Written by Divinity Nutra, Updated on March 18, 2023
Arthritis is a chronic condition that affects millions of people worldwide and can cause significant joint pain and inflammation. While medication and other treatments can help manage symptoms, making changes to your diet can also be beneficial. But, what foods are good for arthritis?
In this article, we’ll explore the top 10 foods that may help relieve arthritis pain and inflammation. By implementing the arthritis diet, you’ll have the tools you need to take control of your health and well-being.
Link Between Arthritis and Inflammation
Arthritis is a general term used to describe various conditions that cause inflammation and stiffness of the joints. Inflammation is a natural response by the body’s immune system to fight off harmful stimuli such as infections, injuries, or toxins.
However, in arthritis, the immune system mistakenly attacks the joints, leading to chronic inflammation, which can cause pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. Therefore, reducing inflammation is a key strategy in managing the symptoms of arthritis.
Types of Arthritis
Several types of arthritis can benefit from a healthier diet. Some of the most common types include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis: This is an autoimmune disorder that can affect the joints, causing inflammation and damage over time. It can lead to joint deformity and disability if not properly treated.
- Psoriatic arthritis: This type of arthritis is associated with psoriasis, a skin condition characterized by red, scaly patches. Psoriatic arthritis can cause joint pain, stiffness, and swelling.
- Osteoarthritis: This is a degenerative joint disease that occurs when the protective cartilage on the ends of bones wears down over time. It can cause joint pain, stiffness, and a limited range of motion.
- Gout: This type of arthritis is triggered by an accumulation of uric acid crystals in the joints, leading to pain, swelling, and redness. Gout often affects the big toe but can occur in other joints as well.
What Is an Arthritis Diet?
An arthritis diet is a diet that emphasizes foods with anti-inflammatory properties and avoids foods that can trigger inflammation in the body. The goal of the diet is to reduce inflammation, which can help alleviate symptoms of arthritis such as joint pain and stiffness. By adhering to it, many people find that it’s one of the best home remedies for arthritis.
Now, let’s get to our list of the 10 best foods that help joint pain and arthritis.
Eating berries is good for arthritis and joint pain because they contain high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. These compounds help to reduce inflammation in the body and alleviate pain.
A randomized controlled trial on the benefits of berries for arthritis was conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School. In this study, participants who consumed two servings of strawberries per day for six weeks showed a significant decrease in the levels of inflammation markers in their blood. The study included 36 participants with an average age of 56 years who had previously been diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis.
2. Fatty Fish
Eating fatty fish, like salmon, sardines, or mackerel, and other sources of omega-3 fatty acids may also be beneficial for reducing swelling and inflammation.
A large study published in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases in 2013 followed over 700 older women with knee osteoarthritis for three years. The study found that women who consumed higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids had less knee pain and less cartilage damage than those who consumed lower amounts. The authors concluded that omega-3 fatty acids may have a protective effect against cartilage loss and inflammation in osteoarthritis.
Broccoli is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, such as sulforaphane and kaempferol, which may have a positive effect on inflammation and joint health.
One study published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism found that sulforaphane reduced inflammation and cartilage damage in mice with osteoarthritis. While further research is needed, including studies on human subjects, incorporating broccoli into a balanced diet may have potential benefits for those with arthritis or joint pain.
Avocados may have anti-inflammatory effects due to their high content of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, making them a welcome addition to any arthritis diet.
In a randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging, overweight adults who consumed a diet rich in avocado showed decreased levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation in the body.
Several studies suggest that spinach can be beneficial due to its high content of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds such as flavonoids and carotenoids.
A study published in the journal Nutrition Research found that consuming spinach for eight weeks significantly reduced inflammation in people with osteoarthritis. Another study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food showed that spinach extract reduced inflammation and oxidative stress in rats with induced arthritis.
Spinach is also rich in nutrients that are important for bone health, such as calcium and vitamin K, which may help protect against osteoporosis, a condition that often co-occurs with arthritis.
Eating nuts is good for arthritis and joint pain due to their anti-inflammatory properties, particularly their high content of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
A large study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition analyzed the dietary habits and arthritis symptoms of over 5,000 individuals and found that those who consumed the most nuts had the lowest levels of inflammatory markers in their blood. The study also found that individuals who ate nuts had lower levels of joint pain and stiffness compared to those who did not consume nuts regularly.
7. Olive Oil
Olive oil is rich in polyphenols, which are plant compounds with anti-inflammatory properties. These properties make olive oil particularly useful in the arthritis diet.
In one study published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, researchers investigated the effects of olive oil on arthritis symptoms in elderly individuals. The study participants were divided into two groups: one group consumed a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil, while the other group followed a low-fat diet. The results showed that those in the olive oil group had a significant reduction in joint pain and stiffness compared to the low-fat group.
Garlic contains a compound called diallyl disulfide, which has anti-inflammatory properties, making it an ideal food for joint pain.
In a study published in the journal Arthritis Research & Therapy, researchers found that diallyl disulfide helped to reduce the severity of arthritis symptoms in animals. Specifically, the study showed that diallyl disulfide was able to decrease the production of certain inflammatory molecules in the animals’ bodies.
9. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate contains compounds called flavonoids that have anti-inflammatory properties, which may help reduce joint pain and inflammation in people with arthritis. Flavonoids are antioxidants that help fight inflammation by reducing the production of pro-inflammatory molecules.
A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that regular consumption of dark chocolate reduced inflammatory markers in people with high levels of inflammation. In the study, participants who ate 20 grams of dark chocolate per day for eight weeks had lower levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation, compared to those who did not consume chocolate.
Cherries contain anthocyanins, which are a type of flavonoid with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These compounds have been shown to help reduce inflammation and pain in the body, making cherries a great food to include in an arthritis diet.
One of the largest studies on the benefits of cherries for arthritis was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2012. In the study, participants with osteoarthritis of the knee drank tart cherry juice or a placebo drink twice a day for 12 weeks. The results showed that those who drank the cherry juice had a significant reduction in pain compared to the placebo group.
Inflammatory Foods to Avoid
What foods aggravate arthritis the most? The arthritis diet isn’t just about eating the right foods—it’s also about avoiding the wrong foods. Here are several foods that cause inflammation that you should try to eliminate from your diet.
- Sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup: These are added sugars that can increase inflammation in the body by causing insulin resistance and damaging cells.
- Fried Foods: Fried foods are high in trans fats and unhealthy oils that can cause inflammation and damage to cells in the body.
- Refined Carbohydrates: Refined carbs such as white bread, pasta, and baked goods have a high glycemic index, which can cause inflammation and increase blood sugar levels.
- Excessive Alcohol: Drinking too much alcohol can cause inflammation in the body and lead to damage to the liver, brain, and other organs.
- Red and Processed Meats: Red and processed meats are high in saturated fats and can cause inflammation and increase the risk of chronic diseases.
- Dairy Products: Some people with arthritis or joint pain may be sensitive to dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt.
Arthritis Diet Tips
Here are some arthritis diet tips that can make the anti-inflammatory diet easier to adhere to:
- Plan ahead: Plan meals and snacks in advance to make sure you have healthy options readily available.
- Batch cook: Make large batches of meals and freeze them in portions for easy reheating later.
- Use herbs and spices: Use anti-inflammatory herbs and spices to flavor food instead of salt, which can cause inflammation.
- Add color to your plate: Include a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to make your meals more appealing and nutrient-dense.
- Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water and other fluids to keep your body hydrated and flush out toxins.
- Keep it simple: Stick to simple, whole foods and avoid highly processed and packaged foods.
Supplements for Arthritis and Joint Pain
Now that you know the best foods for arthritis and joint pain, you can take your results to the next level by incorporating effective anti-inflammatory supplements. Here are three proven supplements that can help with natural pain relief.
Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects on the body. Curcumin blocks certain enzymes and cytokines involved in inflammation, making it useful for arthritis and joint pain.
- Learn More: 10 Best Turmeric Curcumin Supplements for 2023
Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid, which has anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce inflammation in the body. It may also help to balance the pH of the body, which can help lower inflammation further.
- Learn More: 10 Best Apple Cider Vinegar Gummies for 2023
Elderberry is abundant in anthocyanins, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can help decrease inflammation in the body. Anthocyanins work by inhibiting the production of certain enzymes involved in the inflammation process.
- Learn More: 10 Best Sambucus Elderberry Gummies for 2023
Foods That Help Joint Pain: Final Thoughts
An arthritis diet can be a powerful tool for managing the symptoms of arthritis and reducing inflammation in the body. Incorporating nutrient-rich foods like fatty fish, broccoli, avocados, nuts, and dark chocolate can help improve joint health and reduce pain.
Remember, it’s not just about eating foods that are good for arthritis—you need to avoid the bad foods, too. It’s important to work with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian to develop an individualized arthritis diet plan that meets your unique needs and health goals.