Healthy joints & Omega 3

Maya is a registered dietitian and brings you her view on the essentials for healthy joints:

Fundamental to the body
Essential fatty acids are fundamentally important to your health. Numerous studies have shown the many health benefits of Omega Oils. Since Western diets tend to contain only a limited amount of Omega 3 fatty acids and some people seem to be able to break them down faster than others anyway, fish oil constitute an interesting issue.

The health benefits of fish oils include… (Shaw, 2008):

  • Reduce joint stiffness in people with osteoarthritis.
  • May decrease general inflammation
  • Prevent and reduce heart disease
  • Improve depression conditions for some patients
  • Help some children with specific learning problems such as dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) improve reading and concentration

How to improve your Omega 3 intake naturally
Try to consume 2 to 3 portions of oily fish a week: Fish with darker flesh such as sardines, mackerel, herring, tuna, salmon, swordfish, marlin, and snapper are rich in fish oils. It doesn’t matter whether the fish is fresh, frozen or smoked. Try Omega-3-enriched eggs which can be useful if you do not like oily fish. (Note: women who might have a baby one day, or who are pregnant or breastfeeding, should not eat more than two portions of oily fish a week. Women not intending to get pregnant and men can eat up to four portions a week(Collins,2004))

Follow a ‘Mediterranean’ type of diet: This includes modest lean meat portions, mono-unsaturated fats and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Aim for at least four portions of vegetables a day which must be fresh, plus at least two servings of fruits. A portion is equal to a ‘handful’ or a few tablespoons. Choose vegetables of different colours for a wide range of plant nutrients. This can reduce inflammation by helping the body ‘mop up’ body chemicals which cause inflammation. Ginger has also an anti-inflammatory agent and it improves the blood circulation.

Green leafy vegetables, nuts (particularly walnuts) and seeds (sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds which are now readily available in supermarkets).

Plant crop oils are also rich in Omega 3s. Try switching to cooking with rapeseed or linseed oil.

Try to avoid saturated fats found in full-fat dairy products, processed foods, many oils and margarines made from corn or sunflower sources.

Try to consume monounsaturated which are ‘neutral’ fats and do not encourage or worsen inflammation. You can get these from olive oil, olive oil-based margarines, and ‘blended’ vegetable oils. ¢ If you don’t like fish, you can get fish oil supplements from supermarkets and on the internet. Choose a brand containing Omega 3 fatty acids. It is important to always follow the dose given on the label. Many are labelled as unsuitable for children under 5 years of age.

Osteoarthritis is is essentially wear and tear of the joints that usually affects around 20% of people over 65. It is a disease that makes people suffer from joint stiffness and pain.

Maintain a healthy weight
Try to lose weight if you are overweight as too much body fat increases levels of inflammation in your body, making your joints more painful. The lighter you are, the less your joints have to bear.

Try regular low impact exercise which will helps strengthen your joints such as walking, dancing or swimming. This kind of exercise will also help you strengthen your muscles to better support your bones.

Choose calcium-rich foods:include dark green vegetables (collard greens and kale are excellent) broccoli, legumes (dried beans), almonds, peanuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, tahini, cauliflower, soybeans, figs and oranges and tinned sardines. Aim for at least three calcium-rich food portions each day. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, and also seems to reduce wear and tear in the joint cartilage (Collins, 2004).

Be patient – It will take several weeks for any noticeable effect of a lifestyle change. If you need to lose weight, don’t fry foods, avoid pastries, and try to consume a healthy diet instead of buying fish oil supplements.

This article was provided by:
Maya Antoinette Aboukhater
Registered Dietitian (BSc Dietetics and Nutrition & Msc Clinical Nutrition)