If you’re suffering from arthritis, you’re one of approximately 58.5 million people in the United States who deals with this disease (or 1 in every 4 adults). It is a leading cause of work disability, with more than half of US adults (57.3%) with arthritis of working age between 18 to 64 years old.
The good news is that there are ways to reduce its symptoms, which include pain, aching, stiffness, and swelling in or around the joints. Some examples are taking supplements, watching what you eat, and drinking certain beverages. And according to Julie Upton, M.S. DRa registered dietitian on our medical expert board, one of the best drinks you can have to soothe arthritis symptoms is a smoothie with wild blueberries and leafy greens.
“My favorite drink to reduce symptoms related to arthritis is a green and berry smoothie,” says Upton.
Arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder and Upton says that adding anti-inflammatory foods to your diet may help soothe this inflammation that causes arthritis symptoms. “Este [smoothie] is a great antioxidant-packed, nutrient-rich beverage that has bioactive compounds that help reduce inflammation,” explains Upton. “That is what causes pain and stiffness of the joints when you have arthritis.”
How wild blueberries may target arthritis symptoms.
For her recipe, Upton always uses frozen wild blueberries, as she suggests that they have more antioxidants and less sugar than most other berries.
Studies suggest that wild blueberries may play a key role in reducing inflammation and targeting arthritis symptoms due to the fruit’s high concentration of anti-inflammatory flavonoid polyphenols, especially anthocyanins.
Anthocyanins are a specific type of antioxidant found in the skin of wild blueberries that have been shown to have a high antioxidant capacity, which is a measure of how many cell-damaging free radicals the plant compound can scavenge, as discussed in a Journal of Functional Foods study.
A review published in Advances in Food Technology and Nutritional Sciences summarized that there is promising evidence to support the role of anthocyanins in reducing inflammation in joint tissue as well as preventing osteoporosis.
Another bioactive polyphenol, known as malvidin-3-glucoside, found in wild blueberries has also been linked to significantly reducing the expression of pro-inflammatory genes.
There is also evidence to support the direct link between consuming antioxidant-rich blueberries and alleviating arthritis symptoms. One study set out to examine the effect of consuming freeze-dried blueberries daily on participants with knee osteoarthritis—a type of arthritis that occurs when flexible tissue at the ends of bones wears down. Participants who consumed 40 grams of freeze-dried blueberry powder every day for four months showed reduced pain, stiffness, and difficulty in performing daily activities as compared to the control group. Researchers believe that these results are a sign that blueberry supplementation may therefore improve the quality of life in individuals with osteoarthritis.
How leafy greens, like spinach, can fight arthritis symptoms.
When it comes to selecting the greens for this smoothie, Upton prefers baby spinach.
Like wild blueberries, spinach may also ease arthritis symptoms.
When researchers asked 217 subjects to designate whether 20 foods included in a survey either improved or worsened their rheumatoid arthritis (RA) symptoms, spinach was one of the top two foods most often reported to improve RA symptoms (the other being blueberries). Soda and desserts were more frequently linked to worsening RA symptoms. This was a self-reported study, so more research needs to be done to provide a link between spinach and improved RA symptoms.
One of the ways spinach may help alleviate arthritis symptoms is similar to that of wild blueberries—by lowering inflammation. Spinach contains high levels of an antioxidant known as kaempferol, which has been shown to decrease the effects of inflammatory compounds associated with rheumatoid arthritis. However, more research is needed to confirm this effect in humans.
Along with its arthritis-fighting ability, spinach is great for your heart. According to several studies, spinach has been linked with lowered blood pressure and reduced risk of heart disease. This leafy green is also helpful for weight loss. It’s super low-calorie and low-carb and contains tons of nutrients. That’s not all, though. Spinach is also high in fiber, which keeps you full and helps you keep regulated, making it a superfood for your smoothie.
How to make this smoothie for arthritis
If you’re looking to get the exact recipe, Upton has shared what she does to make this delicious and nutritious smoothie:
- 1 cup packed baby spinach
- 1 cup frozen wild blueberries
- 1/4 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
- ice cups and cold water
- Stevia, if needed.
Add these ingredients to your blender and process to the thickness you desire. Then, voila! You have a healthy and tasty smoothie.
Kayla Garritano is a Staff Writer for Eat This, Not That! She graduated from Hofstra University, where she majored in Journalism and double minored in Marketing and Creative Writing. Read more