5 Worst Types of Foods for Arthritis and What to Eat Instead

Arthritis Foods


Does arthritis make you feel creaky and sore? The last thing you want is to eat something that makes the pain even worse, right? But you might not realize that some foods spark more inflammation, which can worsen achy joints. Let’s chat about a few of the culprits because knowing what foods to avoid could bring some relief. These are foods you should limit in your diet if you have arthritis.

Foods Rich in Omega-6 Fatty Acids

If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you’ve probably noticed it can cause painful inflammation in your joints. The good news is, there are things you can do with your diet to help ease inflammation. Studies show that foods with gluten may correlate with autoimmune issues and inflammation. So, if you cut back on or eliminate gluten from your meals, it could provide relief for your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.

Changing your diet can be challenging, but even small steps like using gluten-free grains or cutting out bread can make a difference. Listen to your body and see if going gluten-free or low-gluten helps those tender joints start to feel better!

When cooking at home, choose olive, avocado, or coconut oil instead. Skip the packaged snacks and reach for nuts, seeds, or fresh fruits. They supply nutrients without overdoing omega 6. For arthritis relief, rebalance your omegas. Trade high omega-6 oils for better options. Limit processed foods to reduce intake. Aim for an equal ratio between the two and you may find your joints feeling better. Also, add more omega-3 rich foods to your diet from sources such as fatty fish, walnuts, chia seeds, and hemp seeds.


Salt poses a stealthy threat to tender joints. It encourages fluid retention, placing extra pressure on the joints. This fluid buildup leads to swelling, stiffness, and arthritic pain. Salt also elevates blood pressure, which can inflict damage on the blood vessels over time. Those with arthritis face higher heart disease risk, so high blood pressure compounds the problem. Processed foods, canned items, fast food, and restaurant meals frequently overflow with sodium.

According to research published in the journal Joint Bone Spine, a high-sodium diet is associated with a greater risk of rheumatoid arthritis. One theory is that a diet high in salt boosts the activity of the immune system and causes inflammation. It’s an area that needs more research.

Avoiding high-sodium packaged foods helps keep salt intake in check. Skip the saltshaker and use anti-inflammatory herbs and spices instead. Options like garlic, ginger, turmeric, rosemary, and basil infuse food with flavor. With mindful choices, it’s possible to control salt and steer clear of unnecessary joint pain. Don’t let this silent saboteur intensify arthritis inflammation and discomfort.

Sugary foods and drinks

Sugar poses a sweet threat to joints weakened by arthritis. Spiking blood sugar prompts the release of inflammatory cytokines. These chemical messengers fan the flames inside arthritic joints. Sugary foods and drinks also drive the production of advanced glycation end products or AGEs. True to their ominous name, AGEs inflict damage on tissues and organs. Joints degrade further when bombarded by these molecules. Soda, juice, candy, chocolate, and sweets batter the body with sugar, as does syrupy coffee. Rely instead on natural sugars in moderation. Small amounts of honey, maple syrup, dates or fresh fruit can satisfy a sweet tooth without wreaking havoc. Or bypass sugar altogether by sipping water, tea, or black coffee. Don’t allow sugar to aggravate arthritis. Tame that sweet tooth and evade further joint injury.

Foods High in Gluten

If you have an inflammatory form of arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis, you might want to cut back on or eliminate gluten in your diet. Studies correlate diets high in gluten with autoimmune and inflammatory conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis. The glycoprotein portion of gluten seems to trigger an inflammatory response that could worsen arthritis symptoms, even if you don’t have gluten intolerance. In this case, you’ll need to avoid barley, wheat, rye, and triticale and foods made with these grains.

Red Meat

This one is controversial. According to some research, red meat – especially beef, pork, and lamb – can inflame arthritic joints. The saturated fat found in these meats can drive up inflammatory markers in the body known as cytokines. Eating a big, juicy steak or a greasy burger may satisfy your taste buds initially, but it could lead to aching, swollen joints later.

Red meat also contains compounds called purines. When purines break down in the body, they form uric acid. Too much uric acid buildup can lead to gout, a form of arthritis that causes severe pain in the big toe, ankles, and knees.

A study carried out by Peking University People’s Hospital in 2016 found that people who consumed more red meat had an earlier onset of rheumatoid arthritis, a type of inflammatory arthritis. The combination of saturated fat and purines may be a factor. But also, be aware that not all research shows a correlation between red meat consumption and arthritis.

So, while an occasional small serving of lean red meat can be fine, eating large portions or indulging in fatty cuts too often can really worsen arthritis symptoms. Limiting red meat intake – particularly beef and pork – could help control inflammation and ease the pain and disability caused by arthritis over the long term.


By now, you’ve learned how certain foods can either calm or ignite arthritis inflammation. This painful condition strikes at the joints, causing swelling, stiffness, and limited mobility. While medication provides some relief, diet plays a huge role as well.

But simply avoiding the bad stuff isn’t enough. Fill your plate with anti-inflammatory foods.  Swap out fatty meats for lean proteins like fish and poultry. Trade omega-6 oils for heart-healthy olive and avocado oils. Skip the salt, but spice things up with herbs and aromatics like rosemary, turmeric, and ginger. And tame that sweet tooth with fresh fruits. Enjoy more anti-inflammatory fruits and vegetables.

Ultimately, following an arthritis-friendly diet like the Mediterranean diet can transform your health. The right nutrition plan can curb inflammation, ease achiness, retain mobility and lower your need for medications. Now that you understand the relationship between food and arthritis, you can make choices that improve how you feel day-to-day. Knowledge is power – use it to take control of your joints and your comfort!


  • Jin, Jiayang, Jing Li, Yuzhou Gan, Jiajia Li, Xiaozhen Zhao, Jiali Chen, Ruijun Zhang, et al. “Red Meat Intake Is Associated with Early Onset of Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Cross-Sectional Study.” Scientific Reports 11, no. 1 (March 11, 2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-85035-6.
  • gov. “Office of Dietary Supplements – Omega-3 Fatty Acids,” 2015. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/?ref=popsugar.com&=___psv__p_46682300__t_w_.
  • Sigaux, Johanna, Luca Semerano, Guillaume Favrè, Natacha Bessis, and Marie‐Christophe Boissier. “Salt, Inflammatory Joint Disease, and Autoimmunity.” Joint Bone Spine 85, no. 4 (July 1, 2018): 411–16. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbspin.2017.06.003.
  • Bruzzese V, Scolieri P, Pepe J. Efficacy of gluten-free diet in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Reumatismo. 2021 Jan 18;72(4):213-217. doi: 10.4081/reumatismo.2020.1296. PMID: 33677948.

Related Articles By Cathe:

You Need These 5 Types of Exercise if You Have Osteoarthritis

Can Strength Training Help Osteoarthritis of the Knee?

Can Exercise Reduce Chronic Joint Pain due to Osteoarthritis?

What’s the Best Type of Exercise to Prevent Knee Osteoarthritis?

How Your Joints Age & What You Can Do to Slow It Down

Are the Joint Aches You’re Experiencing Due to Arthritis?

When Your Knees “Crack” and “Pop” What Does It Mean?

What Impact Does Strength Training Have on Arthritis?

Hi, I'm Cathe

I want to help you get in the best shape of your life and stay healthy with my workout videos, DVDs and Free Weekly Newsletter. Here are several ways you can watch and work out to my exercise videos and purchase my fitness products:

Get Your Free Weekly Cathe Friedrich Newsletter

Get free weekly tips on Fitness, Health, Weight Loss and Nutrition delivered directly to your email inbox. Plus get Special Cathe Product Offers and learn about What’s New at Cathe Dot Com.

Enter your email address below to start receiving my free weekly updates. Don’t worry…I guarantee 100% privacy. Your information will not be shared and you can easily unsubscribe whenever you like. Our Privacy Policy