35 Best Foods For Arthritis
Rheumatoid Arthritis: Protect Your Knees with Fiber
Eat fiber-rich foods to steer clear of secondary osteoarthritis.
By Beth Levine
Medically Reviewed by Alexa Meara, MD
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Knee pain is no fun.
And if you are a person living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you are at increased risk of osteoarthritis, which may mean painful knee joints. But you don’t have to just accept the creaks and aches. A new study, published online in July 2019 inAnnals of the Rheumatic Diseases, showed that upping your intake of dietary fiber may lessen your risk of developing secondary osteoarthritis (OA).
More Fiber, Less Knee Pain?
Zhaoli (Joy) Dai, PhD, and her team at the clinical epidemiology research and training unit at Boston University School of Medicine, conducted two different studies. In the first, they looked at older Americans who were at risk of developing OA, and discovered that those who consumed the highest amount of fiber had approximately 30 percent less risk of developing painful OA in their knees. The second study looked at a general population who are not at risk or who don’t have OA. In that study, they found that those who ate the most fiber had a 61 percent lower risk of developing painful OA in their knees.
Follow Dietary Guidelines
Dai hypothesizes that the reason for this effect is that fiber helps lower body weight, and weight loss may even help reduce inflammation levels. “Obesity and inflammation are two important risk factors for OA,” she says, adding that people need around 21 grams of fiber a day to lower the risk. “Our results are in line with the dietary guidelines for Americans in terms of daily fiber intake, which say 22.4 grams for women and 28 grams for men for people ages 51 and above.”
“Americans’ fiber intake is quite low — around 16 grams daily. If you are at risk to develop OA, ,” recommends Dai. There are many healthy food sources to up your fiber intake. The subjects in the studies reported eating lots of whole-grain cereal, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes.
Get creative, says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of BetterThanDieting.com. Here are some of her ways of sneaking more fiber into your diet.
- Salads and other veggie dishes can be good breakfast foods.
- Add nuts and fruits to salads and yogurt
- Put seeds like chia and flax in smoothies.
- Roast pumpkin seeds for a snack.
- Don’t peel your fruits or vegetables; skins are a good source of extra fiber.
- Make up a container of nut, apricot, and raisin trail mix, and keep it in your car or by your desk for a quick and healthful snack.
- Add kidney beans, lima beans, and chickpeas to your salads.
- Experiment with unusual grains like quinoa, bulgur, pearl barley, and amaranth.
- Use oatmeal instead of breadcrumbs when preparing foods like meat loaf or meat balls.
- Substitute hummus for mayo.
- Make riced cauliflower instead of regular rice.
But Don’t Fiber Up Too Quickly
If you haven’t been eating a fiber-rich diet all along, crashing the nutrient into your daily meals can cause intestinal distress. Ease into it. “The best way to add fiber to your diet is slowly and singularly,” says Taub-Dix. For example, if you never eat high-fiber cereal, don’t wake up in the morning and pour a giant bowl of three different cereals mixed together.
Instead, try adding one at a time and in a small quantity (a 1/2 cup or so) to be sure you tolerate it and to see which type works well for you. Most importantly, be sure to couple high-fiber foods with liquid, like water. She adds, “Lots of fiber alone can cork you up or cause more GI distress, but water will help move you more regularly!”
What About Fiber Supplements?
Dai’s research team did not look at the effect of fiber supplements but plans to in the future. Taub-Dix says, “Fiber supplements could work, and for some people they may be quite helpful, but in general, a food that’s rich in fiber also comes with a side of many other nutrients. For example, a high-fiber cereal may also be fortified with B vitamins, iron, and an array of other nutrients. Beans, rich in fiber, also contain plant protein and several other valuable nutrients.”
Caution: Too much or inappropriate doses of supplements could cause GI distress. It’s important to take these supplements as directed.
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