Plant based diets seem to be all the craze at the moment. And for good reasons.
Firstly, as the meat industry utilises natural resources beyond what is sustainable in the long term, from an environmental perspective, we should all be striving towards less animal and animal by-product consumption and focusing our eating on plants.
Aside from the planetary health benefits, plant based diets have also been documented to provide benefits to human health. Although the research is still in progress and no solid conclusions can be made, many of the positive health outcomes, which we’ll dissect in a minute, are correlated with a reduction in inflammatory load and therefore, a potential reduction in disease activity. Among the diseases that may be aided with the adoption of plant based eating is arthritis.
Plant based diets and arthritis
Plants contain a myriad of nutrients, such as beta and alpha carotenes, lycopene’s and vitamins such as vitamin C and vitamin E, that have been known to be associated with fighting against inflammation and free radicals. Not only do plants contain these nutrients in abundance, they are also void of the potentially problematic pro-inflammatory factors, such as arachidonic acid, that are contained within meat products.
Therefore, by eating more plants and less meat, you’re reducing your overall inflammatory load. This is incredibly beneficial for those with inflammation based conditions that lead to chronic pain, such as arthritis. In addition to inflammatory load, eating more plant based has been correlated with improved weight maintenance, another important factor when it comes to managing the pain associated with arthritis.
Overall, although research is still in it’s preliminary stages, the results of plant based diets as an adjunct treatment tool to other interventions in managing the pain associated with osteoarthritis are incredibly promising and worth pursuing.
Now, it is important to acknowledge that adopting a plant based way of eating does not need to be an all or nothing approach to gain the benefits. Additionally, you shouldn’t feel any pressure to dive in head first. Slow and steady often wins the race, particularly when it comes to any sort of behaviour change.
So, where to begin?
Before eliminating any food groups, start by generally increasing your weekly intake of plants. You may like to add a handful of mixed nuts and berries to your oatmeal in the morning, smear some avocado onto your toast instead of jam, incorporate fresh herbs and spices into your cooking and perhaps add a few tablespoons of lentils to your salads. Adopting the mindset of ‘how can I add more to this’, as opposed to ‘what do I need to eliminate here’, will enable you to develop a more positive relationship with dietary change and ultimately, increase the likelihood that whatever changes you make will last in the long term.
Once you have built some momentum in your plant consumption, you may like to transition into adopting more plant based meals in general throughout your week. This may take the shape of swapping your meat based bolognese for a lentil based bolognese. Or instead of a chicken stir-fry, you opt for a tofu and mushroom stir-fry instead.
Going the extra mile
If you’re interested in implementing a plant based way of eating and have the means to invest in support, working with a trained professional such as an accredited dietician or nutritionist would be incredibly beneficial. You’ll be guided towards what nutrients will be important for you to focus on within your diet and you’ll have the support that you need as you make the transition.
The bottom line
In a nutshell, increase your intake of plants, slowly reduce your intake of meat and over time, your body will likely thank you for it.
‘Chronic musculoskeletal pain and function improve with a plant based diet’ - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0965229918305442?via%3Dihub
‘Role of dietary patterns and factors in determining the risk of knee osteoarthritis: a meta analysis’ - https://academic.oup.com/mr/advance-article/doi/10.1093/mr/roab059/6363746?login=false
‘Whole-foods, plant-based diet alleviates the symptoms of osteoarthritis’ - https://www.hindawi.com/journals/arthritis/2015/708152/