For many years, people have claimed that certain foods in their diet reduced pain and joint inflammation from osteoarthritis (OA). Researchers continue to investigate whether foods and spices actually may play a role in relieving OA pain and, if so, how they work. Here’s the latest information on foods that may fight OA:

There’s no “arthritis diet”

There is no single “arthritis diet” that fights inflammation. However, making good food choices can help people with OA feel better. “Mostly it’s just healthy eating, with a lot of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds,” says registered dietitian Ruth Frechman, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and author of The Food Is My Friend Diet.

Fruits, veggies and whole grains are natural inflammation fighters that can also help control your weight. “It’s important to stay at a healthy weight to ease up some of the stress on the joints,” Frechman adds. For every 1 pound of weight you lose, you reduce the load on your knee joint by 4 pounds.

Foods to try

Remember, there’s no magic food,” stresses Frechman.  But growing evidence suggests that following a healthy diet and adding in specific foods and spices could help fight inflammation and joint pain. Here are six food choices that may be helpful:

  1. Broccoli, Brussel sprouts and cabbage. These veggies are part of the cruciferous family, and they are chock full of a compound called sulforaphane, which helps slow down cartilage damage in joints due to OA, according to a 2013 study involving mice. Admittedly, it’s an early study. But veggies are always a healthy choice. Try adding broccoli, Brussel sprouts or cabbage to your salad or stir-fry. Other foods rich in sulforaphane include kale and cauliflower.
  2. Fatty fish. Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, trout, and mackerel are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help fight inflammation and boost heart health. Try adding fish to your diet a couple of times a week. If you’re not a big fan of fish, ask your doctor whether it’s worth taking an omega-3 supplement. Studies have found that omega-3 supplements reduce inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis (RA), but whether they help people with OA isn’t clear.
  3. Garlic. Garlic is a member of the allium family—which also includes onions, and leeks. These items contain a compound called diallyl disulfide that may help with a number of diseases—including arthritis. “This compound may have some effect in limiting cartilage-damaging enzymes,” says rheumatologist Scott Zashin, MD, a volunteer clinical professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, and author of Natural Arthritis Treatment. One study noted that people who regularly ate garlic and its relatives had less evidence of hip OA on x-ray images.