June 3, 2023

15 foods that I eat to help my bad knees

In 2008 I was told that I needed to have knee replacements.  I was in a lot of pain and often walked with a stick.  I don’t do hospitals or anything medical if I can help it, and so I lost some weight, started building up the muscles around my knee caps, and changed my diet. I became aware of how food can reduce my symptoms and my pain.

No matter how small my food budget is, I try to find ways to eat foods that help my joints and reduce my suffering and stiffness, and delay an operation.  That means eating foods that will reduce inflammation, improve the strength of my connective tissue and cartilage, and improve bone density.  These are some of the foods that I try to incorporate into my weekly food plan.  This is harder in winter due to the fact that I can not grow as much and so have less money to spend on food.  I therefore notice that my knees do hurt more in winter and I move less which probably contributes too.  Many of these foods have other health benefits as well, and before I researched into foods to eat to help my knees, I had no idea, that normal, every day items would make such a difference to my every day mobility and pain.

Ginger this reduces inflammation.  I have always bought it up until now and chop and freeze it so that it does not go off.  This year I am going to have a go at growing my own to see if that will save money.  I incorporate it into my diet by adding it to smoothies, cooking with fruit, and adding to stir fry and Chinese type meals.

Salmon has omega 3 which is know to reduce stiffness and it also has vitamin D which strengthens bones and muscles as it helps us absorb calcium. Some one sent me a message recently saying that I wouldn’t be eating salmon if I was really poor.  I don’t think of myself as poor because I feel like I have an abundant life.  The salmon that I buy is a whole one sold at Easter and Christmas for half price.  We always buy 2 or 3 a year and fillet them ourselves.  This year we spent about £40 and got 46 fillets and some spare bits to make fish pie.  I make salmon kebabs, salmon pasta and put it into fish pie to make the salmon go as far as possible, but sometimes we enjoy a fillet with salad and chips or cooked in foil parcels on the BBQ.

Spinach  is full of Kaempferol which is an anti-oxidant that lowers the impact of rheumatoid arthritis.  It also has lots of vitamin C which helps build cartilage and tissue and helps with flexibility in the joint. The vitamin E also stimulates cartilage growth.  I grow some spinach in spring and in autumn as it bolts in the heat.  This year I sowed some in the greenhouse and it lasted until the beginning of May, producing a couple of handfuls a week.  When spinach is growing in abundance I blanch the leaves and put about 8 together and roll them up and freeze them on a tray before bagging.  I use spinach in salads, in curries, in anything with cheese sauce in like fish pie, and in tomato based dishes.

Tomatoes  are full of Lycopene which is good for bone health.  I grow lots every year and freeze or bottle them to make passata and tomato based dishes.  We also eat them in salad all summer and have them on toast for breakfast.  I make things like Mediterranean fish stew, veggie ragu with pasta, and lasagna with them.  We have at least couple of tomato based meals a week.  When the tomatoes run out I use a lot of tomato puree.

Cheese is full of calcium which builds bone strength and b6 which fights inflammation.  I have had to reduce cheese in my diet due to the cost but we were lucky to get a lot of cheese reduced just after Christmas that we have frozen.  We eat it on toast, on pizza, in dishes with cheese sauce and with crackers some times.  I could eat a block in one go if I let myself and so it is a good job I freeze it.

Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables are full of salicylic acid which is an ingredient in asprin and so helps reduce joint pain. Vitamin C helps build more cartilage and connective tissue. These vegetables also contain sulforaphane which can prevent rheumatoid arthritis. Sulforphane can also help slow down the decline of the cartilage in our joints.  I don’t tend to grow a lot of these vegetables as they often need netting and I grow most of my things in pots and don’t want my garden to look like an allotment.  I do however grow a lot of pak choi which is a member of the broccoli family.  I sow some in early spring and early autumn.  It grows quickly and so is good for filling the hunger gap.  I use it as I would cabbage and the young leaves are good in salad.  It does bolt when it is hot and so I tend to make a lot of stir fry and freeze when the plants start to flower, which is just starting to happen now.

Berries contain anti-oxidants and vitamin C which help reduce inflammation and help build cartilage.  They also contains quercetin which also blocks inflammation.  We have a hedge of currants in the garden, and grow raspberries and strawberries.  We eat them in smoothies, compote and puddings.  The berry that we eat the most of is the blackberry as we can stock up on that by foraging it for free and then freezing.  We always make sure that we have enough to have some every day throughout winter.

Ripe blackberries.

Garlic regulates inflammation and helps reduce the risk of developing arthritis.  I add garlic to most of my savoury food (I just thought, my breath must stink!).  My youngest did not like onions and so I am used to using it to add flavour to food.  I grow my own garlic in my garden.  This year I did not get it planted early enough to have a frost and so it will not develop cloves, but we will freeze it or make lazy garlic out of it or use it as wet garlic.  I always plant garlic from shop bought garlic if it sprouts.

Rosemary has a high level of polyphenois which helps reduce inflammation, pain and stiffness (these are also in things like cocoa, nuts, berries and red wine).  I have numerous rosemary plants in my garden and often flavour my food with fresh rosemary.  I dry it in bunches in my conservatory as well, though rosemary can be used from the plant all year.  It is nice in bread with sultanas or put under the skin if cooking a chicken.

Walnuts  contains omega 3.  I always try to get reduced nuts after Christmas and you can often buy them in their shells for pennies at this time.  Buying broken walnuts is also cheaper. Other nuts like almonds are good for joints too. I put them in salads and baking, and sometimes pinch a handful too.

Wild Cherries which are usually quite tart have been shown to reduce pain and inflammation as they contain anti-oxidants.  When these are in season I forage as many as I can and freeze them and add them to smoothies.  I have noticed that a lot of our local trees have been chopped down recently, unfortunately.

Olive Oil  slows down cartilage loss and is anti inflammatory.  It also reduces the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.  Now that I have the air fryer I no longer use much oil, but use good quality olive oil in my salad dressings.

Bananas contain vitamin C and B 6 which reduce the decline of the joints, and they also contain magnesium which reduces some of the symptoms of arthritis, and strengthen bones.  I tend to only be able to afford bananas if they are reduced and so I bake with them or make pancakes if they are too soft to eat.  I do love bananas and custard if I see them on offer.

Turmeric reduces inflammation and joint pain as it contains curcumin.  Turmeric is absorbed by the body easier if it is taken with black pepper.  I probably don’t consume enough to make a big difference but I add it to curries, and I have taken supplements in the past. I know people who drink it in milk, but I don’t like milk.  Those warm bottles of milk they made us have at school when I was a kid put me off for life.

Plantain weed.  When money has been really tight I have cooked the leaves of this weed like spinach as it has anti-inflammatory properties. I have put the leaves in stews, stir fry and soups.  You can’t taste it when it is cooked.  I am careful not to use a lot as it can also act as a laxative.  The seeds can also be used like chia.

There are so many other foods that if cooked from scratch will help as well.  Nature provides everything we need to heal ourselves. Getting older is not fun as my brain thinks that I can still do things, but my body has other ideas.  I rarely visit a doctor and prefer not to take supplements and so I like to help myself in these natural ways. I took a diploma in nutrition to teach myself how to eat better on a low budget, but I do not pretend to be an expert in this, and am not advising that you copy what I do. I am just sharing my journey. It is best to check with your doctor before making radical changes to your diet. However, if I can, I will eat what I think will help to keep me active.  I know I also need to work on my weight as being over weight can also have an impact on my joints.  What do you eat or take that helps with your joint pain?

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  1. Karan Fowler June 3, 2023 at 10:54 am - Reply

    Thanks for this, very informative as have recently been diagnosed with osteo arthritis in my ankle knees and hips, so anything that helps is good 😊

    • ToniG June 3, 2023 at 4:44 pm - Reply

      Aww sorry to hear about your diagnosis. When I was first diagnosed in 2007 I thought it meant I would be disabled, but with exercise, eating the right foods and losing weight I am actually more able to do things than I was then. Sending hugs x

  2. pauline watts June 3, 2023 at 11:51 am - Reply

    My newest discovery has been Castor oil packs. They are brilliant for inflammation so I have one on each knee,one on my throat( to reduce nodule on remaining half of my thyroid) and a large pack over my liver to help reduce cysts.Overnight is more beneficial…and so attractive 🤣.

    • ToniG June 3, 2023 at 4:41 pm - Reply

      Aww I am glad that you have found something that helps x

  3. Jane June 4, 2023 at 9:27 am - Reply

    Really interesting post. I’m in my late sixties, have had two hip replacements and know I have arthritis in one of my knees. Probably the other as well, but it’s not been formally diagnosed. But, but… I’m fitter now than I have been for decades. After getting my new hips, I worked hard at getting fit again. Initially just walking, but after a couple of years I took up walking netball and a year after that did the couch to 5k. And then I joined a (cheap) gym. Now I’m playing netball twice a week, running (a slow jog for thirty minutes, but it’s still running) two or three times a week and going to the gym once or twice a week. Ideally I’d like to go to the gym more as strength and resistance training is more important than ever as we get older, but I help look after my young grandson and it can be hard to fit it in. I suppose my aim is to keep the muscles round my knees as strong as I can to help support the dodgy joint. Losing about a stone in weight will have helped too and I do try to eat healthily. I want to stay as fit and healthy as I can for as long as I can.

  4. Kathryn Naden June 5, 2023 at 8:05 pm - Reply

    Thanks Toni . There’s loads here I can use . I’ve never heard of Plantain weed so need to explore this .

  5. Angela Carmody June 14, 2023 at 2:13 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this article. I was told I would need new knees in 2016 a year before I had my hip replacement. I still haven’t had the operation as mine is also Inflammatory arthritis and both types of arthritis are not bad enough. However in about 2012 I went to visit a naturopath, she was really helpful and told me to eat most of what you have written, with the exception of salmon should not be farmed and I was told to buy lot’s of vitamins and fish oil capsules and not from places where they used fillers. I was also told not to eat tomatoes or potatoes as they were inflammatory. Well, I lost a lot of weight as the food was so boring. I was at that time trying to just keep myself healthy. After about 2 years and my rapidly deteriorating hip I gave up going to her as her next ideas involved doing blood tests through the post and I didn’t feel comfortable doing that. I then went to a homeopath, he told me trout contained more omega 3 than salmon so I started buying that. I had to buy homeopathic pills but after a while I didn’t find he helped so just decided to eat healthily whilst remembering bits from both of them. Both are still practicing locally and have good reputations. I eat tomatoes as the Mediterranean diet is supposed to be healthy. I take Omega 3 capsules and eat both salmon and trout to get more, both for my eyes as advised by an optician as it is good for dry eyes but also to help stop inflammation. I don’t know how I would be without all the healthy fruit and vegetables we eat along with the fish. In some ways if I hadn’t bothered I wonder if I would have new knees now and be going for long walks and be able to keep my weight down. I will still continue to try my best to eat healthily because that is the food I really like.

    • ToniG June 14, 2023 at 7:21 pm - Reply

      Thanks for sharing. I know a lot of people with new knees that are still in pain and not able to go on long walks and so it is hard to make these decisions isn’t it? I have never tried trout. Thanks for the tip x

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