I am a Doctor Who Treats Arthritis—This Is the Breakfast I Eat Almost Every Day for Joint Health

Every Day for Joint Health

Age, injury and other things that are somewhat out of our control can play a role in joint health. Yet, the food you reach for first thing in the morning and throughout the day is also critical.

“Diet can play a significant role in improving joint health,” says Dr. James Topilow, MD, a rheumatology specialist with Hackensack University Medical Center. Many of my patients noted a substantial improvement in inflammation after following a healthy diet.”

Eating nutritious foods can also keep weight in check, lowering your risk of joint-related pain. “Excess weight puts extra stress on your joints, increasing the risk of pain and damage,” Dr. Topilow says.

While breakfast may not be the most important meal of the day—and we are not here to wade into that food fight—it can certainly help you make it a better morning for your joints. “What better way to improve joint health than starting your day with a joint-friendly breakfast that can help reduce inflammation, improve mobility and prevent future joint issues?” Dr. Topilow asked.

Below, Dr. Topilow serves up his favorite breakfast for joint health (and a few more for good measure). He also shared food for thought on how to build a breakfast you and your joints agree is the bomb.

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A Doctor’s No. 1 Breakfast for Joint Health

Dr. Topilow calls this breakfast an “omega-3 powerhouse.” “The ingredients are Greek yogurt, berries, chia seeds and chopped walnuts,” Dr. Topilow says.

The meal is convenient (you can make it in under five minutes), creamy and just plain delicious—all important factors when planning your first meal of the day. Yet, Dr. Topilow also loves how nutrient-dense this breakfast is.

“Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and fiber, this breakfast helps reduce inflammation and supports cartilage health,” Dr. Topilow says.

One 2019 study of nearly 1,500 patients with rheumatoid arthritis found that those who took omega-3 supplements self-reported less joint pain and swelling. Yet, walnuts are a good source of omega-3s, and experts generally try to recommend getting nutrition from your diet before opting for supplements. Another study published in 2020 indicated that omega-3s could help prevent or reduce experimental arthritis and aid in treating rheumatoid arthritis.

Berries are a great source of fiber, which studies show can help lower inflammation. This is good news: Less inflammation might help slow down the progression of rheumatoid arthritis.

Oh, and Greek yogurt has calcium, which Dr. Topilow says “helps strengthen bones and cartilage, which are crucial for healthy joints.”

Other Great Breakfasts to Improve Joint Health

Don’t have chia seeds on hand? Or simply not a fan of this breakfast option? Dr. Topilow dished a few of his other favorite breakfasts for joint health.

  • The anti-inflammatory smoothie. Blend Spinach, banana, almond milk, turmeric, ginger and a scoop of protein powder, “This smoothie is packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, promoting joint health and reducing pain,” Dr. Topilow says.
  • The Mediterranean delight. Put avocado and smoked salmon on whole-wheat toast and serve with a side of cherry tomatoes. “This breakfast provides healthy fats, protein and antioxidants, supporting joint lubrication and reducing inflammation,” Dr. Topilow says.
  • Bone-building oatmeal. This classic breakfast gets a flavorful, joint-friendly boost courtesy of almond milk, chia seeds, flaxseeds and a sprinkle of cinnamon. “This oatmeal is rich in calcium, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, promoting bone health and reducing joint pain,” Dr. Topilow says
  • Tropical anti-inflammatory bowl. Combine papaya, mango, pineapple, coconut flakes and a drizzle of honey. “This bowl is loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory enzymes, helping reduce joint pain and stiffness,” Dr. Topilow says.

Eat Your Way to Better Joint Health

If you want more tips for eating your way to better joint health, the below tips can be helpful.

1. Eat more fruits and veggies

Your parents were right. “Aim for at least two servings of fruits and vegetables at breakfast for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties,” Dr. Topilow says.

One study suggested that older adults who ate more fruits and veggies were less likely to report knee pain.

2. Choose whole grains

We already discussed how fiber can help with inflammation and the progression of rheumatoid arthritis.  Veggies are an excellent way to load up on fiber but don’t discount specific carbs.

“Opt for whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, or brown rice for sustained energy and fiber,” Dr. Topilow says.

3. Incorporate healthy fats

Dr. Topilow says walnuts aren’t the only source of joint-healthy healthy fats. Other nuts (like almonds) and avocados also boast healthy fats. Ditto for salmon.

“Incorporate healthy fats…to support joint lubrication and reduce inflammation,” Dr. Topilow says.

4. Avoid processed and sugary foods and drinks

“Avoiding processed foods and sugary drinks is always encouraged,” Dr. Topilow says. “Limiting red meat consumption may help reduce inflammation—but everyone is different, so experimenting with which foods serve as triggers for pain is key.”

As for drinks, Dr. Topilow says drinking plenty of water throughout the day will keep joints lubricated. The CDC agrees.


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