One of the most common questions people with any form of arthritis have is, “What can I eat to help my joints?”

The answer, fortunately, is that many foods can help. Following a diet low in processed foods and saturated fat and rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts and beans is great for your body. If this advice looks  familiar, it’s because these are the principles of the so-called Mediterranean diet, which is frequently touted for its anti-aging, disease-fighting powers.

There’s good science behind the hype. Studies confirm eating these foods lowers blood pressure and protects against chronic conditions ranging from cancer to stroke. It helps arthritis by curbing inflammation – which benefits your joints as well as your heart. Another bonus: Eating more healthy, whole foods commonly found in  Mediterranean cuisine – and fewer packaged foods – can also lead to weight loss, which makes a huge difference in managing joint pain.

Whether you call it a Mediterranean diet, an anti-inflammatory diet or simply an arthritis diet, here’s a look at the key foods – and a breakdown of why they’re so good for joint health.

Fish

How much: Health auth­orities like the American Heart Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommend three to four ounces of fish, twice a week. Arthritis experts claim more is better.

Why: Some types of fish are good sources of inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids. A study of 727 postmenopausal women, published in the Journal of Nutrition, found those who had the highest consumption of omega-3s had lower levels of two inflammatory proteins: C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6.

More recently, researchers have shown that taking fish oil supplements helps reduce joint swelling and pain, duration of morning stiffness and disease activity among people who have rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Some of these patients even discontinued using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) without experiencing a disease flare.

Why are omega-3s such a hot commodity? Because most Americans aren’t getting enough. “Our ancestors consumed a balanced ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats. Today, people often ingest 10 to 20 times more omega-6s than omega-3s,” says Tanya Edwards, MD, medical director of the Center for Integrative Medicine and Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. A glut of inexpensive omega-6-rich vegetable oils have infiltrated packaged, processed foods and restaurant kitchens – and too many omega-6s could trigger inflammation and exacerbate disease. Research has shown that increasing our ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids – eating more fish and less fast-food, for example – helps mitigate chronic diseases, including RA.