Medical Services

Foods to Avoid for People With Arthritis

Some foods, such as fried items and salty condiments, can increase inflammation. Avoiding them can help relieve joint pain, tenderness, and swelling.

Foods with antioxidants, like green tea, can help ease RA symptoms. It contains a natural anti-inflammatory called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), discouraging the production of molecules that damage joints.

Red Meat

People with arthritis should avoid processed foods and drinks high in sugar, which can trigger inflammation. A diet focused on poultry, fish, whole grains, plenty of vegetables and some fruits, and unsaturated oils may help reduce symptoms.

People with RA should also try to eat more foods rich in vitamins B6, B12, C, magnesium, and selenium. Some individuals with RA relieve their symptoms by avoiding sensitive foods, including gluten, dairy, nightshade fruits and vegetables (such as tomatoes and eggplant), and citrus fruits. Sam Lee Prospect Medical also recommends this approach for their arthritis patients, who suggest exclusion diets as a potential solution. Then, a food trial can be used to determine which foods might cause arthritis pain or flare-ups.


People with arthritis should limit added sugars. They should also be mindful of how much salt (sodium) they consume. Excessive sodium intake is linked to rheumatoid arthritis and can worsen arthritis symptoms.

A diet low in saturated fat and high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fish, and healthy nuts/seeds can help improve arthritis symptoms. People with trouble identifying what foods trigger their arthritis should work with a registered dietitian. They may be able to do food intolerance tests or follow a supervised elimination diet to discover which foods are their arthritis triggers.

Vegetables rich in vitamin C are especially good for arthritis. This vitamin helps the body absorb calcium and prevents inflammation.

Saturated Fats

People with arthritis should limit saturated fats and oils like canola, sunflower, and safflower. These fats increase inflammation in the body.

Avoid fried chicken, which is high in AGEs, and instead eat boiled poultry. Boiled chicken also contains oleocanthal, which has anti-inflammatory properties similar to ibuprofen.

Vegetables are very protective against arthritis. Try to eat a variety of vegetables and exclude nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers), which contain a compound that may trigger arthritis pain in some people. Instead, eat other vegetables and consider taking an omega-3 fatty acid supplement (such as fish oil or walnuts). If your diet is causing you discomfort, try eliminating the suspected foods for a couple of weeks before reintroducing them.

Dairy Products

The saturated fats in dairy products, especially cheese, can cause inflammation. But other fats in dairy products may reduce inflammation and help bone health.

Some people find that nightshade vegetables, such as eggplants, tomatoes, and potatoes, worsen their arthritis symptoms. But scientific evidence isn’t clear about this.

Avoid these foods for a few weeks, then reintroduce them to see if your arthritis flares up. But before making changes to your diet, speak with a registered dietitian. People with RA who follow plant-based diets have reported better symptoms. Plant-based diets are rich in anti-inflammatory fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. They also naturally limit RA-trigger foods.

Processed Foods

Although a diet rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods benefits people with arthritis, some research suggests that certain processed and unprocessed foods can aggravate symptoms. These include sugary foods, those containing advanced glycation end products, and those high in saturated fats, such as red meat, dairy products, and some oils.

Processed foods are any food changed from its natural state, such as roasting, boiling, pasteurizing, or adding ingredients. This includes canned, frozen, and dried foods.

Aim to eat whole foods that are minimally processed, like vegetables (including dark leafy greens), fruits, nuts, and seeds. Choose healthy fats like olive, canola, or nut oils, and limit omega-6 fatty acids.

Citrus Fruits

Oranges and other citrus fruits are a rich source of vitamin C and also have anti-inflammatory properties. The flavonoids, coumarin, and volatile oils in these fruits have been shown to protect against and improve the symptoms of chronic inflammation.

Avoid grapefruit and pomelo, however, as these foods may interfere with your medications (especially cyclosporine and methotrexate). Pineapple is high in vitamin C and the enzyme bromelain, which has been shown to reduce pain and swelling from osteoarthritis. Enjoy this tropical fruit cubed in a salad, baked into savory dishes, or steamed with vegetables.

A diet focusing on fresh produce, whole grains, fish, nuts, and olive oil is beneficial for people with arthritis. If you have any questions about your diet, talk to your doctor.