10 Foods Your Joints Love

Add these to a healthy diet to help prevent and soothe joint pain.

Medically reviewed in December 2019

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What Is a Healthy Joint Diet?

Can specific foods nourish healthy joints? Maybe, but the research linking food to joint health is limited, says Lona Sandon, MEd, RDN, LD, assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. "If there were a magic food out there, I'd have found it by now," says Sandon, who has RA. Your best bet to manage joint pain from arthritis, Lyme disease, gout and other conditions is to aim for an overall good diet that helps you maintain a healthy weight. "If you're carrying around more weight, you're less likely to be active and your joints are more likely to hurt," says Sandon. But it can't hurt to add these 10 foods to your menus.

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"Coldwater fish, like salmon, are your best sources of omega-3 fatty acids," says Sandon. Omega-3s are heart-healthy fats that help limit inflammation and may help prevent joint pain. Fish is also a decent source of vitamin D, a key nutrient that supports healthy bones, muscles and immune function. A large-scale study of middle-age women linked eating at least one serving a fish per week with a 29% lower risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. Tuna, trout and sardines are other smart options.

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Tart Cherry Juice

Can a glass of tart cherry juice help prevent or even soothe joint pain? Maybe, says Sandon. One small study suggests consuming tart cherries may reduce the risk of symptom flare-ups in people who have gout. And another small study found that drinking tart cherry juice helped relieve knee pain in folks with osteoarthritis of the knee. The key is to choose tart cherry varieties, such as Montmorency. Those are rich in anti-inflammatory antioxidants known as anthocyanins.

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Like cherries, strawberries and other berries are chock-full of anthocyanins, which Sandon says may act as an anti-inflammatory to protect joint health. The large-scale Women's Health Study found that women who ate strawberries at least twice a week had lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker for inflammation. Strawberries are also a good source of vitamin C, which acts as an antioxidant that boosts collagen production to help protect joints and may slow down osteoarthritis.

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Nuts and Seeds

A handful of pistachios as a snack, walnuts sprinkled over yogurt, flax seeds added to baked goods, an almond butter-and-banana sandwich—these are just a few ways to enjoy the joint-boosting benefits of nuts and seeds. They're rich sources of the antioxidant vitamin E, which helps protect the cellular health of your joints and may help prevent joint pain. You'll also gobble up some anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. For the most benefit, enjoy a variety of nuts and seeds.

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Almond Milk

People with low levels of vitamin D are more likely to develop arthritis. Your body makes vitamin D from the sun, but chances are you're not getting as much as you need. Vitamin D-fortified foods, including almond milk, can help fill the gap. And since dairy is a controversial ingredient when it comes to joint health, vitamin D-fortified almond milk is a good alternative. Depending on the brand, an 8-ounce glass can provide 25% or more of your vitamin D for the day. You'll also get a nice dose of antioxidant vitamin E.

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Sweet Potatoes

These golden tubers are among Sandon's favorite foods for nourishing healthy joints. That's because sweet potatoes are a terrific source of vitamin A, which can act as an anti-inflammatory. They're also a smart alternative to regular potatoes if you're watching your blood sugar. Enjoy sweet potatoes baked, steamed, mashed or pureed into soup.

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Celery may be a humble veggie with a mere 6 calories per stalk, but it has powerful health benefits. Celery—and its ungainly looking bulb, known as celeriac or celery root—is a good source of silicon and vitamin K. Both nutrients help nourish healthy joints and connective tissue. For joint-loving snack, top your celery with nut butter. Try raw celeriac grated in a salad or boiled and mashed as a tasty alternative to mashed potatoes.

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Onions and Garlic

If cooking dinner often starts with sautéing onions and garlic, that's good news for your joints. Onions, garlic and other members of the pungent allium family contain a substance called diallyl dusulphide, which helps protect the cartilage in your joints from osteoarthritis. If standard onions are a little, um, strong, try milder varieties, such as leeks and shallots.

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Love your guacamole? Turns out, it loves your joints. "Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fat and a good source of vitamin E," says Sandon. You'll also get anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids and something called polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols (PFAs). Give avocado oil a try, too. It has rich, buttery flavor that's delicious in salad dressing and even baked goods. And it also has a high 

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Bell Peppers

Sweet bell peppers add a dash of sunny color to salads and stir-fries. They're also one of the best sources of vitamin C. One medium red bell pepper has 152 mg of vitamin C—two and half times what you need for the day—compared to 83 mg in an orange. But that's not all. Bell peppers also have a substance called beta-cryptoxanthin, an anti-oxidant that may help prevent rheumatoid arthritis.

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