often packed in brine, which makes them high in sodium. A high sodium diet can contribute to cardiovascular disease. Fresh olives are a healthier choice if you are watching your sodium intake.

Olives contain 11-15% fat, 74% percent of which is oleic acid, a type of monounsaturated fatty acid. It is the main component of olive oil. Oleic acid is linked to several health benefits, including decreased inflammation and a reduced risk of heart disease. It may even help fight cancer.

Carbs comprise 4-6% of olives, making them a low-carb fruit. Most of these carbs are fiber. In fact, fiber makes up 52-86% of the total carb content.

Olives are a good source of several vitamins and minerals, some of which are added during processing. This fruit’s beneficial compounds include:

  • Vitamin E. High-fat plant foods usually contain high amounts of this powerful antioxidant.
  • Iron. Black olives are a good source of iron, which is important for your red blood cells to transport oxygen.
  • Copper. This essential mineral is often lacking in the typical Western diet. Copper deficiency may increase your risk of heart disease.
  • Calcium. The most abundant mineral in your body, calcium is essential for bone, muscle, and nerve function.
  • Sodium. Most olives contain high amounts of sodium since they’re packaged in brine or saltwater.
  • Oleuropein. This is the most abundant antioxidant in fresh, unripe olives. It is linked to many health benefits.
  • Hydroxytyrosol. During olive ripening, oleuropein is broken down into hydroxytyrosol. It is also a powerful antioxidant.
  • Tyrosol. Most prevalent in olive oil, this antioxidant is not as potent as hydroxytyrosol. However, it may help prevent heart disease.
  • Oleanolic acid. This antioxidant may help prevent liver damage, regulate blood fats, and reduce inflammation.
  • Quercetin. This nutrient may lower blood pressure and improve heart health.

The most common varieties of whole olives are:

  • Spanish green olives, pickled
  • Greek black olives, raw
  • California olives, ripened with oxidation, then pickled

Because olives are very bitter, they’re not usually eaten fresh. Instead, they’re cured and fermented. This process removes bitter compounds like oleuropein, which are most abundant in unripe olives.  The lowest levels of bitter compounds are found in ripe, black olives.

Processing olives may take anywhere from a few days up to a few months depending on the method used. Processing methods often rely on local traditions, which affect the fruit’s taste, color, and texture.  Lactic acid is also important during fermentation. It acts as a natural preservative that protects the olives from harmful bacteria.

While allergy to olive tree pollen is common, allergy to olives is rare. After eating olives, sensitive individuals may experience allergic reactions in the mouth or throat.

Olives may contain heavy metals and minerals like boron, sulfur, tin, and lithium. Consuming a high quantity of heavy metals may harm your health and increase your risk of cancer. However, the amount of these metals in olives is generally well below the legal limit.  Therefore, this fruit is considered safe

Acrylamide is linked to an increased risk of cancer in some studies. Especially ripe, California black olives, may contain high amounts of acrylamide as a result of processing.

How to Buy

You can buy olives in many forms at most grocery stores. You can find them canned or bottled in a salt solution or water. You may be able to find fresh olives at a grocery or local Mediterranean specialty store.

How to Store

Store in a cool, dark place for six weeks before eating. The olives will keep for up to two years unopened. Once opened, store in the fridge, where they will keep for up to six months.

How to Cook

Here are some other ways to use olives in recipes:

  • Drizzle it on hummus
  • As a cocktail garnish or ingredient
  • Use as a salad dressing base
  • Replace less healthy oils in baking recipes
  • Chop up to use in a tapenade
  • Slice and use as a pizza topping
  • Add to pasta dishes
  • Slice and use as a sandwich topping
  • Stuff large olives with soft cheese and serve as an appetizer

Smashed Chickpea and Olive Sandwich Spread

The Herbeevore/ Kelly Jensen

2 Sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 1 14 ounce can no salt added chickpeas, drained
  • 1/4 cup green olives chopped
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives chopped
  • 1/4 cup Roasted red pepper chopped
  • Parsley
  • Black pepper
  • Gluten free bread, wrap, or bagel

Instructions

  • In a bowl, add the canned chickpeas and both types of olives.  Mash with a fork until the chickpeas and olives become reduced into a paste.  Stir in the roasted red pepper and parsley, stir well to combine.  Add black pepper to taste.
  • Toast a slice of gluten-free bread or a bagel, and top with the Chickpea Olive Smash.  Sprinkle fresh parsley, add sliced tomato, or pile on bean sprouts before enjoying.

Resources

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