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Can Too Many Carbs and Not Enough Protein Cause Joint Pain?

By Jill Corleone, RDN, LD

When it comes to joint pain, what you eat might help. But it's not so much about eating too many carbs and not enough protein, but about getting the right carbs and protein. Consult your doctor or dietitian to help you design a diet that helps you manage your joint pain.

Diet and Inflammation

Diet cannot cure your joint pain, but including foods that help your body fight inflammation might help reduce some of the pain you feel. An anti-inflammatory diet is one that includes fruits and vegetables; omega-3-rich fish; plant sources of protein such as nuts, seeds and beans; and whole grains. You should also limit your intake of saturated fats and processed foods, including refined carbs.

Pain-Reducing Proteins

Healthy proteins to include in your diet to reduce joint pain include fatty fish, nuts, seeds and beans. The omega-3s in fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and herring may help reduce the swelling and pain in joints caused by rheumatoid arthritis, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

Some nuts and seeds, including walnuts and flaxseeds, are also a good source of omega-3 fats. Nuts and seeds are also a source of anti-inflammatory vitamin B-6 and monounsaturated fats, especially almonds and pistachios. The fiber and phytonutrients in beans also help reduce joint inflammation, says the Arthritis Foundation. Healthy bean choices include black beans, chickpeas and lima beans.

Pain-Reducing Carbs

Instead of refined carbs, such as white bread, cake and cookies, fill your diet with more whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread and brown rice, to up your intake of vitamins, minerals and fiber.

Fruits and vegetables also make healthy carb choices for joint pain. The Arthritis Foundation says you should aim for nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day. The antioxidants in fruits and veggies help your body fight free radicals, which are substances that damage cells and increase inflammation.

Carb and Protein Balance

There aren't specific recommendations for the amount of carbohydrates and protein you should get in your diet when you have joint pain. For a balanced intake, and to make sure you get all the nutrients you need for good health, follow the recommendations for carbs and protein established by the Institute of Medicine. The institute suggests 45 percent to 65 percent of calories from carbs and 10 percent to 35 percent from protein, with the rest coming from fat.

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