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Depending on the severity of your condition, arthritis symptoms can range from mildly frustrating to excruciatingly painful. Unfortunately, this is also quite common. In fact, 24% of adults in the United States suffer from arthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Although there is no known cure for arthritis, several foods have been found to help relieve joint pain, swelling, and stiffness. However, there are also several foods to avoid. To learn more, we asked a few dietitians to give us insight into eating habits known to trigger or exacerbate arthritis symptoms. Then, for more health tips, check out The Best Juice to Drink Every Day, According to Science.


It would be an understatement to say that added sugar does your health no good. And when it comes to arthritis, it can wreak additional havoc on your body.

“One of the worst habits is having a diet high in added sugars, such as enjoying too many sweets, sugary drinks or other choices high in sugar and low in beneficial nutrients,” says Julie Upton, Member Medical Expert , MS. , RD, CSSD. “The reason it’s so bad for arthritis is because sugar triggers inflammation in the body, and arthritis is exacerbated by systemic inflammation.”

While baked goods, sugary drinks, and candy are the usual culprits, there are several unsuspecting sources of sugar found in a wide range of processed foods, many of which are often mistaken for health.

vegetable bowl with vegetables, quinoa, seeds and blood orange

Colored candies are discouraged, so here’s how to taste the rainbow the healthy way: by eating more plants. This includes fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects.

“These foods help reduce inflammation because they’re high in antioxidants and fiber, which can help promote healthy bacteria in the gut,” says Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, another member of our Medical Expert Council. “Studies have shown [that] people with arthritis tend to have a limited diversity of gut bacteria.”

Looking to give your gut a boost? Discover the popular foods that support your gut health, according to science.

salty snacks

Although salt can be an effective flavor enhancer, regular consumption of foods high in sodium can lead to several health problems, arthritis aside. This can range from headaches and bloating to high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease.

However, when it comes to arthritis, salt can cause cells to suck up water, which could ultimately make symptoms like swelling worse. Additionally, corticosteroids, which are commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, can cause the body to retain more sodium, according to The Arthritis Foundation.

To navigate the salt scene, Shapiro recommends reading nutrition labels and choosing foods with less than 20 percent of your daily sodium intake. If you’re in an environment where labels aren’t accessible or if you’re dining out, she recommends limiting fried foods and asking for dressings and sauces on the side.


While research has shown that saturated fats trigger fat inflammation (adipose tissue), studies have also found that it can weaken joint cartilage.

“Try to limit or avoid foods high in saturated fat, which are mostly high fat foods of animal origin like red meat, butter, whole cheese and other whole dairy products,” Upton says. .

For more, check out eating habits you should follow if you have arthritis, say dietitians.