7 Festive Foods To Help With Arthritis – Flexiseq

7 Festive Foods To Help With Arthritis

It can be challenging to navigate the festive period when you have a chronic pain condition like arthritis. You want to get into the spirit of things, but your needs can sometimes be different to the people around you and it can be hard to set boundaries and look after yourself.

One area that can be hard to navigate at Christmas time is food. Festive treats are a huge part of Christmas, from the morning mimosa to Christmas dinner. Christmas encourages us to overindulge, and while treating yourself is no bad thing it is important to be mindful of which foods could trigger arthritic symptoms alongside which ones may be beneficial for your health.

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is a natural bodily response to injury, infection or illness. It’s a crucial part of how the immune system fights disease and restores you to health. Inflammation can be an issue, however, when the immune system gets overzealous and starts attacking healthy parts of the body. This is the basis of autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, and while osteoarthritis is the result of cartilage breakdown rather than inflammation itself, inflammation can still occur around the joints and cause pain, stiffness and decreased mobility.

Some foods containing a lot of sugars and fats can trigger inflammation. Unfortunately, you’re going to see many inflammatory foods on the Christmas table. Inflammatory foods include:

  • Sugar

  • Refined starches (e.g. white bread)

  • Saturated fats (often found in fried, processed and fast foods)

  • Trans fats (often foods that can raise cholesterol)

  • Hydrogenated oils (often found in fried food)

  • Alcohol

  • Artificial sweeteners

You don’t have to watch in jealousy as your family eats cake while you nibble on a celery stick. With a few ingredient alterations and alternative dishes, you can enjoy your Christmas while also consuming the vitamins and nutrients that you need. Read on for our 7 festive food suggestions for people living with arthritis.

1. Carrots

One healthy food you’re likely to find in a Christmas dinner is carrots! Orange hued vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes and squash are rich in inflammation fighting vitamin A and beta-carotene. Carrots also contain the anti-inflammatory compounds falcarinol and falcarindiol, although cooking them can reduce their effectiveness. Alongside your roasted carrots, why not have some shredded in a salad or just chomp on one as a snack?

2. Turmeric

You might not associate it with Christmas, but turmeric can be wonderful in alternative festive dishes such as roast cauliflower. Turmeric is a spice that comes from a plant in the ginger family called Curcuma longa. It has a warm taste and is often used to flavour and colour curries.  

“Turmeric is at the top of my list. It contains curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory properties,” says Catherine Gervacio, Registered Dietician and nutrition writer for Living.Fit. “You can use turmeric in dishes like curries, soups, and even in beverages like golden milk. Roasting a variety of colourful vegetables with turmeric can create a vibrant and nutritious side dish!”

3. Nuts & seeds

When eaten in moderation, nuts and seeds can be a healthier alternative to crisps - with much less (and even anti) inflammatory properties. If homemade nut loaf is on the menu, try adding almonds and walnuts. Walnuts are rich in omega-3 and are known to lower C-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation and arthritis.

Walnuts have a hearty texture and are great alongside mushrooms in vegan wellingtons, and you can also pop them in a bowl for a tasty snack. Almonds contain more fibre than any other nut, which can help keep you fuller for longer, and they’re also rich in antioxidants, so they’re another great choice for an ingredient.

Chia seeds and Flaxseeds may not sound super festive, but they are both rich in Omega 3 fatty acids and are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. You can sprinkle them into smoothies, fruit salads, or add them to baked goods.

4. Ginger

Warming, flavoursome and kind to the throat, ginger is a wonderful thing to have around during the colder months. From hot lemon drinks when you’re sick to ginger cake and hot toddies, there are loads of things you can do with this root.

“Ginger contains anti-inflammatory compounds,” says Catherine Gervacio. “It can be used in various recipes, from soups to marinades, or even in tea. Why not make ginger-garlic chicken skewers by marinating chicken in a mixture of ginger and garlic? It can add a flavourful and anti-inflammatory twist to your festive meal.”

5. Pomegranate seeds

They might not scream Christmas, but pomegranate seeds have a tonne of health benefits and can be a lovely and refreshing addition to pies, starters and deserts.

“Pomegranate seeds are rich in antioxidants, particularly polyphenols, which can help reduce inflammation,” says Catherine Gervacio. “You can sprinkle pomegranate seeds on salads, and yoghurt, or use them in sauces and dressings. How about making a mixed berry parfait with Greek yoghurt, and top it with pomegranate seeds?”

6. Dark green leafy vegetables

Natural bodily processes like metabolism can have a negative side effect: they can help create free radicals, which damage cells and are linked to heightened inflammation. Green leafy vegetables like broccoli, spinach and our festive favourite brussel sprouts contain loads of antioxidants and vitamins A, C and K, which can protect your cells from some of the damage caused by free radicals. Leafy veg also contains highly absorbable calcium, which is good for bone health.

“Kale, spinach, and other leafy greens are high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants,” says Catherine Gervacio. “They can be used in salads, side dishes, or blended into smoothies. Make a fresh garden salad filled with lettuce and spinach to complement a protein dish.”

7. Bone broth

We’re not suggesting you serve it on Christmas day, but bone broth can be a healthy leftover meal with loads of benefits for arthritis. Bones are great sources of essential nutrients and vitamins, including phosphorus, calcium and magnesium. Bone broth can be a source of gelatin, i.e. cooked collagen, which may help increase the amount of collagen in your joints. Studies have shown that collagen can help improve painful knee joint symptoms in people with osteoarthritis. Bone broth is also known to be helpful for digestion, and contains anti-inflammatory amino acids. Why not put those turkey bones to good use and have yourself a bone broth for Boxing Day?

What are your arthritis friendly festive food suggestions? Let us know on Facebook.

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