Best and Worst Foods for Arthritis

If you have arthritis, you may wonder if there are natural ways to reduce joint pain and inflammation. Incorporating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, protein and fiber into your diet is one way to do this. If you have questions about making changes to your diet, please talk with your doctor.

Best Foods for Arthritis


Fish is great for people with rheumatoid arthritis because it is so high in omega-3 fatty acids, which naturally fight inflammation. Health care professionals recommend incorporating at least two servings of fish into your diet each week. 

These fish contain the highest amounts of omega-3s:

  • Herring
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Mackerel


Soy is another food rich in omega-3, therefore being naturally effective in reducing inflammation. Soybeans are high in protein and fiber but low in fat, making them a great addition to any plate. You can also get the benefits of soy by consuming: 

  • Tofu
  • Edamame
  • Soy milk

Green tea

Green tea contains antioxidants called polyphenols that have been shown to slow cartilage degradation. Polyphenols also help reduce inflammation in your joints. 

People with rheumatoid arthritis will benefit from another antioxidant called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). EGCG can discourage the production of molecules that can damage joints.

Worst Foods for Arthritis

On the other hand, there are certain foods you may want to avoid. Processed foods, food with added sugars and red meats may cause inflammation.

Added sugars

Added sugars are bad for pretty much everyone. But studies show that they can be especially harmful to people with arthritis.

Soda, candy, ice cream and condiments all contain added sugars and should be avoided when possible. One study showed that foods with added sugars were the most likely to worsen the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis

Another study found that people who consume sweet drinks were three times more likely to have arthritis than those who didn’t.

Processed food

Processed foods tend to contain more added sugars, preservatives and refined grains than whole foods. Examples of processed foods include:

  • Fast food
  • Breakfast cereal
  • Cakes, bread and biscuits
  • Microwavable meals

Most people who want to eat well and maintain a healthy lifestyle should avoid processed food when possible. Instead, reach for food that is still in its most natural form, like fresh fruits and vegetables.

Red meat

Research shows that people who regularly consume red and processed meats have higher levels of inflammation than those who don’t. 

Consuming red meat may increase your levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), C-reactive protein (CRP), and homocysteine, which can all cause inflammation.

Examples of red meat:

  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Veal
  • Venison
  • Lamb and mutton

Ask Your Doctor

If you are wondering how to change your diet to reduce your risk of inflammation, talk with your doctor. At University Health, our health care providers are here to help you live your healthiest, fullest life.

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