It’s as though Mother Nature planned it. Little NUggets of Total Splendidness (NUTS), hidden in trees and bushes, and even sometimes underground, for us to find. And to make it better, these little treasures are actually good for us, and delicious.
Too good to be true? Definitely not, and for those of us with arthritis — whether rheumatoid or osteoarthritis — nuts can be an important part of your daily health routine. Nuts are high in protein and essential fats, fiber, magnesium, and multiple vitamins, depending on which kind you’re eating.
Here, we break down the best nuts for arthritis and the truth on whether or not nuts are anti-inflammatory.
The connection between nuts and arthritis
As with most foods both healthy and unhealthy, there can be a close connection between eating nuts and arthritis flare-ups.
It starts with a key component of nuts — their healthy fats. Nuts are key sources of both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. This makes nuts a key component in an anti-inflammatory diet. Because certain types of heart diseases can be boosted by arthritis, eating foods such as nuts that can work to curb high cholesterol is of extra importance.
Beyond that, the vitamins and minerals in nuts can work as great antioxidants. These antioxidants protect the cells in your body from free radicals, which are generated in your body when you are exposed to unhealthy situations like smoke, pollution, and during the digestive process.
The one thing to keep in mind with nuts is that they are a high-fat food (despite that the fats are generally healthier than saturated fats, though there some saturated fats in nuts). You don’t want too much fat, and as such nuts should be eaten in moderation. As tempting as that bag of pistachios might be, drag it out across the week rather than eating it all in one sitting while watching a football game.
Walnuts and inflammation: the truth
As a Haka Life Warrior, you know the importance of omega-3 fatty acids when it comes to combating joint pain and inflammation. Walnuts are the highest in omega-3s, and can also reduce inflammation-linked cardiovascular disease due to their ability to reduce C-reactive protein.
Walnuts are absorbed by the body in a way that allows the blood vessels to pump blood more efficiently, a benefit to the heart and to inflammation throughout the body.
A great way to add more walnuts to your anti-inflammatory diet is to toast them in the oven (try adding rosemary and/or tossing the walnuts in olive oil beforehand for extra flavor) and cook to a lite crisp. This makes them delicious additions to salads and casseroles. You can even top a bowl of soup with a few sliced walnuts, because who doesn’t love a bit of crunch?
The other best nuts for arthritis (and their benefits)
Beyond walnuts, there are many other nuts that can do you good in the fight against joint pain and inflammation.
Pistachios are high in potassium, lutein, Vitamins A and E, and magnesium, making them an all-in-one inflammation-fighting punch. Because they must be de-shelled before being eaten, keeping track of your portion size is easier with pistachios than with most other nuts. And the best part is that while pistachios are great on salads or as toppers on other dishes, they’re often best all by themselves. Simply grab a handful, a plate, and settle in for a healthy snack.
- The big 3: full of vitamins and minerals, fun to eat and easy to carry, and perfect as a topper on simple recipes
Almonds pack fiber better than the other nuts on this list, immediately giving them an advantage. Almonds can be good for high cholesterol, especially if you can manage to substitute them for high-cholesterol foods like egg yolks, full-fat yogurt, and french fries. We like to carry a bag of almonds (or mixed nuts) with us when traveling or heading out for the day, as they help to quell the snack urge — which can prevent the ordering of that unnecessary and unhealthy appetizer.
- The Big 3: filling, high in fiber, anti-inflammatory
We close with what can only be described as a “freebie.” Peanuts are the most common nut found in trail mixes, snacks, nut butter, and even those little baggies you get on the airplane. Don’t shy away from them — peanuts have more protein than any other nut. They provide both poly- and mono-unsaturated fats and are the easiest nut to include in recipes. Try a Thai peanut sauce with a stir fry, or bring a bag of gorp along with you the next time you embark on an outdoor adventure.
- The big 3: cheap and available en masse, good for kids, high in protein
Other nuts can be helpful for your diet as well. Speak with your doctor if you have dietary restrictions or need advice on your personal situation. And remember — in a pinch, even a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich is better than no nuts at all.
Which nuts are the least effective in combatting arthritis?
The good news here is that there’s no reason to eschew the trail mix on your next hike. The effectiveness of nuts in combating arthritis can vary from person to person – and no specific nut is noted as being “bad” for arthritis (in fact, as we’ve discussed here, nuts are one of the best foods to eat to combat joint pain and inflammation).
As we noted above, opt for trail mix (or other snacks) with almonds, peanuts, or, as an added bonus, even hazelnuts. These nuts have healthy fats and Vitamin E to boot. Some nuts that are generally considered to be less effective in combatting arthritis include cashews and macadamia nuts, which are a good source of magnesium but they are also pretty high in calories vs. the amount of inflammation-fighting power you’ll receive. Macadamias have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, as well, which can have the opposite effect.
If you are concerned about the impact of nuts on your arthritis, it is best to talk to your doctor. They can help you determine which nuts are right for you – and how much – based on dietary considerations and your overall health.
It’s also important to note that nuts are high in calories, so eat them in moderation. A good rule of thumb is to eat one ounce of nuts per day. That way, you can reap the benefits of plant-based protein and anti-inflammatory power without overdoing it.
Are peanuts and peanut butter good for combatting arthritis?
Peanuts are a good source of protein and fiber, but they are also high in omega-6 fatty acids, which can promote inflammation in some people. Generally, though, peanuts are about as effective as most other nuts. Peanut butter can be a good addition to an arthritis diet, as it is a good source of protein, fiber, and healthy fats. These nutrients can help to reduce inflammation and improve joint health.
Peanut butter is also a good source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that can help protect cells from damage. Additionally, peanut butter contains resveratrol, a compound that according to the National Library of Medicine has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.
However, it is important to note that peanut butter is also high in calories and fat, so it is important to eat it in moderation. A good rule of thumb is to eat one tablespoon of peanut butter per day. Additionally, many brands of peanut butter that you’ll find on the shelf at your local grocery store are full of added ingredients like palm oil and sugars, and these can inhibit even small amounts of peanut butter from being healthy (palm oil is also a large contributor to deforestation worldwide, and here at Haka Life we’re all about living a more sustainable lifestyle).