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The #1 Strategy to Relieve Weight Related Knee Discomfort

obese woman with knee pain

A 2016 study found that only 3.7% of people who are at a healthy weight (and who possess a body mass index of 18.5 to 25) had knee problems involving the wearing down of the cartilage that protects their bones. But a whopping 19.5% of people who were classified as having grade 2 obesity (a body mass index of 35 to 39.9) had a similar condition. Another study revealed that every one pound of weight adds four additional pounds of force on your knees. 

“Medical costs for people who had obesity was [sic] $1,429 higher than medical costs for people with healthy weight.” — CDC

Right now in the United States, 36.5% of Americans are obese and another 32.5% are overweight, according to HealthLine.com. Not only does carrying around extra weight create more wear and tear on your knees (and all the pain and reduced mobility that comes with it), but it can also increase your risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke and many other chronic diseases. 

Being obese is not only detrimental to your health, it’s also expensive. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Medical costs for people who had were overweight was [sic] $1,429 higher than medical costs for people with healthy weight.”

If you’re overweight, losing weight is the most important thing you can do to eliminate discomfort and problems with your knees.

While there are hundreds of “diets” out there, the following seven core strategies will not only reduce your knee pain, but will also increase your overall quality of life:

1. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. According to the US Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines, adults should eat anywhere from five to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, depending on their age, gender, physical activity and overall health. (One serving is equal to a small apple, a large orange, a banana, ½ cup of raw fruits or vegetables, one cup of leafy greens, two small bell peppers, a ½ cup of berries or grapes or a ½ cup of cooked squash.)

2. Drink plenty of water. American naturalist and philosopher Henry David Thoreau once said, “I believe that water is the only drink for a wise man.” How smart he was. Without a sufficient amount of water each day, your energy level and brain function will suffer. The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends men drink about 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids per day and women drink about 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) per day. The figure includes water contained in other beverages (fruit-infused water, milk, low-sugar fruit juice, tea and coconut water) you might drink during the day. The worst drinks for hydration are soda, alcohol, hot cocoa, coffee, sweet tea, energy drinks, flavored milk and smoothies. Note: Approximately 20% of daily fluid intake usually comes from food and the rest from drinks.

3. Reduce sugar intake. Sugar has infiltrated our food supply. In 1822, the average American consumed the amount of sugar in a 12 oz. (355ml) can of soda every five days. Today, the average American consumes the same amount in seven hours. Your future health is directly related to how much sugar you consume each day. The less sugar you eat, the healthier you will be. High consumption of sugar has led to obesity and cardiovascular disease in the United States and across the world. Sugar also increases your risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes (among other maladies). According to the American Heart Association, the maximum amount of added sugar you should eat in a day is 9 teaspoons or 37.5 g) ) if you’re a man and 6 teaspoons (25 g) if you’re a woman. Sugar is in almost everything. Refined (or added) sugars enter your body rapidly and cause your insulin and blood sugar levels to skyrocket. Get in the habit of checking food labels for the number of grams of sugar per serving. Avoid food and beverages that are high in sugar, such as low-fat yogurt, fruit juice, sports drinks, sugar-packed soda, chocolate milk, granola, flavored coffees, iced tea, protein bars, muffins, breakfast cereal… Unfortunately, the list goes on and on.Natural sugars provide your body with essential nutrients that keep you healthy and can keep disease at bay. Naturally occurring sugars are found in dairy products, fruits, vegetables and 100% fruit and vegetable juices. (In dairy products, the natural sugar is called lactose; in fruit, it’s called fructose). Foods that contain natural sugars provide your body with nutrients such as potassium, Vitamin C and folate to name a few. Natural sugar digests more slowly and keeps your metabolism stable. Natural sugars become even more appealing when you consider they do not count toward your recommended daily sugar intake.

4. Reduce sodium intake. Salt is in almost everything we eat. About 80% of the salt we eat comes from processed foods; 20% comes from table salt.. Consuming too much sodium has been linked to conditions such as heart attacks, kidney problems, fluid retention, strokes and osteoporosis. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend a sodium intake of 2,300 mg per day or less. This is the equivalent of about 1 teaspoon of table salt. The limits are lower for children. According to FDA.gov, the average American adult consumes about 3,400 mg of sodium per day.

5. Avoid processed grains. Refined carbohydrates, in addition to being processed sugars, are processed grains. Food manufacturers strip away the bran and germ and pulverize the endosperm of the grain. The refining process converts whole wheat into white flour and brown rice into white rice. This procedure removes a significant portion of the nutrients from the grain and almost all the fiber content. Why do they do this? It makes the product easier to chew and digest. Plus, it significantly increases the shelf life of a product.

In his book Eat to Live, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, M.D., writes about a six-year study involving 65,000 women. The study concluded that people with diets high in refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice and pasta were two-and-a-half times more likely to acquire type 2 diabetes compared with people who ate high-fiber diets such as whole wheat bread and brown rice. The findings were replicated in a study of 43,000 men. It's no surprise that diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death by disease in America, and the incidence of diabetes is on the rise. Fuhrman states flatly that starchy, white flour foods are no longer "real food." He points out that when the fiber and most minerals are removed from a food, the body absorbs it too rapidly, which results in a sharp glucose surge in the bloodstream. This forces the pancreas to pump out insulin faster to keep up.

Excess body fat also requires the pancreas to pump out more insulin. It's this excess strain on the pancreas that, over time, leads to diabetes. But diabetes isn’t the only risk we face because, as Fuhrman writes "refined grains lack the fiber and nutrient density to satisfy our appetite, they also cause obesity, heart disease and significantly increased cancer risk."

The message is obvious:  Focus on eating fewer refined carbohydrates and more unrefined carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and beans.

6. Avoid bad fats, focus on good fats. Saturated and trans fats are known as the “bad” fats. Saturated fats can cause cholesterol to build up in your arteries. Foods that contain saturated fats include fatty cuts of beef, pork, and lamb; dark chicken meat and poultry skin; high-fat dairy foods (whole milk, butter, cheese, sour cream, ice cream); and tropical oils (coconut oil, palm oil, cocoa butter). A diet rich in saturated fat can drive up your cholesterol, which could cause heart disease.

Most nutrition experts recommend you limit saturated fat intake to 10% of your daily calories (or less).Trans fat is the worst type of fat. Too much trans fat substantially increases your risk for heart disease. Trans fats were banned in the United States in 2018. However, because of exemptions, they may still be found in some products such as fried or baked food and non-dairy coffee creamers. Read the labels, check the ingredients list and avoid products that contain “partially hydrogenated oil.”

Good fats are unsaturated. There are two types of unsaturated fat: monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. You can find monounsaturated fat in foods such as almonds, pecans, pistachios, cashews, natural peanut butter, avocados, olives and olive oil. You can find polyunsaturated fat in foods such as walnuts, salmon, tuna, mackerel, soybean oil, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and flaxseed. Polyunsaturated fats (or essential fatty acids) cannot be produced by the body and must come from food.

7. Exercise. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends adults get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity. If you find yourself craving a food treat, go for a walk instead — or head to the gym. The key to longevity is to get your body moving and your blood circulating as much as possible. 

    Understanding the tremendous impact the foods you eat have on your joints and overall health is the first step toward positive change. Follow the above weight-reduction tips and you’ll not only reduce your risk of occasional knee pain, but you’ll also feel better overall but enjoy a better quality of life.

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