The right diet is an important component in the nonsurgical treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee. It can help patients reduce pain and weight as well as improve mobility. Find out in this article why omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial in cases of osteoarthritis of the knee, and why arachidonic acid is harmful. Using our list of recommended foods and those to be avoided, you can adjust your eating habits to suit your needs. Your physician will be happy to help you.

Many Germans wouldn’t even consider a meal without meat or sausages. In Germany, one in four people eats meat every day. For patients suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee, however, this is not a good idea. Red meat in particular, which includes pork and beef, contains arachidonic acid. This acid is involved in the development of substances in the body that can lead to inflammation. Studies have shown that osteoarthritis patients who don’t eat meat at all suffer less from swollen joints and pain.

In the prevention and treatment of osteoarthritis, apart from weight and diet, the right amount of exercise plays an important role.


Prof. Dr. Stefan Sell
Medical director Gelenkzentrum Schwarzwald

What kind of diet helps manage osteoarthritis of the knee?

Little meat, a lot of vegetables, little sugar, fat in moderation: patients should have a healthy, balanced diet, choosing foods that inhibit inflammation. This includes, for example, linseed oil and walnut oil which contain omega-3 fatty acids. “They reduce the breakdown of collagens in the human body,” explains Professor Stefan Sell, Medical Director of the “Gelenkzentrum Schwarzwald” joint center. Collagens are structural proteins that can be found in cartilage, for example, and that need to be maintained. After all, the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee is all about decelerating the advancing joint wear that threatens to destroy cartilage in the knee.

 

Does that mean that patients suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee should preferably choose foods like salmon, spinach or flaxseed and avoid meat because of the arachidonic acid? “Definitely. This allows you to slow down inflammation processes in the body,” Sell explains. At the same time, patients suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee should ensure they get enough minerals, vitamins and trace elements. “Antioxidants, for example, are part of the collagen metabolism, and occur in vitamins C and E, mixed carotenoids as well as citrus bioflavonoids,” Sell elaborates. These antioxidants are known to intercept free radicals. Free radicals are partly produced by the body itself – they also develop, however, because of external influences such as cigarette smoke or UV radiation. Too many free radicals in the body can advance conditions such as osteoarthritis.

Eating healthily, losing weight and relieving the knee

Avoiding unhealthy ingredients, ingesting those that are required, reducing overweight – these are the goals that patients suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee should pursue when changing their eating habits. “And those who follow a balanced diet also lose weight more easily,” Sell summarizes. Any excess weight subjects the joints to additional strain. On the other hand, if you reduce weight, you take pressure off your joints, alleviate pain and make moving easier. This is a significant treatment measure to decelerate progression of the joint condition.

Diet and osteoarthritis: what can go on your plate?

A change of eating habits is an initial challenge for many patients – however, balanced and light meals with a lot of fruit and vegetables quickly become part of their lives. We have created an overview with beneficial and less beneficial foods for patients suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee. Nobody needs to be afraid of missing out on anything, by the way. The important thing is to find a balance with various foods – a physician can help you address any concerns or queries.  Your physician knows your medical history and can support you if you have questions about a suitable dietary plan.

Foods in cases of osteoarthritis: feel free to have more of these!

  • Vegetables: Artichokes, asparagus, cabbage, carrots, celery, cucumbers, fennel, garlic, kohlrabi, leek, mushrooms, onions, pulses, radish, salad (especially endive, chicory, rocket, beet leaves), sauerkraut, spinach, zucchini
  • Fruit: Generally all types of fruit that are low in sugar such as apricots, berries, avocados. If chosen less often, types of fruit high in sugar, such as bananas, grapes, honeydew melons, mangoes, pears, pineapples and sweet cherries are also OK.
  • Herbs & spices: Cilantro, cumin, cress, ginger, nutmeg, turmeric
  • Sausages & meat: Turkey breast cold cuts, poultry; if chosen less frequently, corned beef, veal, beef tenderloin and game are allowed.
  • Fish: Coldwater fish (cod, halibut, herring, mackerel, plaice, prawns, salmon, sardines, trout)
  • Milk & cheese: Low-fat milk and low-fat natural yogurt, buttermilk, quark up to 20% fat, Harz cheese and cottage cheese. You can also have cream, sour cream, crème fraîche, soft cheese, feta, mozzarella and cream cheese, but less often.
  • Cereal, bread & side dishes: Brown rice, millet, potatoes, rolled oats, spelt, whole-grain bread
  • Drinks: Water, tea without sugar, coffee without milk

Did you know:

Ginger suppresses the production of inflammatory substances. This has been proven for ginger extract at least. In a study with 250 participants, researchers found that ginger extract has a similar effect to common pain medication. During the study, half the test subjects took ginger capsules, the other half capsules without ginger, i.e. a placebo. The result: the test subjects who took ginger capsules needed less pain medication.

 

These foods should remain an exception for osteoarthritis patients

  • Fruit: Dried fruit, canned fruit, fruit puree
  • Sausages & meat: Pork in all varieties, breaded meat
  • Fish: Breaded fish
  • Milk & cheese: Dairy products and ready-made products high in fat, such as fruit yogurt and pudding
  • Cereal, bread & side dishes: In general, products made of white flour should be avoided (such as white bread and croissants);croquettes, fries, husked rice, mashed potato, pancakes, potato pancakes
  • Drinks: Soy drinks, fruit juices, soft drinks, alcohol
  • Sweets & snacks: Such as chocolate, ice-cream, potato chips, etc.

What else can you do

A healthy and balanced diet is really beneficial. But you can additionally improve your well-being as part of nonsurgical osteoarthritis treatment: targeted, regular activity is a must – during physiotherapy as well as moderate exercise. You can also find appropriate knee exercises that you can do at home with your personal training program in our Treatment App. In addition, our supports and orthoses can relieve and stabilize your knee to alleviate pain and give you a more secure feeling – during physical activities in particular.

Advice portal

Find out more about the various conservative treatment measures for knee osteoarthritis in our advice portal.