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Arthritis

Learn how weight loss can decrease the effects of arthritis and help you live a better, more comfortable, life.

The Best & Worst Foods to Include in an Arthritis Diet Plan

Are there foods to avoid with arthritis? Health experts suggest so, but there are also foods highly recommended to help reduce inflammation and relieve joint pain!

The Best & Worst Foods to Include in an Arthritis Diet Plan


For those struggling with arthritis, food can be either foe or friend. There are certain foods to avoid with osteoarthritis or on an arthritis diet. The worst foods for arthritis will vary by individual, but there are a few foods that can increase inflammation for sure. 

Read on for a list of foods bad for arthritis, along with the top foods good for adding to an arthritis diet. 

Arthritis and Diet

Arthritis, a condition in which joints are stiff, inflamed, swollen, and tender, is considered a global health concern. It progressively affects cartilage and bone within the body and typically worsens with age.

Over 100 types of arthritis exist, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis. Despite the unknowns of arthritis and its causes, healthy food choices can help to relieve common symptoms such as: 

• Decrease in range of motion
• Inflammation or redness
• Pain
• Stiffness
• Swelling 

Best Foods for Arthritis

Food isn't a cure, but it can help to alleviate cartilage pain caused by arthritis. Vitamins and minerals can help to repair damaged tissue and promote overall wellness. 

An arthritis diet should be balanced with wholesome ingredients, including these foods that may lower inflammation and associated symptoms. These nutrient-dense foods do not need to replace everything in the diet but can be a great addition to what one is already eating.

Legumes

Legumes, a category of food including beans and peas, may also provide some answers for people with arthritis. This is because legumes, along with produce and whole grains, are rich in fiber.

Eating more fiber may help reduce inflammation, which is a key factor in many forms of arthritis.

Whole Grains

Unlike refined grains, whole grains provide the body with dietary fiber which may reduce inflammation. Additionally, research shows people living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) generally have low levels of selenium, a mineral found in whole grain wheat products. 

If dealing with conjoined RA and Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, eliminating or reducing gluten intake - specifically wheat, barley, and rye products intake - can ease joint pain. Speaking with a medical professional can further guide you to following a safe gluten-free diet.

Probiotics

Typically, people with arthritis have decreased diversity in their microbiome. In other words, their gut environment isn't the most balanced. 

Yogurt and aged cheese are just two of many foods that contain probiotics, or "good" bacteria, that can help balance a broken system. 

Healthy Fats

Healthy fats sourced from fatty fish, nuts and seeds, or olive oil, contain essential fatty acids. Some of these acids, called omega-3 fatty acids, have been studied for their potential to help regulate inflammation and autoimmunity. 

Even just a 1/4 cup of nuts or seeds each day can help ease the risk of chronic disease. 

Fresh Produce

Whether from fruits or vegetables, the vibrancy of fresh produce offers anti-inflammatory nutrients.

• Beta-carotene found in carrots and sweet potatoes is transformed into vitamin A in the body and has anti-inflammatory properties.

• Low levels of vitamin B6 may encourage inflammation in individuals with RA and cause more joint damage. Vitamin B6 can be found in starchy vegetables and non-citrus fruits.

• Vitamin C found in oranges and citrus fruits not only may have anti-inflammatory benefits, but is the building block of collagen found in skin, cartilage, ligaments, and blood vessels. Efficient collagen-building can promote stronger joints.

• Green, leafy vegetables contain vitamin E and K and demonstrate anti-inflammatory properties. Evidence further shows increased vitamin K levels reduce inflammatory markers in the body.

• Berries are full of disease-fighting compounds, such as antioxidants, that can help reduce inflammation. Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries all contain antioxidants, which protect against cell damage.

Overall, aim to include more antioxidant and nutrient-rich foods into the diet. 

Worst Foods For Arthritis

It's important to make healthy dietary decisions and to support those decisions with other healthy habits (such as stopping smoking). Additionally, obesity puts extra stress on the joints, giving people a higher risk of developing arthritis or worsening symptoms. 

While one doesn't have to avoid these items like the plague, be aware of what they can do to the body. Arming the body with food that can help it instead is one way to promote wellness. 

Red Meats

While moderate red meat intake may be okay, for those with arthritis it can be a source of inflammation. 

Meat, although it contains vitamins and minerals, CAN tax the body when it comes to digestion. This can increase the levels of fatigue felt by those with arthritis. 

Plus, red meats tend to be high in saturated fat. 

Heavily Processed Foods

Heavily and ultra-processed foods often have added and innutritious ingredients. High intakes of refined sugar may increase inflammation in the body. 

Keep an eye out, since added sugar can hide behind the names corn syrup, fructose, maltose, and more. 

Fried Foods

When foods are fried at high temperatures, even "healthy" oils can begin to deteriorate. Most of the health benefits that were initially there in the food begin to wane, and compounds like vitamins and antioxidants lose much of their anti-inflammatory effects. 

Fried foods likewise tend to be rich in trans fats, which are proven to increase the risk of heart disease and inflammation. 

Alcohol 

Alcohol can not only inflame an arthritic body, but it can also increase the odds of other diseases. It may also mix with medications in a bad way and become dangerous. 

Consider avoiding alcohol with arthritis, or at least consume it carefully in moderation. 

High Sodium Dishes

A little salt can go a long way, but too much salt can go too far. To make matters worse, many arthritic medications alter salt or fluid retention, which can make the body extra sensitive to the changes too much sodium can cause. 

Reactions, like high blood pressure, can result from consuming foods that are high in sodium. 

A Final Word On Foods For Arthritis 

With arthritis, it's important to be aware of foods that can help fight inflammation. Also important is the information about foods to avoid that can help arthritic joints avoid potential triggers. 

Try five of the best foods for arthritis today to see if they make a difference!

References:

Basu A, Schell J, Scofield RH. Dietary fruits and arthritis. Food Funct. 2018;9(1):70-77. 

Gioia C, Lucchino B, Tarsitano MG, Iannuccelli C, Franco MD. Dietary Habits and Nutrition in Rheumatoid Arthritis: Can Diet Influence Disease Development and Clinical Manifestations? Nutrients. 2020;12(5):1456. 

Berry Good for Your Heart. Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/berry-good-for-your-heart

Klemm S. Prebiotics and Probiotics: Creating a Healthier You. EatRight. Published December 2021. https://www.eatright.org/food/vitamins-and-supplements/nutrient-rich-foods/prebiotics-and-probiotics-creating-a-healthier-you

Mayo Clinic Staff. Arthritis. Mayo Clinic. Published September 15, 2021. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/arthritis/symptoms-causes/syc-20350772

Montoya C. Talk Over RA: The Best Foods for Rheumatoid Arthritis. Arthritis Dietitian. Published September 21, 2021. https://www.arthritisdietitian.com/post/talk-over-ra-the-best-foods-for-rheumatoid-arthritis.

Sarah Asay's Photo
Written By Sarah Asay, RDN. Published on December 11, 2015. Updated on August 19, 2022.

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