But fiber isn’t the only reason beans help fight inflammation. In a study recently published in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, scientists analyzed the nutrient content of 10 common bean varieties in southern Italy and identified a host of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, including quercetin, genistein, soysapogenin and oleanolic acid.

Another reason beans are an essential part of an arthritis-friendly diet: They are a great (and inexpensive) source of protein, with about 15 grams per cup, and protein is important for overall health, especially for muscle health. Protein helps prevent muscle shrinkage due to age or inactivity, and stronger muscles make it easier to keep joints moving. (Movement is medicine!)

This vegetarian source of protein fills you up, meaning less post-meal snacking – and potentially less weight on your joints. Beans also digest very slowly, providing sustained energy and preventing the blood-sugar roller coaster commonly associated with high-carb and/or processed foods. Many bean varieties also boast folic acid, which benefits the heart, as well as immune-boosting minerals like magnesium, iron, zinc and potassium.

Best Sources: Red beans, small red kidney beans and pinto beans rank among the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s top four antioxidant-containing foods. Other beans you may want to add to your rotation: black beans, garbanzo beans and black-eyed peas.

Should You Avoid Nightshades?

Nightshade vegetables, including eggplant, tomatoes, red bell peppers and potatoes, are hallmarks of Mediterranean cuisine. Each of these disease-fighting power­houses boasts maximum nutrition for minimal calories. They also contain solanine, a chemical that has been branded the culprit in arthritis pain.

According to Tanya Edwards, MD, medical director of the Center for Integrative Medicine and Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, there’s no scientific evidence to suggest that nightshades trigger arthritis flares. In fact, some experts believe these vegetables contain a potent nutrient mix that helps inhibit arthritis pain.

Eggplant, for example, boasts anti-inflammatory anthocyanins, plus a hefty dose of fiber – all for only 35 calories per cup. Tomatoes are a rich source of the antioxidant lycopene, which has been shown to help neutralize free radicals. Red peppers are loaded with immune-boosting vitamin C (which also helps your body absorb iron). And potatoes are packed with potassium, which can help keep blood pressure in check, among other health benefits.

However, many people do report significant symptom relief when they avoid nightshade vegetables. If you notice that your arthritis pain flares after eating them, Dr. Edwards suggests you do a test: “Eliminate all nightshade vegetables from your diet for a few weeks. If you notice less pain, perhaps you should avoid these powerful foods.”