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Living Your Best Life with Osteoarthritis

Healthy eating when you have OA

Healthy eating is an important part of managing your OA symptoms. Making healthy food choices can give you the nutrition you need to have healthy bones, stay at a healthy weight, or lose extra body weight if your healthcare provider recommends this.

How does nutrition affect bone health?

When a joint breaks down, this also affects your bone health.

Vitamin D and calcium are both important for healthy bones, so ask your healthcare provider or dietitian how much vitamin D and calcium is right for you. Eat foods that are good sources of vitamin D and take a vitamin D supplement.

Learn more about getting enough calcium and vitamin D, including how much you may need depending on your age and sex.

The following are examples of foods that are high in calcium. You can also get more examples from Osteoporosis Canada:

  • milk or fortified soy beverage
  • hard cheese (cheddar, edam, Gouda)
  • almonds
  • plain or fruit-flavoured yogurt
  • salmon, canned with bones
  • calcium fortified orange juice
  • tofu made with calcium

How can weight affect my OA?

People with OA also often carry extra body weight. Extra body weight puts more force on your knees and hips. Eating healthy and being active are parts of a healthy lifestyle for managing chronic disease, like OA.

If you carry extra weight, here are some helpful tips to stop you from gaining more weight. Then you can focus on losing a small amount of weight at a time. Even losing a little extra weight can help with joint pain. Talk to your healthcare provider about your goals for health and weight.

How can I make healthy food choices?

Make it a habit to eat a variety of healthy foods each day. Healthy meals and snacks can be simple when you use the Eat Well Plate from Canada’s Food Guide. Here’s how:

  • Make half your plate vegetables and fruits. Vegetables and fruits should always make up the largest amount of the foods you eat.
  • Divide the other half of your plate into 2 smaller portions: 1 of grain foods and 1 of protein foods.
    • Choose whole grain foods. Whole grains are a healthier choice and have more fibre. Examples are whole grain bread, brown rice, and whole grain oats.
    • Choose protein foods such as beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, lean meats and poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, lower-fat milk, and lower-fat dairy products. Include protein foods that come from plants more often.
    • Learn more about healthy eating and how to start making better food choices.

      What types of drinks are healthy choices?

      Make water your drink of choice. Replace sugary drinks with water. Other healthy drink options can include:

      • plain milk (unsweetened lower-fat milk)
      • unsweetened fortified plant-based beverages such as soy or almond beverage
      • unsweetened coffee and teas

      Limit drinks that are high in sugar and calories like:

      • pop
      • juice
      • iced tea
      • fruit-flavoured drinks
      • alcoholic drinks (beer, wine, hard alcohol)
      • energy drinks
      • coffee and tea drinks made with sugar, syrups, cream, and whitener
      • slushies

      What are some other healthy eating tips?

      Remember that how much you eat is as important as what you eat. You can gain weight if you eat and drink larger portions than you need.

      Record what you eat and drink. People who keep track of what they eat and drink are more likely to make changes that last.

      Healthy eating may help you control some of your symptoms and manage side effects from some of the medicine you take for your OA. You’re going to come across a lot of books and websites that claim that some foods or special diets or supplements will cure OA or help with symptoms. But many studies show that no one food, diet, or supplement will cure OA.

      Don’t follow diets that ask you to stay away from certain foods. Doing this could cause you to get less of the nutrition you need to stay healthy. If you’re thinking about cutting out healthy foods or changing the way you eat, speak with your doctor or a dietitian first.

Current as of: October 2, 2020

Author: Bone & Joint Health Strategic Clinical Network, AHS