Cartilage, a shiny, slightly rubbery substance that forms caps at the ends of bones, protects your joints and helps them glide smoothly across each other. Though cartilage serves an important function, its scant blood supply compared to other types of cells, such as muscles, nerves and bones, means that a cartilage injury can take longer to heal than a muscle or bone injury. Some commonly eaten foods contain nutrients that support cartilage growth and repair.
Foods high in sulfur, including cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and kale, provide the raw materials your joints require for building and repairing cartilage. Sulfur, an important component of cartilage, holds onto water, keeping your joints well-hydrated, notes Ingrid Kohlstadt, editor of the book "Scientific Evidence for Musculoskeletal, Bariatric, and Sports Nutrition." Kohlstadt recommends sulfur-containing foods for anyone seeking to support cartilage growth and repair. Garlic, onions and eggs also contain good amounts of cartilage-supporting sulfur.
An essential amino acid necessary for cartilage production, methionine becomes a molecule called S-adenosylmethionine, or SAMe, in your liver. In a review of previously published research that appeared in the May 2008 issue of "Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition," scientists found SAMe supplementation decreases joint pain and stiffness and stimulates cartilage production. To ensure your joints receive ample amounts of SAMe, include plenty of methionine-containing foods in your diet, such as eggs, beans, meat, fish, garlic and onions.
Glucosamine, a substance your body manufactures from glucose and the amino acid glutamine, prevented cartilage breakdown in competitive cyclists in a study published in the January 2013 issue of "Molecular Medicine Reports." The benefits occurred at doses of 3 grams of glucosamine per day but not at doses of 1.5 grams. In a study published in the February 2008 issue of "Osteoarthritis and Cartilage," half as many patients with knee osteoarthritis who supplemented with glucosamine sulphate for 12 months required knee-replacement surgery, compared to a control group that did not take the supplement. High-protein foods, including meat, fish, poultry, dairy and beans, are all good dietary sources of glutamine.
Manganese, a mineral your body uses to build collagen, also increases levels of the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory enzyme superoxide dismutase, or SOD, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center. Manganese may be particularly important for cartilage-building in women, according to a study published in the February 2013 "Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology," which found higher levels of manganese in the hip joint cartilage of women study participants than men. Good sources of manganese include nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes. A half-cup serving of brown rice provides 59 percent of the recommended daily allowance of manganese for an adult woman and 46 percent of the recommended daily allowance of manganese for an adult man.
- Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition: Exploring the Mechanisms Behind S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) in the Treatment of Osteoarthritis
- Prescription for Nutritional Healing; Phyllis A. Balch
- Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology: The Content of Manganese and Iron in Hip Joint Tissue
- Molecular Medicine Reports: Evaluation of the Effect of Glucosamine Administration on Biomarkers of Cartilage and Bone Metabolism in Bicycle Racers
- Osteoarthritis and Cartilage: Total Joint Replacement After Glucosamine Sulphate Treatment in Knee Osteoarthritis: Results of a Mean 8-year Observation of Patients from Two Previous 3-Year, Randomised, Placebo-Controlled Trials
- Scientific Evidence for Musculoskeletal, Bariatric, and Sports Nutrition; Ingrid Kohlstadt
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Manganese
Tracey Roizman, DC is a writer and speaker on natural and preventive health care and a practicing chiropractor. She also holds a B.S. in nutritional biochemistry.