Joint health is an often-overlooked aspect of fitness and wellness. Because we tend to focus on performance metrics like strength and speed, it’s easy to forget that our joints are the supporting structures at the core of every movement.
Knowing this, it’s time to take joint health more seriously. This means prioritizing flexibility and strength — and supporting with a healthy diet and supplementation.
Let’s look into which nutrients help joints thrive and outline the best foods that support joint health in the long run.
What can cause joint discomfort?
Joint discomfort can happen for many reasons. While diet is key, it’s often a combination of factors that leads to tension, swelling, and other uncomfortable feelings in the joints.
The main source of joint discomfort is overuse or unnatural movements that go beyond the typical range of motion for a joint. Protective ligaments and tendons can only go so far, and over many years of repetitive motions, these structures can wear down or become swollen. When nearby nerves are impacted, signals are sent to the brain that tell us enough is enough.
On the other side of the coin, underuse can also lead to joint discomfort, especially among people living sedentary lifestyles. Maybe you sit at a desk for hours on end or operate machinery that restricts you in a non-ergonomic position, for example. Certain joints, especially those in the hips, back, and neck, take the brunt of this pressure over time if they aren’t properly stretched.
Of course, other factors come into play in the equation of joint discomfort, including diet, immunity, and lifestyle choices. These issues often compound as we age, making it even more important to prioritize joint health in middle age and beyond.
Thankfully, many aspects of joint health are in our sphere of control, and you can rejuvenate joints with consistent, applied habits. While our focus today is on diet and supplementation, remember that physical therapy and discomfort management are key to keeping joints healthy over time.
What nutrients can support joint health?
Before we get into some foods to add to your joint-friendly grocery list, let’s step back and recognize some key nutrients that support joint health. After all, foods are simply combinations of micro and macronutrients, the building blocks that keep joints working as they should.
1. Omega-3 fatty acids
Healthy fats are vital to joint health and overall well-being, and omega-3s are a great starting point. These polyunsaturated fatty acids are known for supporting synovial fluid in joints, while lubricating tendons and ligaments for mobility and strength.
The two main types of omega-3s are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Both are critical for joint health, while also supporting brain function, circulation, digestion, and more. Prioritize fatty fish like sardines, mackerel, and salmon to boost your intake of omega-3s, or consider adding a fish oil supplement for more health benefits.
Antioxidants protect cells from free radicals, which may contribute to joint discomfort or swelling. With too much oxidative stress on joints, they may lose mobility or become too tense to use properly.
Antioxidant sources include colorful fruits and veggies, so make sure your basket is full of the whole rainbow. Foods are the best way to get more antioxidants, but you can also supplement with vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and selenium.
3. Key vitamins
Speaking of vitamins, you need a full range of these vital minerals to maintain joint health and wellness overall. Vitamin D deficiencies are among the most common, and receiving adequate sunlight is the best way to boost your levels.
Additionally, vitamin C will support immunity and collagen levels, both essential for the formation of cartilage and connective tissue surrounding joints. Be sure to load up on berries, citrus fruits, and cruciferous vegetables, and take a daily multivitamin or supergreen supplement like Sunmed's incredible Supergreens Daily Gummies.
What is the role of a balanced diet in joint health?
The role of a balanced diet in joint health cannot be understated. Despite living in the most resource-abundant time in history, the average diet is alarmingly low in quality nutrients.
Remember that macronutrients like protein and complex carbohydrates are also important for strength, flexibility, and sustained energy levels.
Whether you’re pushing your physical limits in the gym or simply looking to restore your joint health to reduce discomfort — nutrition is vital. A balanced diet plan will support all your goals and keep you on track for the long term.
Additional considerations for joint health
There is no singular path to improving joint health, and nutrition is just one pillar of a comprehensive approach. Joints also benefit from regular exercise, which boosts circulation and clears waste products like lactic acid. Even low-impact routines like walking or cycling can reduce discomfort and promote the healing process.
Additionally, targeted physical therapy can benefit joints tremendously, whether through stretching, strengthening, or hot-and-cold treatments. The occasional ice pack or heating pad can reduce discomfort and lessen swelling around joints to keep them feeling strong and flexible.
Finally, don’t hesitate to reach out to a medical professional if you have concerns about more severe conditions affecting joint health. Early detection and prevention are the best ways to get ahead of an issue and receive the guidance you need to overcome chronic discomfort.
What are the best foods and supplements for joint health?
Now that we’ve explored the causes of joint discomfort and outlined some keys to joint health, it’s time to talk about foods. Here are eleven of the best foods and supplements that will help your joints maintain mobility and resiliency no matter where you’re at.
1. Olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil is a certified superfood that should be at the top of your grocery list when shopping for joint-healthy ingredients. It is rich in antioxidants and polyphenols, protecting cells while lubricating supporting structures around joints.
Olive oil also aids in nutrient absorption for fat-soluble vitamins, helping you get more from every meal.
2. Whole grains
With whole grains in your diet, you get sustained energy without the blood-sugar roller coaster of sugary carbs. Because whole grains have a low glycemic index, they digest more slowly and won’t contribute to metabolic issues commonly associated with joint discomfort.
Look for foods like brown rice, barley, oats, and quinoa to get the grains you need.
Not only are blueberries a delicious treat, but they also support antioxidant activity and may protect connective tissue with loads of vitamin C.
These berries can limit oxidative stress on joints and contribute to collagen production — all good things for joints. Plus, they’re high in flavonoids and anthocyanins, two compounds proven to aid overall health and longevity.
4. Leafy greens
Leafy greens like spinach, kale, and chard are superstars in the world of joint health. Their incredible profile of vitamins and minerals will help protect joints, while flavonoids and carotenoids may keep swelling and tension at bay.
There are plenty of ways to enjoy these greens in a tasty way, like with garlic, olive oil, and other spices.
These tiny fish might not look like much when packed into tin cans, but sardines are among the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids available. Not only do you get plenty of healthy fats in a small serving, but sardines are also rich in protein, vitamin D, and calcium to help bones and joints stay strong.
You also get B vitamins and magnesium, which will support energy levels and limit stress on the body.
Similar to sardines, mackerel is a great source of the essential fatty acids. Packed with protein, you get the necessary amino acids required for protein synthesis, perfect for supporting any physical therapy regimen.
With essential minerals like selenium, magnesium, potassium, and more, mackerel is a superfood you don’t want to overlook for joint health.
7. Citrus fruits
Loaded with vitamin C, flavonoids, and limonoids, citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and grapefruit are great assets in your joint health journey. These fruits keep discomfort at bay by supporting collagen synthesis and boosting the immune system.*
Citrus is also a great source of hydration that benefits all parts of the body and brain. Make sure you always grab a handful of seasonal citrus at the store, but avoid those sugary concentrated juices.
The avocado is an anomaly in the plant world, packed with essential fatty acids and more potassium than you might expect. Remember, you need fats to absorb vitamins properly and keep connective tissue lubricated, which is why avocados should always be on your list.
You can enjoy them in salads, on toast, or as a side with your favorite lean protein like fish or tofu.
While cannabidiol (CBD) isn't a food, it's a wellness compound found in the hemp plant that we couldn't help but mention. CBD works by interacting with endocannabinoid receptors in the body, helping many functions return to homeostasis — with effects like reduced tension, eased discomfort, and a heightened overall sense of well-being. CBD can also help you sleep at night, promoting rejuvenation when your body is in repair mode.*
Calcium is a mineral typically associated with bone and joint health, making it a no-brainer supplement on our list. Stronger bones mean healthier joints and better quality of life, so look for calcium-fortified foods like dairy and leafy greens.
11. Hemp hearts
Hemp hearts are the inner edible part of the hemp seed, and a super source of protein, fats, and minerals. Similar to chia seeds, they contain tons of vitamin E, which will support immunity and antioxidant function in cells everywhere.
How can you incorporate CBD into your wellness regimen for joint support?
CBD might seem like an outlier on our grocery list, so how do you incorporate it into your joint wellness regimen?
We suggest starting with one of Sunmed's USDA-certified Broad Spectrum Organic Tinctures that you can take sublingually everyday. This will saturate your system with quality hemp extract and provide sustained benefits that help reduce joint discomfort and tension throughout your days.*
For a targeted approach to joint health, consider applying our award-winning Full Spectrum Topical Relief Cream to the affected area when tension strikes. The combination of CBD, smooth shea butter, and cooling compounds like peppermint, MSM, and arnica flower work together to soothe and relieve the area in minutes.*
Joint health can seem complicated at first, but it becomes simple when you identify the key nutrients and building blocks you need. This list of foods, supplements, and tips will help you get started.
As you develop your unique approach to joint health, consider incorporating CBD into your lifestyle with Sunmed — we're here to support you in 400+ locations nationwide with top-tier wellness products that fit your personalized needs.*