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How to eat healthy before and after joint replacement surgery

A healthy diet is imperative when having joint replacement surgery. Here's a list of what to eat and what to avoid before and after your surgery.

July 16, 2018

It’s important to eat a balanced diet before and after joint replacement surgery. Good nutrition helps you heal quickly, protect your joints and get your strength back post-surgery.

"Prior to joint replacement surgery, patients should maintain a diet that includes: fruits, vegetables, grains, lean meats, fish, poultry, low-fat dairy products, or other sources of protein. Following joint replacement surgery, it’s imperative to continue eating a balanced diet for long-term health and recovery," says Mark Tuttle, MD, board-certified orthopedic surgeon at OrthoONE at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center.

"For patients undergoing joint replacement surgery, make sure to include the following in your diet," adds Tuttle.


Due to their anti-inflammatory properties, omega-3 fatty acids have been proven to relieve joint pain and swelling. Studies have shown that in people with rheumatoid arthritis, using omega-3s for three to four months resulted in reduced joint pain, stiffness and tenderness. The omega-3s also reduced the need for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain. Before and after joint replacement surgery, boost your omega-3 intake by eating salmon, krill, flaxseed and walnuts.


Ginger contains a complex mix of compounds, which researchers suspect helps reduce inflammation in several ways. In Eastern Medicine, ginger has long been used to treat musculoskeletal problems. In addition to its inflammation-cooling properties, ginger might have anti-cancer properties as well. There are many ways to get more ginger in your diet, such as using it when cooking or drinking ginger tea.


In the body, magnesium works as both a pain reliever and muscle relaxer. Before and after joint replacement surgery, be sure to eat foods rich in magnesium, like leafy green vegetables, or take a magnesium supplement.

Glucosamine and chondroitin

Glucosamine and chondroitin are precursors to a protein called proteoglycans, the building block for the cartilage that cushions your joints. While glucosamine helps build and repair this cartilage, chondroitin helps keep it from breaking down. Most supplements that contain both glucosamine and chondroitin come from animal sources.

Heart-healthy foods

Along with the foods and supplements listed above, patients undergoing joint replacement surgery should follow a heart-healthy diet. A heart-smart eating plan ensures that your cholesterol and weight remain at a healthy level.

Foods that you can eat on a heart-healthy diet include: fish, skinless poultry, lean meats, dried beans, peas, lentils, egg whites (or egg substitutes), fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nonfat or low-fat breads and cereals, and nonfat or low fat crackers, pretzels, granola bars, baked chips and snack foods.

To maintain a heart-healthy diet, be sure to limit the following: chocolate, regular mayonnaise, full-fat sour cream and salad dressings, vegetables prepared in fat (like butter, cream or shortening), fatty meats like cold cuts, sausage, hot dogs and bacon, and high-fat breads such as croissants, biscuits, doughnuts and cornbread.

Maintaining your weight before and after joint replacement surgery

Weight gain or being overweight can put extra stress on your joints. Following joint replacement surgery, patients who are not at a healthy weight should consider adopting a diet plan to lose those extra pounds. After you have healed from your surgery, set realistic weight loss goals (one to two pounds per week), eat low-fat and high-fiber foods, limit portion size and exercise regularly.

The providers at OrthoONE at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center specialize in active lifestyle orthopedics, including total hip, knee and shoulder joint replacements and sports surgeries, like knee and shoulder arthroscopy. Same-day appointments are available. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Mark Tuttle.


July 16, 2018

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