7 Grains to Help With Arthritis
We know that white rice, bread and pasta are tasty, simple and quick - but refined grains lack many of their original nutrients and are thought to be inflammatory, so they may be doing more harm than good! Many wholegrains contain important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which are beneficial for anyone’s health - and even more so if you have arthritis.
“One of the main complaints of osteoarthritis is persistent pain,” says Martin Lau, Arthritis Action’s Services Development Manager and Dietitian. “In recent guidance by the International Association for the Study of Pain, preventing vitamin and mineral deficiency is helpful for modulating long-term pain. They have stated that common micronutrients deficiency exists in people living with pain, including Vitamin D, Vitamin B12 and magnesium. Eating whole grain carbohydrates is a good source of magnesium, which helps to prevent this mineral deficiency and can lessen the pain you feel in the long term.”
So which grains should you start stocking up on? We’ve done a round-up of 7 grains to help with arthritis to put on your next shopping list!
PLEASE NOTE: If you have allergies to any of the ingredients in this or any of our other food related blog posts then it might not be suitable or safe for you. If in doubt please consult your GP or healthcare professional.
Millets are a small group of cereal grains that look a bit like seeds. They are commonly consumed in countries around Asia and Africa, but they’ve recently gained popularity in the West because they are gluten free and, despite their size, packed with nutrients. Millets contain more essential amino acids than many other grains. One of the reasons millet is a good option if you have arthritis is because it’s a great dairy free source of calcium, which is essential for bone health and nerve function. Millet, like several other whole grains on this list, is high in fibre, which reduces the C-reactive protein levels in the blood. This is a marker for inflammation and linked to rheumatoid arthritis. Fibre is also great for keeping you full for longer, which can aid weight loss. Keeping a healthy weight is important when you have arthritis, as it helps you put less pressure on your joints.
Next on our list is quinoa (pronounced keen-wa). Research suggests that saponins (naturally occurring compounds found in edible legumes like quinoa) could have anti-inflammatory potential because they may suppress inflammatory cytokines, which are small proteins involved in the body's immune and inflammatory response. Whilst cytokines are important when you have an infection or illness, they can also go overboard and signal that your immune system is under threat when it isn’t, hence causing it to attack healthy cells. If you struggle with inflammation as a result of your arthritis, quinoa may have some benefits. Aside from this, quinoa is a protein rich, versatile wholegrain which is gluten free. One cup of quinoa contains 21% of your daily recommended fibre, which aids digestion and can help you feel fuller for longer and so can also help with weight loss. It’s also easy to cook, and can be used in a wide variety of meals.
Rye is high in fibre, contains 30% more iron than wheat, and offers 18% of your daily selenium (a trace mineral which is essential for helping to make DNA and protect cells against damage and infection). Rye is also a good source of antioxidants and B vitamins - including B1 (which helps with cell growth and function) B2, B3, B5, B6 and B9. Rye may help with blood sugar control, digestive health and can keep you feeling full for longer. There is also some evidence that it may help lower inflammation, which is helpful if you’re living with arthritis.
Bulgur (the main ingredient in tabbouleh) is a fast, diverse wholegrain which is low in fat and high in minerals like manganese (which is helpful for bone health and may help prevent osteoporosis), iron and magnesium. Bulgur is already parboiled when sold, so it’s quick and easy to cook, taking around 5-20 minutes depending on the variety. Bulgur can be helpful for weight loss, and easily slots into calorie controlled diet plans - plus its mild taste makes it suitable for a wide range of dishes. If you’re vegan and/or struggle to get enough protein, bulgur is a great plant-based option. Bulgur contains antioxidants and phytonutrients which can help lower inflammation and combat free radical damage. This means bulgur may be a good choice if you have arthritis.
5. Whole Wheat
Whole grains are associated with lower levels of inflammation, whereas refined grains (like white rice or pasta) are thought to have the opposite effect. This is because the wheat kernel is stripped of its bran and germ during the refining process, which also strips away a lot of its nutrients. If you are choosing to eat wheat you may want to stick to whole wheats, like brown bread and wholewheat pasta. Wheat is a good source of carbohydrates, which are really important for energy, and wholegrain wheat can contain many minerals like iron, manganese, magnesium and antioxidants. Increasing the amounts of antioxidants you’re consuming can reduce inflammation, help reduce cartilage loss, improve joint pain and potentially slow the degenerative process in the joints that happens with age.
6. Brown Rice
As with whole wheat, brown rice contains more nutrients than white rice because the two outer layers of the rice (the bran and germ) have not been removed, and these are the parts of the grain that contain most of the good stuff. Brown rice may take longer to cook, but it is higher fibre and so can help you feel fuller for longer, it is a good source of selenium, Vitamin B1 (thiamine), Vitamin B2 (riboflavin), Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and phosphorus. One cup of brown rice contains nearly all your daily requirement of manganese (which is really helpful for bone health). Brown rice is also rich in antioxidants, which can be helpful for a variety of health conditions including heart disease, cancer and premature ageing.
Oats have long been known for their health benefits. They are a gluten-free whole grain containing plenty of vitamins and minerals, including antioxidants. Whilst there is no ‘magic food’ that can help you automatically lose weight, oats are really filling and people who eat oats tend to have a lower BMI, so having a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast can set you up for a healthy day. Like other wholegrains, oats are a source of vitamins, minerals, fibre and protein, and can be a great addition to a healthy balanced diet. Maintaining a healthy weight is important when you have arthritis, because it means there’s less pressure on your joints, which can lead to decreased pain and improved function and mobility.