Healthy Fats to Help Your Joints

Fats in combination with a healthy lifestyle are essential to maintaining joint health and mediating inflammation. Oils naturally contain saturated and unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats are divided into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.

For healthy joints, increase Omega-3s and Omega-9s, and reduce Omega-6s, saturated fat and trans fat. What’s the difference between these types of fat?

Monounsaturated Fat: Omega-9s found in olive oil, avocados and nuts may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by lowering bad LDL cholesterol in the blood and helping control blood glucose.

Polyunsaturated Fat:  

  • Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid which cannot be naturally produced by the body and must be obtained through our diets. Research shows that increasing omega-3 fats can modulate the activity of inflammatory factors that cause cartilage destruction in arthritis.

Omega 3 fats are found in fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and trout. Aim for at least two fish-based meals each week.

  • Omega-6 fatty acids can also be consumed through a balanced diet. In increased quantities omega 6 fats cause COX-2 enzymes to become more active leading to more joint inflammation. Omega 6 fats are found widely in vegetable oils, including liquid oils, margarine and salad dressings. Try to limit consumption to 1-2 tbsp/daily.

Saturated fat found in processed foods including snack foods, baked goods and proceeds meats, raises the bad (LDL) cholesterol in blood and has been linked to increased risk of coronary heart disease. Small amounts of saturated fats can be incorporated into a healthy diet, but should be limited to less than 10% of your total calorie intake. 

Trans-fat, which can be found in many processed foods, raises your bad (LDL) cholesterol and lowers your healthy (HDL) cholesterol. A high LDL cholesterol level in combination with a low HDL cholesterol level increases your risk of heart disease and inflammation. Try to limit pre-packaged baked goods and highly processed snacks foods, to limit trans fat intake.

Cooking and culinary oils are an easy way to incorporate fats into your diet. Below is a chart comparing the amounts of each type of fat in different oils.

Oils are not the only foods where you can get your healthy fats. Some types of fish, nuts and seeds play an important role in an anti-inflammatory diet. Try boosting your intake of Omega-3s with fatty fish (tuna, salmon), walnuts and flax. If you can’t get your Omega-3s through food, then supplement with 1-3g of EPA/DHA per day from fish oil. Read Nutrition Facts panels to choose foods right for you and talk to a registered dietitian prior to taking supplements, to ensure you choose the right supplement for your diet and health.


Written by Evita Basilio BSc, Nutrition

Reviewed by Andrea Miller MHSC, RD