Fitness & Nutrition

Foods and Supplements for Better Joint Health

These 25 ingredients to good health can help keep you mobile as you age
TIMEJanuary 9, 2022

How are your joints doing? Many people of all ages experience some joint discomfort and pain, especially when the weather changes, they have overdone their exercise routines, or it’s related to arthritis or other conditions that affect the joints. The good news is that you can help support and promote better joint health by modifying your diet and taking a few choice supplements. 

Supplements for Joint Health

First, let’s take a look at 12 supplements shown to be helpful for helping keep joints healthy in a variety of ways. 

Calcium

Calcium is a key player in joint health. It works along with vitamin D and other nutrients to support and promote joint integrity. If you aren’t getting sufficient calcium from food (1,000 mg is the daily requirement), then a supplement can help. You have numerous options when it comes to calcium supplements; choose the one that works best for you.

Chondroitin

Chondroitin is a substance found in human cartilage that helps cushion the joints. It is often taken along with glucosamine to help reduce joint pain and support joint health. In supplement form, it is known as chondroitin sulfate. The typical dosage used in clinical trials has been 800 mg to 2,000 mg daily in divided doses.

Ginger

Ginger can help with indigestion and other gastrointestinal ailments, but did you know it also can assist with joint health? Among the studies of ginger and joint health, one conducted at the University of California–Los Angeles reported that ginger reduced stiffness and pain in the knee joints by 40 percent when compared with placebo. The herb appears to work by impacting certain inflammatory processes. 

Glucosamine

Glucosamine is a compound found in the body’s cartilage, which is the tissue that cushions the joints. The body’s natural levels of glucosamine decline as people age, so supplementing with this substance may work to keep the cartilage in joints healthy. Glucosamine is available in several forms, but glucosamine sulfate is the one taken to manage inflammation of the joints and osteoarthritis. The European Society for Clinical and Economic Aspects of Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis recommends 1,500 mg daily of crystallized glucosamine sulfate and calls it the “logical choice to maximize benefits in OA [osteoarthritis] patients.”

Magnesium

This versatile mineral has been shown to help with joint health and pain. In a 2018 study, low intake of magnesium was associated with worse function and pain in people with knee osteoarthritis. A 2021 report noted that “there has been a growing body of clinical studies pointing to an intimate relationship between dietary magnesium and OA.” Use of magnesium supplements may provide pain relief and support for joint health.

MSM

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is an organosulfur compound found in people, animals, and plants that is sometimes used to help manage arthritis and ease pain and inflammation of the joints. In a 2017 article in Nutrients, the authors noted that MSM can provide these benefits while also being “well-tolerated by most individuals at dosages of up to four grams daily, with few known and mild side effects.” 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Coldwater fatty fish and some other foods are sources of omega-3 fatty acids. However, many people prefer to take omega-3 supplements as either fish oil or krill oil. These fats prompt the body to make chemicals that fight inflammation. 

Turmeric (curcumin)

The herb turmeric contains a highly active ingredient called curcumin, which is often used to manage joint pain. Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties and can be helpful in relieving arthritis pain. The suggested dose is 500 mg to 2,000 mg daily as an extract with a high curcumin concentration, which is typically around 95 percent.

Vitamin D

For those who don’t get enough vitamin D-producing sunlight, a supplement is often in order. Some research indicates that low vitamin D levels are associated with joint discomfort and pain. This nutrient assists the body in absorbing calcium to help keep bones strong. You should have your vitamin D levels checked with a simple blood test before taking a supplement to determine if you are deficient and how much of the supplement you need.

Vitamin K

Both vitamins K and D are needed for calcium metabolism. Therefore, it’s essential to get enough vitamin K to promote joint and bone health. In one meta-analysis, women who took vitamin K2 supplements showed a significant improvement in bone health and a lower risk of fractures. 

Boswellia

Boswellia serrata, also known as Indian frankincense, is a potent anti-inflammatory. In a recent review of seven trials, the use of Boswellia was found to reduce joint pain, inflammation, and stiffness and improve joint function when compared with placebo. Research suggests at least four weeks of treatment of the extract is needed for results.

Devil’s Claw

This native of South Africa is a flowering plant that contains compounds called iridoid glycosides, which have anti-inflammatory powers. Harpagoside is believed to be the most potent of these compounds. There is some evidence that devil’s claw may help with inflammation associated with arthritis. 

Foods for Joint Health

Enjoy as many of these foods as you can in your regular diet. They can play an important role in supporting joint health.

Berries

Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are among the fruits with the best antioxidant levels that can ward off inflammation. Enjoy by the handful or in smoothies. 

Bok choy

Just one of the numerous cruciferous vegetables that contain sulforaphane, a compound that can block the inflammatory process and may also slow cartilage damage in the joints. 

Broccoli

This cruciferous vegetable contains sulforaphane, a substance with the ability to help block enzymes that can cause the joints to swell. 

Fish

Coldwater fish (e.g., tuna, halibut, salmon, trout) are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which fight inflammation in the joints. Two to three servings per week are suggested.

Garlic

Garlic contains an anti-inflammatory compound called diallyl disulfide that interferes with pro-inflammatory substances. Therefore, you can use garlic to help fight inflammation, and it may help stop damage to the cartilage in your joints. Choose fresh garlic when possible.

Ginger

If ginger supplements are not for you, then be sure to enjoy this herb in your food. Ginger contains gingerol and shogaol, chemicals that block inflammation pathways. Ginger is great in stir fry, smoothies, baked goods, soups, and candies. 

Grapes

A Texas Women’s University study reported that eating grapes regularly can ease knee pain associated with osteoarthritis. Grapes also may improve joint flexibility and overall mobility. Substances such as resveratrol and proanthocyanidin in grapes are believed to be responsible for these benefits. 

Green tea

Green tea is a great source of catechins, potent compounds that can support joint health by “downregulating inflammatory signaling mediators” and other activities that help protect and preserve collagen and cartilage, according to research. 

Olive oil

Olive oil is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which fight inflammation. Use extra-virgin olive oil in dressings, drizzled on vegetables, stirred into soups, and as a butter substitute.

Spinach

Antioxidants and other plant compounds in spinach can relieve inflammation and support joint health. The antioxidant kaempferol is found in very high levels in this vegetable, and it has been shown to reduce the impact of inflammatory agents in rheumatoid arthritis.

Tart cherry

Tart cherry and its juice have been studied for their ability to reduce inflammation and fight osteoarthritis. In one study, individuals who consumed two eight-ounce bottles of tart cherry juice daily for six weeks showed significantly reduced inflammation and symptoms of osteoarthritis when compared with placebo. 

Turmeric

The curcumin in turmeric blocks enzymes and cytokines that cause inflammation. Enjoy turmeric in curries and other Indian dishes as well as smoothies and soups.

Walnuts

Walnuts are a good source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which fight inflammation, including that associated with joint pain.

Bottom Line

Certain foods and supplements can provide support and protection for joint health. These common foods and supplements can be easily incorporated into your lifestyle.

Sources
Arthritis Foundation. Best vegetables for arthritis. 
Arthritis Foundation. Best spices for arthritis. 
Arthritis Foundation. Health benefits of ginger for arthritis. 
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Cockayne S et al. Vitamin K and the prevention of fractures: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Archives of Internal Medicine 2006 Jun 26; 166(12): 1256-61
Eustice C. Health benefits of chondroitin. Very Well Health 2020 Jun 8
Kuang X et al. Magnesium in joint health and osteoarthritis. Nutrition Research 2021 Jun; 90:24-35.
Luk H-Y et al. Impacts of green tea on joint and skeletal muscle health: prospects of translational nutrition. Antioxidants 2020 Oct 28
Menghini L et al. Devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) and chronic inflammatory diseases: A concise overview on preclinical and clinical data. Phytotherapy Research 2019 Sep; 33(9):2152-62
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Shmagel A et al. Low magnesium intake is associated with increased knee pain in subjects with radiographic knee osteoarthritis: data from the Osteoarthritis Initiative. Osteoarthritis Cartilage 2018 May; 26(5):651-58
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Virginia Orthopaedic & Spine Specialists. Can eating grapes alleviate osteoarthritis pain? 2014 Sep 4
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Lisa Roth Collins is a registered holistic nutritionist and also the marketing manager at NaturallySavvy.com, which first published this article.