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Diet and exercise are the two most powerful tools in your arsenal when it comes to general wellness. Making small changes while you’re in good health will save you a world of trouble down the road. However, it’s never too late to improve your diet. If you are concerned about the health of your joints because of genetics or because you’ve begun to feel that tell-tale soreness and stiffness, there are dozens of foods that you can incorporate into your everyday meals that can protect the joints from damage, and when combined with exercise, can help heal already damaged joints.

Amino acids are vital in a healthy diet, particularly protein. Beans are an inexpensive source of protein, and couldn’t be easier to slip into everyday meals. While all beans are high in protein, black beans posses a few little extra benefits: they’re a natural anti-inflammatory, and they’re high in manganese, a mineral many of us are deficient. These two factors ought to impress you if joint health is your concern. Toss beans over salads, bake them into pot-pies, or fold them into tacos and burritos. Keep a tasty three-bean salad on hand in the refrigerator for an easy, protein packed lunch.

While reaching for the milk is our first instinct when we think of getting more calcium, don’t forget about collard greens. Collards have the highest calcium content of all the vegetables, weighing in at 357 mg per cup of cooked greens. They’re delicious prepared Southern style with or without a hambone, with a hunk of cornbread and some white beans. Collards are also nice sauteed with garlic, ginger, and chilies, and finished with a squirt of Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, a high-protein, lower salt soy sauce substitute. Collards are also high in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as manganese for healthy joints. Collards are also far lower in calories, and have no fat or cholesterol.

Broccoli is another great food for joint health, as it contains high concentrations of vitamins A, B, and C, as well as E and K, and plenty of calcium. If you aren’t fond of plain steamed or raw broccoli, try it in a quiche or tossed with macaroni and cheese. But try to suck it up and learn to enjoy broccoli, because it is a natural anti-inflammatory, and it contributes to collagen production, which forms cartilage. Ginger is another joint health rock star.

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Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory, and regular consumption of ginger can lead to less pain and swelling and greater range of motion in the joints. Add ginger to your morning oatmeal along with cinnamon. Sip ginger tea during the cold months, or brew some ginger lemonade in the summer. Ginger is also a lovely addition to sauteed vegetables, rice, and noodle dishes.

A balanced and adventurous diet can lead you to find many foods with helpful vitamins and minerals with out having to resort to supplements or pills. Next time you are wondering what to do for dinner try making an Asian stir-fry with a healthy mixture of vegetables.

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