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6 Foods and Supplements That Promote Joint Health

Here are some foods and supplements that help promote joint health-- and help knock out the discomfort while they do it. Sponsored by Merck in Collaboration with GO2 Foundation.

Joint discomfort affects 15 million Americans, and studies have shown that severe joint discomfort is on the rise among those affected. We all know that getting to the root cause of an issue is more effective than simply masking the symptoms — but what will really curb the nagging discomfort in your knees, or the sharp feeling when you lift your arms? Here are some foods and supplements that help promote joint health– and help knock out the discomfort while they do it.


1. Walnuts

Walnuts are an omega-3 fatty acid power house and provide several health benefits for your joints. Shown to reduce inflammation markers, these nuts help keep your joints comfortable, Flax seeds and canola oil also contain the same fatty acids, for those who can’t consume nuts.

“The goal is to increase intake of food sources of anti-inflammatory foods. For example, foods high in unsaturated fats like omega-3 polyunsaturated fats are key,” says Rachel Fine MS, RD, CSSD, CDN, registered dietician and owner of To The Pointe Nutrition. “Omega-3s are precursors to eicosanoids, which are powerful hormones important to the nervous system and immune system. Eicosanoids derived from omega-3 fatty acids are known to have anti-inflammatory effects.”

2. Garlic

A powerful cousin to the onion, garlic has long been considered one of those most medically beneficial foods on the planet. Packed with vitamins and minerals, garlic also contains a potent and beneficial sulfur compound called allicin, which is only present in the fresh, crushed version of the bulb. The diallyl disulfide in garlic limits the effect of inflammatory cytokines, which makes it an anti-inflammatory food to include in your meals anytime you can.

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3. Leafy greens

Spinach and kale aren’t just the foundation of a great salad — they’re joint health heroes too. Packed with antioxidants and nutrients that promote overall health, greens can help ensure you’ve got the vitamins your body needs to keep your joints healthy.

“If you are looking for the best way to support your joints — go green!” says Luisa Szakacs, Naturopathic Doctor. “Dark green leafy veggies like kale and spinach are loaded with Vitamins A, C, and K, which reduce inflammation and contribute to healthy joints. They also provide an excellent source of calcium to strengthen bones and benefit your overall health.”

4. High-quality glucosamine and chondroitin supplements

A naturally occurring substance in cartilage, glucosamine in supplement form has shown in studies to promote joint health. Typically paired with chondroitin, another naturally occurring component of cartilage, the two compounds synergistically work to promote joint comfort and help slow cartilage breakdown better than they do on their own. Keep in mind that not all glucosamine and chondroitin is of the same quality. When choosing a glucosamine and chondroitin supplement, be sure to do your research and find a brand that is high-quality and backed by research, so you know that it works.

Cosamin®, the No. 1 researched glucosamine/chondroitin brand,* works to help protect your joints at the cellular level — where cartilage is maintained. Cosamin® is scientifically proven to help promote joint comfort, by helping to protect the cartilage that cushions your joints and eases movement. Known for quality and developed by a pharmacist, the researched, tested, and certified supplement gives joints a fighting chance against joint discomfort.

5. Fish

When it comes to joint health, eating fish is incredibly helpful, but all fish are not created equal. In this case, you want to include cold water, fatty fish, like salmon, sardines, and trout, in your meals. These fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids and have anti-inflammatory properties that make them excellent additions to any diet. A word of caution: many of the fish high in omega-3 fatty acids are also high in mercury. Experts say that, sardines, salmon, and trout, are among those with less mercury.

“Healthy fats such as those from fish or cod liver oil can aid in supporting the joints due to their anti-inflammatory properties,” says Melody Barrons, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. “Our bodies have a process in which it inflames and anti-inflames through the production of prostaglandins. These prostaglandins are made specifically from the types of fats that we consume. If we eat a diet containing poor fats it increases the prostaglandins that increase inflammation. When we consume a diet of healthy natural fats our body produces the proper balance of prostaglandins.”


6. Berries

Don’t discount these sweet treats as only good for dessert! Berries are nutrient-dense fruits that pack a healthy punch. Filled with antioxidants, berries such as blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries fight inflammation and help to maintain blood-sugar levels. Berries are also considered a good source of vitamin C, with blackberries boasting 35 percent of the recommended daily intake.

“Vitamin C is an essential vitamin used in the production of collagen in the body, says Caitlin Self, Licensed Dietician Nutritionist. “Collagen is one of the compounds that helps keep skin elastic and stretchy, and it provides the same kind of support in the joints. You can also take collagen powder to help, but ensuring you’re getting enough vitamin C has an added benefit. Not only does it help promote the production of strong collagen, it also has powerfully anti-inflammatory effects throughout the body. As a result, it can help both reduce joint inflammation and support healthy collagen production.”

The bottom line

The important take-away message for you to consider is that these healthy foods and supplements can be the start to the path of better joint comfort while you implement a healthier lifestyle that incorporates positive changes in diet and overall wellness.

“Diet plays a large role in our health impacting more areas than we thought, and more being discovered continually, joint health included,” says Lisa Richards, nutritionist and author of The Ultimate Candida Diet Program.

*Based on U.S. studies published in peer-reviewed journals, the Cosamin® brand is the most researched glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate brand.