Arthritis is a combination of conditions that cause inflammation and pain in the joints. The best foods for arthritis can help with both weight management and lead to a healthier diet, which is a key part of arthritis relief.

If you are overweight, you are more susceptible to osteoarthritis (the wear-and-tear type). Conversely, weight loss lessens the strain on joints. In fact, losing just one pound reduces the load on your knees by four pounds. Regular exercise and a healthy diet can reduce the chances of ever developing arthritis. Foods for arthritis include healthy diet rich in plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and fish.

10 Foods for Arthritis that Can Help with Pain Management

1. Fruit

The compounds in fruits include flavonoids and polyphenols, which are associated with anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing properties. Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and pomegranates, in particular, have shown promising pain-reducing results.

2. Tart Cherry Juice

This juice contains a wide variety of nutrients and health benefits. Studies have shown consuming the juice results in a decrease in osteoarthritis symptoms and a reduction in inflammation for women with osteoarthritis.

3. Vegetables

Dark leafy greens, broccoli, beets, sweet potatoes and cabbage are loaded with nutrients such as antioxidants, which can reduce arthritis pain, as well as fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Dark leafy vegetables are also rich in vitamin K, which has a role in bone and cartilage mineralization. This is particularly important of people with osteoarthritis, which occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones wears down over time.

Dark leafy vegetables include:

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Collard and turnip greens

Other vegetables that help:

  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Beets
  • Winter squash
  • Red bell peppers
  • Corn
  • Bok choy

4. Whole Grains

These grains contain more antioxidants, fiber and other nutrients compared to refined grains. Antioxidants, vitamins E and B, selenium, and magnesium offer inflammation-fighting power for arthritis.

Consumption of whole grains has been linked to a lower risk of osteoarthritis symptoms.

Whole grains include:

  • Oats
  • Barley
  • Brown rice
  • Bulgur
  • Whole-grain cereals
  • Farro
  • Whole cornmeal
  • Millet
  • Quinoa

5. Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are a great source of healthy fats, like the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid.

Some nuts and seeds to try:

  • Walnuts
  • Flaxseeds
  • Almonds
  • Chia seeds
  • Pine nuts
  • Hemp seeds
  • Pistachios

6. Low-fat Dairy

Dairy products combine calcium and vitamin D to preserve bone health, which is important for both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Probiotics are healthy microorganisms, found in dairy foods like yogurt and kefir. Studies have shown a relationship between probiotics and improvements in inflammation symptoms in rheumatoid arthritis.

Low-fat dairy includes:

  • Low-fat milk
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Part-skim cheese
  • Cottage cheese
  • Kefir

7. Fish and seafood

Fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids as well as vitamin D, which has been shown to decrease disease activity in rheumatoid arthritis.

It is generally recommended to consume three to four ounces of fish twice a week.

Herring, salmon, scallops, sardines, trout and tuna are good sources of these nutrients.

8. Healthy Fats

Studies have concluded that higher polyunsaturated fatty acid is beneficial for people with rheumatoid arthritis. Swap saturated fats like butter with plant-based oils.

These include:

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Canola oil
  • Sesame seed oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Walnut oil

9. Spices and Herbs

Cut down on salt and flavor your foods with other spices and herbs. Many of them contain antioxidants which can reduce inflammation, and ease symptoms of arthritis.

Good choices would be:

  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Cinnamon
  • Chili powder

10. Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate has been studied for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Cocoa found in dark chocolate contains flavonoids that can protect against inflammation, as well as add fiber, vitamins, and minerals – all of which have potential benefit for your heart, brain, and overall health.

It is recommended that you consume dark chocolate that has 70 percent or greater cocoa content.

Foods to Avoid When You Have Arthritis

Foods with Added Sugars

Candy, soda, ice cream, etc. Sugar-sweetened sodas and desserts were most frequently reported to worsen rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.

Processed and Red Meats

Some research links red and processed meat to inflammation, which may increase arthritis symptoms. Processed meats would include lunch meats, sausages and prepared meals like chicken nuggets, fish patties, and ham salad.

Any meat that is cooked, preserved or otherwise changed from the way it was originally cut off the animal is considered processed.

Highly Processed Foods

Highly processed foods like baked goods are typically high in refined grains, added sugar, preservatives and other potentially inflammatory ingredients.

Alcohol

Anyone with inflammatory arthritis should restrict or avoid consuming alcohol. It is also linked to an increased risk of osteoarthritis.

Food Myths and Arthritis 

According to WebMD, there are food myths that are supposedly bad or good foods for arthritis. The myths include:

Nightshade veggies like tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, and peppers, which can make your rheumatoid arthritis worse. There is no hard evidence to support this.

Apple cider vinegar, which reduces pain in achy joints. The unproven claim is that beta-carotene in the vinegar can fight rheumatoid arthritis, and there is only a tiny amount in apple cider vinegar.

Citrus fruits. Eliminating these fruits will improve rheumatoid arthritis. There is no proof that eliminating these fruits which contain key ingredients like vitamin C will improve rheumatoid arthritis.

Dairy makes rheumatoid arthritis worse. There isn’t much evidence to support this, and some rheumatoid arthritis medications put you at greater risk for osteoporosis, so don’t eliminate dairy and its bone-building ability.

Raw foods slow down rheumatoid arthritis. These foods do not seem to impede the progress of the disease.

For more nutrition tips, visit Bethesda’s Health & Wellness blog.