What Foods Should I Avoid if I Have Arthritis?

Living with arthritis can be a challenge, but making thoughtful choices about what you eat can help you manage your symptoms and overall well-being. In today’s world where processed foods and unhealthy dietary habits are everywhere, it’s essential to understand how important nutrition is for managing arthritis. Our experts at The Hand and Wrist Institute will help you explore an arthritis-friendly diet, sharing the foods to avoid and listing foods to include that can help reduce inflammation, alleviate symptoms, and support joint health.

Foods To Avoid With Arthritis

you should avoid donuts if you have arthritis

If you have arthritis, there are certain foods and ingredients you may want to limit or avoid to help manage your symptoms.

Processed Foods

Avoid processed foods, such as packaged snacks, sugary beverages, and fast food. These foods are high in refined carbohydrates, added sugars, and unhealthy trans fats, which can trigger inflammation and worsen your symptoms. Stay away from any foods that contain partially hydrogenated oils.

Sugary Treats

Eating a lot of sugary treats, such as candies, cakes, cookies, and sweetened beverages, can trigger the release of proteins in your body called cytokines, which cause inflammation and may exacerbate your symptoms. Stay away from foods that contain sugar, corn syrup, sucrose, fructose, or maltose. Opt for healthier alternatives, including fresh fruits or unsweetened snacks.

Saturated and Trans Fats

Avoid foods high in saturated and trans fats, including red meat, fried foods, processed meats, and commercially baked goods such as donuts and french fries. These items can increase cholesterol and inflammation and worsen your arthritis pain. Meat also contains high amounts of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) that trigger inflammation. Instead, choose lean proteins and sources of healthy fats, such as fish, nuts, seeds, and avocado.

Salty Foods

Consuming high amounts of salt can cause water retention and inflammation, which can aggravate your arthritis symptoms. Limit your intake of salty snacks, canned soups, and processed meats. Instead, opt for fresh or minimally processed foods seasoned with fresh herbs and spices.

Foods With Gluten

If you have rheumatoid arthritis or gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten-containing foods, such as wheat, barley, and rye, may worsen your inflammation and joint pain. Consider trying a gluten-free diet to see if it helps ease your symptoms. Opt for gluten-free alternatives where possible.


Drinking a lot of alcohol increases inflammation and health risks. Limit your intake of alcoholic beverages, particularly those high in sugar and calories, and drink alcohol in moderation, if at all. We recommend cutting alcohol out for a month and seeing if you feel a difference.

Foods High in Additives and Preservatives

Some food additives and preservatives, such as monosodium glutamate and sulfites, may trigger inflammation. Be mindful of food labels when shopping at the grocery store. Opt for minimally processed foods whenever possible.

Acidic Foods

Acidic foods, such as bottled fruit juices, coffee, and carbonated beverages, may aggravate joint pain and inflammation. Pay attention to how your body reacts to acidic foods. Consider limiting or avoiding them if they exacerbate your symptoms.

Dairy Products

Some people with arthritis report sensitivity to dairy products, particularly those containing casein or lactose. Consider eating less cheese, butter, milk, and mayonnaise, which contain saturated fats and AGEs. Opt for lactose-free alternatives, such as almond milk or soy milk, if you suspect you’re sensitive to dairy.

Good Foods To Eat if You Have Arthritis

If you have arthritis, incorporating certain foods into your diet can help manage inflammation, reduce symptoms, and support overall joint health.

Fatty Fish

Include plenty of fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and trout, in your diet. These fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help lower inflammation and reduce joint pain and stiffness associated with arthritis.

Fruits and Vegetables

Colorful fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. These essential nutrients can help reduce inflammation and protect against arthritis-related damage. Include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet, focusing on leafy greens, berries, cherries, and citrus fruits.

Whole Grains

Whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, oats, and whole wheat, are high in fiber and nutrients. These foods can help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce inflammation. Choose whole grains over refined grains to maximize their anti-inflammatory benefits.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants. These nutrients can help reduce inflammation and support joint health. Include plenty of walnuts, almonds, chia seeds, and flaxseeds in your diet.

Beans and Legumes

Beans and legumes are excellent sources of protein, fiber, and plant-based nutrients. These foods can help reduce inflammation and improve overall health. Include plenty of lentils, chickpeas, black beans, and kidney beans in your diet.

Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil is rich in antioxidants and monounsaturated fats, which have anti-inflammatory properties and can help improve joint health. Use olive oil as your primary cooking oil whenever you can. You can also use it as a salad dressing or topping on foods to maximize its benefits.

Herbs and Spices

Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin, which has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Adding turmeric to your diet, either as a spice in cooking or as a supplement, may help reduce inflammation. Other spices and herbs, such as ginger, garlic, cinnamon, and rosemary, also have anti-inflammatory properties and can help ease arthritis symptoms. Use them liberally in cooking to add flavor and health benefits to your meals.

Green Tea

Green tea is rich in polyphenols and antioxidants, which can help reduce inflammation. Enjoy green tea as a refreshing beverage or incorporate it into smoothies and other recipes.

Low-Fat Dairy Products

Low-fat yogurt, milk, and cheese are rich in calcium and vitamin D. These nutrients are essential for bone health. They may help reduce the risk of arthritis-related complications, such as osteoporosis.

Let The Hand and Wrist Institute Help Manage Your Arthritis Symptoms

Maintaining a balanced and varied diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats is key to managing your arthritis symptoms and overall health. Staying hydrated, maintaining a healthy weight, and incorporating plenty of physical activity into your routine can help relieve your arthritis pain and improve joint function. If you have specific concerns or questions about managing arthritis, consult with a specialist at The Hand and Wrist Institute. We can give you practical advice for managing your diet and bone health. Contact our Dallas or Southlake office today to schedule an appointment.

assorted flavor donuts by Rod Long is licensed with Unsplash License

Dr. John Knight
Dr. John Knight

Dr. Knight is a renowned hand, wrist and upper extremity surgeon with over 25 years of experience. Dr. Knight is a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon and Fellowship trained. Dr Knight has appeared on CNN, The Doctors TV, Good Morning America, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Forbes, The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, Oxygen network and more.