Take a Healthy Approach to Thanksgiving by Fueling Yourself with Foods and Nutrients That Maintain Strong Joints
Thanksgiving is a great holiday for preparing joint-healthy foods. An easy way to reduce joint inflammation is through consuming foods that have certain ingredients. The rule of thumb for all seasons throughout the year is to incorporate a rainbow of fruits and vegetables in your daily meals to ensure you are getting a wide array of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, which occur naturally in plants.
To maximize your joint health, I’ve broken down some of the key food groups and colors, along with recommended options:
- Yellow family: Choose squash, yellow peppers, or spaghetti squash. You can even add a spritz of lemon or lemon zest for Vitamin C, which brings down inflammation, as well as pineapple and grapefruit.
- Red family: Best options in the red family include red peppers, tomatoes, red onions, red kale, raspberries, strawberries, red apples and cranberries.
- Leafy greens: Kale, spinach, romaine lettuce, spring mix salad, dandelion, mustard greens, collards, or foods from the cruciferous group, including cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, Bok Choy and turnips are all foods that have been proven to build strong joints, while reducing pain and inflammation. These foods are also known to lower cancer risk, as they contain phytochemicals that trigger enzymes in the body that detoxify carcinogens before they can damage cells.They are high in fiber and that can play a big role in regulating immune system and inflammation, and decreasing risk of inflammation-related diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity, and joint inflammation.
- Green vegetables: Don’t forget to add peas, beans and avocado to your diet.
- Orange family: Pumpkin, oranges, orange peppers, butternut squash, acorn squash and sweet potatoes are all highly-nutritious vegetables that will help maintain a joint-healthy body. One cup of pumpkin, which I refer to as a nutritional power house, gives you your daily needs for Vitamin A, and is loaded with Vitamins C, E and B-6, folates, niacin, iron and phosphorous. Sweet potatoes are high in iron, Vitamin C and D, and also in magnesium, which is an anti-stress mineral.
As you prepare your Thanksgiving meal and start to think about which foods you are going to avoid or get second helpings of, it is important to remember that although you may surrounded by a surplus of tasty foods, you need to control your portions and avoid over-eating. While eating dinner, indulge in some turkey and gravy, but make sure to fill up your plate with lots of vegetables. Try to prepare your dishes without a lot of butter, and avoid making dishes high in sugar and fat. For example, sweet potatoes are healthy, but adding lots of sugar to the dish, such as marshmallows, is not. Consumption of cranberries can be very good for your body, as they are extremely high in flavonoids and antioxidants that combat oxidative stress due to free radicals, thus bringing down inflammation in your joints.
After eating your meal, stay away from raw fruit. If you eat fresh fruit right after a meal, you are promoting inflammation and may experience indigestion, due to an enzymatic reaction that causes an overproduction of acid in the body. Have raw fruit first, or two hours after a meal. However, if the fruit is cooked, then you can eat it after a meal. Consider making a tray of baked apples instead of pie for dessert. The white flour, sugar and fat are bad for your health.
This year at Thanksgiving, I encourage you to eat your favorite stuffing coupled with your serving of turkey, but also try to balance the starch and protein with lots of vegetables. Be mindful that you are what you eat, and if you are fueling your body with nutritious foods, you will look and feel great. If you are neglecting your body of the necessary vitamins and nutrients it needs, you are putting your health at risk and increasing your chances of joint pain and discomfort.
Dr. Tauro is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon at Ocean County Sports Medicine, located in Toms River, NJ. He specializes in the prevention and treatment of sports injuries and degenerative joint conditions, and is recognized worldwide as an innovator in the development of advanced minimally-invasive treatment methods and procedures. Dr. Tauro also serves as Associate Professor of Orthopedics at Rutgers Medical School. More information on Dr. Tauro and his practice can be found at www.oceancountysportsmedicine.com or by calling (732) 341-6226.
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