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The Arthritis Diet: 10 Foods That Heal

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    Turmeric

    Turmeric contains an antioxidant called curcumin, which is responsible for the spice's deep yellow-orange hue, says Joy Bauer, RD, nutrition expert on the Today show and founder of Nourish Snacks. "Curcumin acts by suppressing pro-inflammatory enzyme pathways, and several studies have shown it helps reduce arthritis pain and swelling," says Bauer. She recommends a teaspoon of turmeric each day—add it to curry dishes, blend it into chicken or tuna salad, or add it to dips for a nice earthy flavor.

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    Ginger

    "We know ginger can soothe digestion and stomachaches, but it also has a big effect on inflammation," says Kate Weiler, author of Real Fit Kitchen, co-founder of DRINKmaple, and certified holistic health coach. She says studies have even shown the impact to be similar to that of ibuprofen. Try a thumbnail equivalent of the root chopped up on top of a salad.

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    Cloves

    "Spices, like cloves, are a very powerful way to help with arthritis," says Weiler. Simply rubbing clove oil onto your joints can soothe pain, thanks to an anti-inflammatory compound in cloves called eugenol. Embrace the season of pumpkin spice everything, or try a teaspoon of cloves steeped in hot water for a soothing tea, three times a day, says Weiler.

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    Flax Oil

    A key component to the arthritis diet are omega-3s—essential fatty acids that act as natural anti-inflammatories, says Kim McQueen, licensed Naturopathic Doctor and co-founder of Rumble Supershake. The word "essential" means your body can't make them, so you need to find them in foods or oils, she says. Get the daily dose by taking about a teaspoon of flax oil—by the spoonful, added to shakes, or tossed in salad dressing.

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    Chia Seeds

    Again, omega-3s for the win: '"Chia seeds contain plant-based sources of omega-3 fats, which have been shown to fight inflammation by minimizing the production of enzymes that erode cartilage," says Bauer. She recommends a tablespoon of chia seeds each day, either sprinkled on Greek yogurt, mixed in a smoothie, baked into your muffin batter, or added to your oatmeal. Bauer has even put the super seeds in Coco-nilla Crunch granola bites in her snack line.

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    Fish

    Salmon, herring, and sardines also have high levels of the anti-inflammatory, omega-3s, says McQueen. Aim for a 3-1/2-ounce daily serving. That's roughly the size of a deck of cards. Look for wild salmon where possible, as farmed salmon tends to have lower levels of omega-3s, she says. Not feeling fish? Soy products like tofu and edamame are also packed with the essential fatty acids. "They're low in fat and high in protein, and are a good alternative for a source of omega-3s," says Natalie Azar, MD, clinical assistant professor of rheumatology at NYU Langone Medical Center.

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    Tart Cherries

    Tart cherries contain special antioxidants called anthocyanins, which protect the body from the damaging effects of free radicals, says Bauer. "These powerful anti-inflammatory compounds can help slow the progression of arthritis and relieve the acute pain from the disease." Bauer purees 2 cups of no-sugar-added tart cherry juice with 1 cup frozen pitted sweet cherries, 1/2 cup lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon ginger, then tops it off with 3 cups of cherry-flavored sparkling water. She recommends 4 ounces of the cherry spritzer a day—or a handful of dried tart cherries tossed into your trail mix.

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    Dark Green Veggies

    "Dark green vegetables are rich in minerals that help bring your body's acidity level down, which essentially brings down inflammation," says McQueen. Spinach and kale are obvious good choices, but don't overlook arugula. "Arugula is actually in the same family as broccoli and cauliflower, and way more nutrient dense than regular lettuce," she says. Aim for five servings a day, or 2 1/2 cups of dense veggies like broccoli, snap peas, or green beans, and 5 cups of leafy greens.

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    Oranges

    "We all know oranges for their vitamin C content and potential to enhance immune function, but vitamin C plays another vital role in building healthy collagen, the major component of cartilage," says Bauer. Studies show those who are deficient in the vitamin are at a greater risk for developing arthritis, so make a point to incorporate at least one citrus fruit into your diet every day, says Bauer. She adds an orange to her Turmeric Smoothies, with carrot, ginger, and another arthritis-fighting food, turmeric (see slide #1).

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    Whole Grains

    Whole grains are a good source of fiber, which helps lower blood levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation, says Dr. Azar. Add 1/2 cup of cooked whole grains like oatmeal and brown rice, or 1 cup of whole-grain cereal to your diet, daily.