Having and maintaining flexibility in the joints depends on the connective tissues surrounding the muscles. Proper lubrication in the connective tissues enables the fibers to slide over one another easily. Naturally occurring proteins collagen and elastin are key components of connective tissue that provide strength and elasticity. The more elastic the connective tissue, the more flexibility around the joint. If it is becoming difficult to stretch out or there is chronic stiffness and tightness, there are foods that help maintain flexibility and enhance overall health.
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Foods That Help Maintain Flexibility
Joint flexibility means functioning connective tissues that join the skeleton and muscles and the ability of different body parts to extend and complete motions. Connecting tissues assists with movement and stabilization. These issues include:
- Ligaments can be band-shaped or string-shaped collagen fibers that connect bones.
- Tendons are similar to ligaments and are band or string shaped but connect muscles to the bones.
- Fascia is a densely woven mesh that wraps around the blood vessels, bones, muscles, organs, and nerves.
Flexibility keeps the muscles active and mobile as they are necessary for daily physical activities. When these tissues become stiff from inactivity or an unhealthy diet, it limits the body’s range of movement and increases the risk of injury. Stretching improves flexibility, and adding foods to a nutrition plan will help maintain limberness.
A nutrition plan full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants will nourish connecting tissues and cells and increase collagen production. Foods rich in essential fatty acids/EFAs, vitamin C, sulfur, and water will promote healthy connective tissue for enhanced flexibility.
- Essential fatty acids include omega-3 and omega-6, primarily found in fish, flax seeds, and liquid oils.
- These fatty acids are essential because they cannot be made in the body.
- Foods like fatty fish, flax seeds, walnuts, or supplements, can help achieve the proper ratio.
- For individuals not too keen on fish, consider omega-3 supplements.
- Collagen is the main protein from connective tissue, and vitamin C is essential for collagen production.
- Vitamin C-rich foods – oranges, bell peppers, broccoli, strawberries, tomatoes, leafy green vegetables, raspberries, pineapple, cruciferous vegetables, parsley, and watermelon.
- Make various smoothie recipes for breakfast or an afternoon snack.
- For increased protein synthesis, add branched-chain amino acids.
- Sulfur helps maintain the flexible bonds in connective tissues.
- Animal proteins that provide sulfur include fish, poultry, beef, and eggs.
- Vegetable sources include Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, and garlic.
Water is not considered food as it contains no calories, but it is vital as it makes up 76 percent of the muscles. A high percentage of water content is the key to muscle elasticity. When the body is dehydrated, it holds onto water, causing fluid retention and stiffness. The more the muscles stay dehydrated, the more they have trouble recovering from physical activities, fatigue levels increase, the range of motion decreases, and the risk of injury increases. Don’t wait until you are thirsty. Stay hydrated throughout the day to keep the joints lubricated and energy levels high.
Fruits high in water include:
Vegetables high in water include:
Limit Salt and Sugar Intake
- Processed foods tend to have a high salt content.
- Too much salt causes the joints to swell as the body retains fluid.
- Keeping sugar intake low is important in enhancing flexibility.
- This is because sugar breaks down the collagen in the skin and connective tissues.
- This means avoiding processed foods, ready meals, and junk food.
Flexibility can be improved by eliminating foods that destroy collagen, focusing on foods that reduce insulin spikes, and maintaining hydration in the connective tissues. A nutritionist can develop a personalized nutrition plan for optimal neuromusculoskeletal health.
Foods That Help Maintain Flexibility
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Kviatkovsky, Shiloah A et al. “Collagen peptide supplementation for pain and function: is it effective?.” Current opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care vol. 25,6 (2022): 401-406. doi:10.1097/MCO.0000000000000870
MacKay, Douglas, and Alan L Miller. “Nutritional support for wound healing.” Alternative medicine review: a journal of clinical therapeutic vol. 8,4 (2003): 359-77.
Shaw, Gregory, et al. “Vitamin C-enriched gelatin supplementation before intermittent activity augments collagen synthesis.” The American journal of clinical nutrition vol. 105,1 (2017): 136-143. doi:10.3945/ajcn.116.138594
Zdzieblik, Denise, et al. “Improvement of activity-related knee joint discomfort following supplementation of specific collagen peptides.” Applied physiology, nutrition, and metabolism = Physiologie applique, nutrition et metabolism vol. 42,6 (2017): 588-595. doi:10.1139/apnm-2016-0390
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